The importance of Tibet to Buddhism as a whole has yet to be
realised by the world at large. The 20th century, Western stereotype of
Buddhism developed mainly through early contacts with Theravada and Zen
Buddhism. Few people realised that these two schools were far from
representative of the total wealth of diversity which was Buddhism during
its first 18 centuries in India. India was its birthplace, cradle and home
until Muslim invasions more or less eradicated it from that land in the
12th century. Theravada Buddhism, which spread from Sri Lanka throughout
South-East Asia, grew from just one of the eighteen early Buddhist schools
of India. Chinese (and later Japanese) Buddhism developed from the seeds
sown by their founders, who brought home from their sojourn in India only
the particular teachings they had encountered or preferred.
For 1100 years, that wealth of Indian Buddhism has been carefully and reverently preserved in Tibet. In the latter half of the twentieth century, it burst onto the world stage and is now benefitting millions of people everywhere.