Books on the history of Tibetan Buddhism record the
following legend of how Buddhism spread to Tibet: On one
particular day in the 5th century, Lhathothori Nyantzan,
forefather of the Tubo Kingdom, was resting on the summit of
Yungbolhakang. He suddenly found several Buddhist treasures
falling from the sky. While the Tubo King had no idea what
they were for, a mysterious voice from the sky informed him
that the 6th Tsampo (king) of the Tubo Kingdom would know
the use of the objects.
historical documents, these treasures were brought to Tibet
by Indians Buddhists. Upon seeing that Tibetans had no idea
of their significance, the Indian monks had no choice but to
secret them in a safe place and return to India. The fact
remains that Buddhism did spread into Tibet during the reign
of Tubo King Songtsan Gambo in the 7th century.
Songtsan Gambo did his best to
establish friendly ties with neighboring countries in order
to strengthen economic and cultural exchanges and learn from
the advanced cultures of various races. In the process he
married with Princess Khridzun of Nepal and Princess
Wencheng of China's Tang Dynasty (618-907). Each princess
journeyed to Tibet with a statue of Buddha, and once there
set about building the Jokhang and Ramoge monasteries in
Lhasa. Artisans accompanying the princess were involved in
the construction of monasteries, and Buddhist monks in their
tourages began translating Buddhist scriptures. Buddhism
thus spread to Tibet from Nepal and Han areas.
Tibet reeled under power struggle for
more than half a century following the death of Songtsan
Gambo. Buddhism failed to flourish until Tride Zhotsan,
great grandson of Songtsan Gambo, finally took power. In
710, Tride Zhotsan asked for the hand of and eventually
married Princess Jincheng of the Tang Dynasty. The new bride
moved the statue of Buddha, which Princess Wencheng brought
to Tibet, to the Jokhang Monastery. Meanwhile, she arranged
monks accompanying her to the Tubo Kingdom to take in charge
of the monastery and related religious activities. She
engaged in a painstaking effort and finally succeeded in
persuading the Tubo court to accept monks fleeing from
Western Regions and build seven monasteries to house them.
While the measures further boosted the development of
Buddhism in Tibet, they nonetheless sparked discontent
amongst ministers worshipping the Bon religion. The
ministers left no stone unturned to obstruct the development
of Buddhism, with the situation lasting until Trisong
Detsan, the son of Tride Zhotsan, came to power.
Trison Detsan relied on Buddhism to
fight ministers who rallied behind the Bon religion. As part
of the effort, he invited Zhibatsho and Padmasambhava,
famous Indian monks, to build the Samye Monastery in 799.
Seven noble children were later tonsured to the monastery,
which became the first monastery in Tibetan Buddhist history
to tonsure monks. The event thus pioneered the tonsure
system of Tibetan Buddhism.
to inviting Indian monks to Tibet, Trisong Destan sent
trusted emissaries to China's hinterland to invite monks to
lecture in Tibet. Mahayana became one of the many Han monks
who contributed to ensuring that Han Buddhism flourished in
Tibet. Mahayana remained in Tibet for 11 years lecturing on
Buddhism and completing nine books on Buddhist tenets.
Tubo kings in ensuing dynasties did
their utmost to promote Buddhism by building monasteries and
commissioning the translation of Buddhist sutras. At the
same time, they granted monks royal incomes and even
encouraged them to become involved in government affairs in
order to undermine ministers who supported the Bon religion.
The policy spawned the deep hatred of said ministers, who
eventually arranged for the assassination of Tritso Detsan
in 842. The ministers threw their support behind Darma, the
brother of Tritso Detsan, to become the new Tubo king. This
was in turn followed by the large-scale suppression of
Buddhism in the region.
assuming power, Darma set out to suppress Buddhism, but was
soon assassinated by Tibetan Buddhists, and war erupted
between the different power factions. Slaves, who were
thrown into the abyss of misery, rose to revolt. Tibet was
torn apart by various forces. The "diffusion of
Buddhism'' was thus halted.
10th century witnessed the entry of a feudal society in
tibet, with each of the Tubo ministers occupying a part of
the kingdom and becoming feudal powers in their respective
localities. They proceeded to promote Buddhism in order to
strengthen their own rule. Buddhism was thus revived in
Tibet. In terms of form and content, however, Buddhism
rising in Tibet during this particular period was worlds
apart from Tubo Buddhism. The 300-odd years of struggle
between Buddhism and the Bon religion resulted in each
absorbing the strong points of the other. Buddhism became
increasingly Tibetanized as the region entered the feudal
stage. Tibetan Buddhism emerged and entered a stage of rapid