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Tibetan Buddhism

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The Mahāyāna Buddhism, (see Mahāyāna Buddhism, Buddhism) of Tibet, or Lamism, as it is sometimes called because of the importance of the Dalai Lama, is deeply influenced by the Tantric (see Tantrism) aspect of Buddhism or Vajrayāna (see Vajrayāna), which is itself tied to the tradition of Sūtrayāna. In Sūtrayāna one identifies with the suffering of others and works toward the liberation not only of the self but of others. Vajrayāna stresses the possibility of liberation in this life and is a much faster process than Sūtrayāna alone. It is said that Buddhism was introduced to Tibet by the Chinese and Nepalese wives of King Songsten Gampo (see Song-sen-gam-po), who reigned in Tibet in the seventh century ce and is, in a sense, the first Dalai Lama; he is considered to have been, like the Dalai Lamas of later periods, an incarnation of Avalokiteśvara (see Avalokiteśvara), with Tārā (see Tārā) the most important of Tibetan bodhisattvas (see Bodhisattva). Later in the century King Trisong Detsen adopted Buddhism as the state religion, but subsequent kings turned against Buddhism and persecuted its adherents. It was not until the eleventh century that Buddhism returned in force to Tibet, very much under Indian rather than Chinese influence and with a character all its own, brought about by its Vajrayāna characteristics and its partial assimilation of the indigenous shamanistic (see Shamanism) and animistic (see Animism) religion called Bön (see Bön). The temporal (until the Chinese invasion of 1952) and spiritual leader of Tibet is the Dalai Lama. The next important figure in the Tibetan hierarchy is the Panchen Lama, an emanation of the Buddha Amitābbha (see Amida Buddha). The closeness of the two lamas is indicated by the fact that Avalokiteśvara is himself an emanation of the Buddha Amitābha (see Tibetan Cosmogony, Tibetan Mythology, Tibetan Wheel of Life).

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