Tibetan Buddhism  

Tibetan Buddhism refers to Tibetan-language Buddhism, also known as Lamaism.

In the early 7th century, Songtsan Gambo wed Tang Dynasty (618-907) Princess Wencheng from the Central Plains and Nepalese Princess Bhributi. Each princess brought to Tubo a statue of Buddha, and the Jokhang and Rampoche Monasteries were built to house the two statues. Artisans who accompanied the princesses had monasteries built, while accompanying Buddhist monks set about translating the Buddhist scriptures. As a result, Buddhism made its way into Tubo life, and Buddhist tenets gradually infiltrated its politics, economics, culture, education, customs and habits. Tibetan Buddhism that emerged was widely worshipped by the Tubo residents.

Through a prolonged period of cultural exchanges, Tibetan Buddhism has spread to other ethnic groups in China, such as the Mongolian, Tu, Yugu, Lhoba, Moinba, Naxi and Pumi ethnic groups. It has worshippers not only in China's Tibet, Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu, Qinghai, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia, but also in Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal, Mongolia and Russia.

During the heyday of Tibetan Buddhism, each Tibetan family was required to provide at least one member to become a monk or nun. This is why Tibetan monks and nuns made up 25 percent of the Tibetan population in the 16th century and thereafter. In 1950, there were 100,000 monks and nuns, or over 10 percent of the Tibetan population in Tibet in 1951. Following the peaceful liberation of Tibet, the Central Government followed a policy of freedom of religious belief in Tibet. After the Democratic Reform in 1960, various monasteries conducted reform according to suggestions by the 10th Panchen Erdeni. Tibetan people have since enjoyed freedom to be lamas or resume secular life. Nowadays, there are 1,787 religious activity centers, and 46,000 monks and nuns or 2 percent of the Tibetan population in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Buddhist Sects

By the mid-11th century, Nyingma, Gedang, Sagya, Gagyu, Gelug, Shigyia, Joryu, Jorxiang, Gozha, and Shalhu Buddhist sects had emerged. The first five were powerful enough to last for a long time, while the others fell into historical oblivion.

Reincarnation of Living Buddhas

The reincarnation of Living Buddhas constitutes the most important difference between Tibetan Buddhism and other schools of Buddhism. In 1283, when Garma BaxiÑwho had been bestowed with the title of Imperial Tutor by the Mongol Khan Mongo, and granted a gold-rimmed black hat as the badge of officeÑwas on his deathbed, he expressed a wish to find a boy as his incarnation to inherit the black hat. This was the beginning of the black-hat Living Buddha reincarnation system. Various other Buddhist sects followed suit. Statistics show 148 Living Buddhas were registered with the Council for the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs during the reign of Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) Emperor Qianlong; and the number went up to 160 at the end of the Qing Dynasty. The Dalai Lama incarnation system was introduced in the 17th century, and that for the Panchen Erdeni in 1713.

When the Gelug Sect took over power in Tibet, the Living Buddha incarnation system became a means employed by those in power in Tibet to seek prerogatives. To turn the tide, the Qing Dynasty court promulgated the 29-article Ordinance for More Effective Governing of Tibet in 1793. Article 1 of the Ordinance prescribed the introduction of the system of drawing a lot from the golden urn to determine the reincarnated soul boy of a deceased Living Buddha. For this purpose, the Qing court had two golden urns made: one for the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Erdeni, which is still kept in the Potala Palace in Lhasa; and one for Grand Living Buddhas and Hutogtu Living Buddhas in Mongolia and Tibet, which is still kept in the Yonghegong Lamasery in Beijing.

Freedom of Religious Belief

Article 7 of the 17-article Agreement of the Central People's Government and the Local Government of Tibet on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet, signed on May 23, 1951 in Beijing, stipulated: "The religious beliefs, customs and habits of the Tibetan people shall be respected, and lama monasteries shall be protected.?The Central Government has since followed the policy of respecting the religious beliefs, customs and habits of the Tibetan people, and protecting lamaseries and cultural relics.

In 1960, the 10th Panchen Erdeni Qoigyai Gyamcain put forth five methods for the reform of monasteries in Tibet: (1) Giving up exploitation; (2) conducting demo-cratic management; (3) following Government decrees and the Chinese Constitution in mona-steries; (4) lamas taking part in production; and (5) the Government covering the lives of old and emaciated lamas and lamas charged with reciting Buddhist scriptures exclusively. Through the reform, Tibetans began enjoying the freedom to be lamas and lamas finally began to enjoy the freedom to resume secular life if they chose; various Buddhist sects were equal; mona-stery monks elected a democratic management committee or democratic management group to manage their own religious affairs and conduct Buddhist activities.

Since 1980, the Central Government has allocated some 200 million Yuan to finance the repair of monasteries, holy stupas and religious activities, although there is financial difficulty. In 1985, the Central Government earmarked 6.7 million Yuan, plus 108.85 kg of gold, 1,000 kg of silver and 665 kg of mercury, to repair the holy stupa for the 5th-9th Panchen Erdenis.

When the 10th Panchen Erdeni died on January 28, 1989, in Tibet, the Central Government decided two days later that efforts should be made to look for and determine the reincarnated soul boy of the late master in accordance with the set historical precedence and traditional Tibetan Buddhist rituals, and the soul boy candidates be reported to the State Council for approval. On November 29, 1995, a ceremony was held to draw a lot from among three from the golden urn in the Jokhang Monastery in accordance with the set historical precedence and traditional Tibetan Buddhist rituals. Gyaincain Norbu, 6, from Jiali County in northern Tibet, was determined as the reincarnated soul boy of the late 10th Panchen Erdeni. With the approval of the Central Government, he succeeded as the 11th Panchen Erdeni. The enthronement ceremony was held on December 8 in the Tashilhungpo Monastery, Xigaze; and the representative of the Central Government issued him with the golden sheet of appointment and the golden seal of authority.

In June 1990, the Central Government approved the construction of the golden stupa and memorial hall for the late 10th Panchen Erdeni. For this purpose, it allocated some 64 million Yuan, plus over 600 kg of gold, some 500 kg of silver and other kinds of needed materials. In 1993, the stupa and memorial hall were commissioned and a grand consecration ceremony was held on September 4, showing the careful treatment the Central Government gives to an outstanding religious leader.

In October 1988, the Central Government decided to finance the repair of the Potala Palace. The repair project, which lasted five years, involved a total investment amounting to 53 million Yuan; it turned out to be one consuming more funds than any other cultural relics units in China at large. In 1994, the Central Government decided to allocate 20 million Yuan to finance the repair of the Gandain Monastery.

In 1984, the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region allocated 500,000 Yuan to finance the opening of the Lhasa Sutra Printing House. Over the years, the printing house has printed more than 1,000 volumes of Gangyur in Tibetan. In 1990, the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region allocated 500,000 Yuan to finance the creation of woodblocks for the printing of the Lhasa edition of Dangyur in Tibetan in the Moru Monastery, which the late 13th Dalai Lama intended but failed to create.

The year 1983 saw the Buddhist Association of the Tibet Autonomous Region open the Tibet Buddhism College. On September 1, 1987, the China Tibetan Language Higher Institute of Buddhism was set up in Beijing in accordance with the proposal of the late 10th Panchen Erdeni and Zhao Puchu, President of the Buddhist Association of China, and with the approval of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council. Students of the institute are reincarnated Living Buddhas (some being monk students) of Tibetan Buddhism hailing from the Tibet Autonomous Region, the Tibetan-inhabited areas in the four provinces of Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Liaoning Province, and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

The eighth college-level class of the Beijing China Higher Tibetan Language Institute of Buddhism graduated on June 1, 2001. Graduates hailed from Tibet, Yunnan, Sichuan, Gangu, Qinghai and Inner Mongolia. They are 33 Living Buddhas of the six sects of Tibetan Buddhism including Gelug, Sagya, Nyingma and Gagyu.

On September 11, 2001, the ninth college-level class opened school. Students, totaling 34 in number, came from the same regions mentioned above. They are scheduled to study and practice mediation in the Institute of Buddhism for two years.

The Institute has since its founding in 1987 trained nine groups of students, totaling over 320 in number. Upon graduation, they return to where they came, working hard to defend unification of the motherland, national unity, social stability and local economic construction.

Buddhist Sects

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