Rise of Buddhism in Tibet

Tibet was an obscure land tucked away in Central Asia and guarded by the lofty Himalayas.  Not much is known about Tibet even now and it’s often referred to as the ‘forbidden land’.  In the 8th centiry Tibet was a land of superstition and the Kings who ruled Tibet were assailed by thoughts of evil spirits. They also followed obscure practices. In such an atmosphre the ruler during the 8th century Tritsong Detsen was prey to thoughts of evil spirits, which he felt dominated Tibet. He wished to have a man of God come to Tibet and exorcise the evil spirits which were the root of all troubles at that time.

During the same period news came to him of a man named Padmasambhava who had miraclous powers. He resolved to request this man to come to Tibet to help him. Accordingly he invited  Padmasambhava to Tibet. King Tritsong Detsen was informed that Padmasambhava was the ‘second Buddha’ and a incarnate of Gautama Buddha, the founder of the Buddhist faith.  Padmasabhava accepted the invitation of King Tritsong Detsun and left Bihar for Tibet. He travelled across the inhospitable Himalayas through the pass at Sela in Sikkim to Lhasa the captal of Tibet. He was welcomed by King Tritsong. History records that Padmasambhava remained in Tibet for 55 years and spread his message of Buddhism.   The Buddhism that spread in Tibet is known as the Vajrayana Buddhism. Padmasambhava is also known as  Shakyasimha which translates to ‘Lion of the Sakya clan’. The Lion is thus one of the prime symbols of Buddhism and Sakya clan refers to the Gautama Buddha’s family ‘Gotra’. Gotra in Hindu and Buddhist society refers to  descendents  from a common ancestor.

 On reaching Tibet Padmasambhava founded the first monastry in Tibet and initiated the first batch of Tibetan priests called Lamas to Buddhist thoughts and practices. Padmasambhava also introduced tantric Buddhism in Tibet.  Tantra is a ritual art heavily laced with sex. Earlier  Padma Sambhava took Mandarava the daughter of King Vihardhara as a consort. He took her to the caves at Maratika, where the two practiced the secret arts. It is mentioned that the Buddha himself appeared before them and blessed them.

In Tibet one of the wives of  King Trisong Detsen, Yeshe Tsogyal also loved  Padmasambhava and became his consort. She had a big hand in the spread of Buddhism in Tibet.

 It is known that  Sambhava had 5 female consorts which are known as the “Five Wisdom Dakinis”.  These consorts of Sambhava helped him protect Tibet from the evil spirits. The foundation of Buddhism in Tibet was laid by Sambhava  with the help of his consorts. His famous mantra, Om Ah Hum Vara Guru Padma Siddhi Hum, is said to have transferred blessings to his devotees for centuries. 

The connection between India and Tibet is strong and Buddhist influence in Tibet can be directly traced to Padmasambhava, the ‘second Buddha’ who went from Bihar to Tibet and stayed there for 55 years.