Tibetan Buddhism is varied, interesting and rich in traditions. It has many deep philosophies and teachings. Most of these teachings come from very enlightened monks of the tibetan buddhism.
He is difficult to condense Tibetan Buddhism into one article or three main beliefs because the teachings are vast.
But this has been attempted in this article to give people who are new to Tibetan Buddhism a better understanding of what it is.
Summary of the fundamental beliefs of Buddhism
- About Tibetan Buddhism
- Belief 1 : Karma and reincarnation
- belief 2 : The concept of bodhisattva
- belief 3 : Mantra, Meditation and Mandalas
About Tibetan Buddhism
Buddhism has become a major presence in Tibet towards the end of the 8th century AD. It was brought from India at the invitation of the Tibetan king, Trisong Detsen, who invited two Buddhist masters to Tibet and had important Buddhist texts translated into Tibetan.
The first to come was Shantarakshita, Abbot of Nalanda in India, who built the first monastery in Tibet. He was followed by Padmasambhava, who came to use his wisdom and power to overcome the “spiritual” forces that were interrupting the work on the new monastery.
Tibetan Buddhism is, in fact, derived from Indian Buddhism, Tantric teachings and Chinese Buddhism. Most of the practices of Tibetan Buddhism practiced today come from teachings brought by Indian Buddhist masters. So there is a lot of Sanskrit, and some Indian rituals in Tibetan Buddhism.
Belief 1: Karma and Reincarnation
What is karma in Tibetan Buddhism?
Karma is a Sanskrit word meaning action. The concept of karma is very important in Buddhism. Contrary to popular belief, karma is not just cause and effect or consequence. It also basically means the action that every being is doing at every moment. This in turn triggers a moving chain of events where every action has an outcome. Some types of actions have immediate results, and other types of actions have results that appear much later.
Buddhists believe that doing healthy actions and thinking healthy thoughts is good karma or a good deed that will have benefits later. Good deeds will give rise to a positive mentality which, in turn, will affect the life and future life of the one who performs them.
What is reincarnation in Tibetan Buddhism?
Buddhists also believe in rebirth and reincarnation. This is a particularly strong belief in Tibetan Buddhism. It is believed that beings are born on different realms of existence like animal realm, human realm, pious realm, ghost realm, etc. according to the Karma committed in different lives.
If you do bad karma, then your rebirth will be in a lower realm that suits your actions until you exhaust the consequences of that action.
Alternatively, if you do good karmayour birth will be in a favorable realm where you will enjoy a good life until the fruits of your action are exhausted.
Beings take birth after birth in different planes of existence depending on their karma until they attain enlightenment, after which they will have no further rebirth.
Belief 2: The bodhisattva concept of Tibetan Buddhism
Bodhisattva is also a Sanskrit word meaning a being of enlightenment. A bodhisattva is basically a Buddha-in-training who has not yet attained full enlightenment. In Tibetan Buddhism, bodhisattvas are compassionate beings who delay their own enlightenment in order to bring other beings to enlightenment.
They make vows known as bodhisattva vows to help all sentient beings realize their Buddha nature before realizing their own enlightenment. Some of the famous bodhisattvas frequently seen in Tibetan Buddhism are Chenrezig, Manjushri, and Samantabhadra. There are countless other bodhisattvas, but these are the most popular in Tibet. The Dalai Lama is said to be the emanation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.
Every bodhisattva vows to liberate all beings. They preside over different aspects. Bodhisattva Kshitigarbha, for example, made a vow to liberate all beings from the hell realms and also deceased children.
Similarly, other bodhisattvas took vows in different areas. Most Tibetan Buddhists adhere to the bodhisattva ideal rather than aiming solely for personal enlightenment. It is a targeted practice in many sects of Tibetan Buddhism.
Belief 3: Mantra, Meditation and Mandalas
The last section that will be covered in this article is about mandalas, meditation and mantra. These three practices are also synonymous with Buddhism and Tibetan culture. Although mandalas, meditation and mantras alliterate well, they are not necessarily practiced together
Mantra is a Sanskrit word which roughly means a set of syllables or words that are changed repeatedly. Mantras have deep philosophical meanings and are used in many different practices of Tibetan Buddhism.
(See our article on, what is a mantra)
At its most basic level, a mantra is used as a form of meditation. Mantras are said to represent enlightenment. Mantras in Tibetan Buddhist practice are often associated with a deity.
For examplethe mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum“is associated with Chenrezig.
Meditation is something very intrinsic and an essential part of Buddhism in general. It is therefore not surprising that Tibetan Buddhism has a rich tradition of meditation. Buddhist meditation can be reduced to two main types : analytical and concentrative.
Analytical meditation includes techniques such as Lam Rim, the application of logic to examine parts of identity, consciousness, mind, etc.
Concentrative meditation, on the other hand, involves techniques such as the repetition of a mantra, concentration on the breath or a flame, etc.
Mandalas are spiritual and ritual symbols that represent the entire cosmos. Mandalas are usually made by skilled and trained monks and they use colored sand to create the mandalas.
The mandalas take weeks to make and involve a group effort of different monks. There are special rituals before, during and after the construction of the mandala.