Buddhism in Tibet
( ... continued)
Tibet's proximity to India led to a transplantation of all the strands of Buddhism's tapestry:
teachings of hinayana,
This occurred through the vision and diligence of Indian and Tibetan masters alike, each putting up with extremely difficult climatic changes for their bodies in order to establish dharma properly and fully on the roof of the world.
The flight of HH the Dalai Lama, HH the Karmapa and other leading Tibetans, in 1959, put an unknown Tibet on the world stage. Tibet's isolation and its people's profound respect for tradition has maintained alive and unchanged, in Tibet, the Indian Buddhism of the eighth through to twelfth centuries. It is almost as if Buddhism in its heyday had been deep-frozen and preserved for the world at large to savour, a millennium later: defrozen to coincide with the advent of the global village and mass communication. Tibet had continued the Indian tradition of large monastic universities, some of them having several thousand monks. Some 10,000 monasteries existed in the Tibetan plateau and almost one in four males was a monk. Buddhist prayer and meditation formed a central part of daily life and the whole social order was focussed on the monasteries. With time, Tibet became famous throughout central and northern Asia as a great repository of spiritual and medical knowledge, at times providing spiritual mentors for Chinese and Mongol emperors. Tibet also exercised considerable influence on neighbouring Himalayan countries, such a Ladakh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim, which lands used Tibetan script and scripture for their Buddhist practice. The fact that Tibet could only be converted from its deeply-rooted animist Bön religion at such a late date, more than a millennium after the Buddha, is indicative of the power of Buddhism at the time. Above all, Tibet is the only country in which the wealth of mantrayana and vajrayana Buddhism has been fully preserved. Especially formulated to overcome powerful emotions and deep-rooted preconceptions, the techniques of vajrayana bought the Path of Peace to Tibet (which in ancient India was seen as a sort of sinister Transylvania). Perhaps they constitute the extraordinary gift that Tibet can offer the modern world, plunged as it is into the sensorial and the phrenetic drive of commerce.