Before arrival of Buddhism in Tibet: Bön-Po (Schamaism): they recited Mantras which could be used for exorcism, invoking powerful spirits.

33rd King: Srong Tsen Gampo: 609-649 (ruled since 627) (Incarnation of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara/Tschenresig: Bodhisattva of Compassion): married with: Brikuti Devi (Trishun) and Weng Cheng (Munshang Kongto);

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Avalokiteshvara - Tschenresig in the Wangla Gompa, Ladakh
Photo: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

Jhokang and Ramoche temples were built in Lhasa.

Thönmi Sambhota: Tib. Alphabet is created.

Tri Song Detsen 704-797 (ruled since 755).

763: Conquest of Chinese capital: Xian.

Buddhism: Official state religion

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The Buddhism arrived during the Tibetan Yarlung Dynasty in the 6. Century A.D. The Yarlung Dynasty originates from the Yarlung Valley, east of Lhasa
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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The Yumbu Lhakang in the Yarlung Valley was one of the Palaces of the Yarlung Dynasty
Photo: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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The Yumbu Lhakang is regarded the oldest Building in Tibet
Photo: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

(Padmasambhava - Guru Rimpoche: who founds the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet, Samye: he keeps the old Bön-Po demons as "dharmapalas" (the old animistic gods became guardians of the Dharma: the old Bön-Po gods were obliged to submit to the Dharma) and Shântarakshita are the pioneers of Tibetan Buddhism). Influential is the great religious debate of Samye: between 792 and 794)(Indian Mahâyâna against Chinese Ch'an (Zeng)) which is won by the Indian Mahâyâna brand of Buddhism except the Dzogchen movement in the 20th century which is based on the Chinese Ch'an-Buddhism and can be rooted back to Bön-Po.

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Padmasambhava is shown in the Cham Dances to picure the victoy of buddhism over Bön-Po in the Hemis Gompa, Ladakh, 1999 
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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Participants during the Cham Performance in Hemis, 1999
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks


Tri Ralpachan (805-836)

The translation of Buddhist texts into the Tibetan language continues.

821: Pact of Non-Aggression with China: Stele at Jhokang Temple

838: Tri Ralpachan is murdered by Langdarma (elder brother of Ralpachan: he supported the old Tibetan Bön-Po Religion)

842: Pegyi Dorje (Buddhist monk in Hidingi) assassinated Langdarma:

Fall of the Yarlung Dynasty. The Dark Age (838-ca 1000) begins in Tibet.

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Potala Palace in Lhasa, 1997
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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View to the Potala Palace from the Jokhang Gompa in Lhasa
Photo: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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The Holy Road around the Jokhang Gompa Lhasa 
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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Tibetan Nomade on the Barkhor in Lhasa, Tibet 
Photo: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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View from the Jokhang to the Potala Palace in Lhasa
Photo: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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Buddhist Pilgrims at the Jokhang in Lhasa
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks



The Buddhism is revived in the western Tibetan province of Ngari in the upper Sutlej valley (Gugé kingdom) with the twin cities of Thöling and Tsaparang as well as Purang, just south of the sacred Lake Manasarovar).

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The Holy Mountain Kailash in western Tibet
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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The Buddhist Chiu Gompa with Kailash in the Background
Photo: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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Hor, north of Lake Manasarovar in the Kailash Area
Photo: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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Holy Lake Manasarovar
Photo: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

The Indian master Atisha (teacher at the Indian monastic University of Vikramashilâ)(982-1054) and the Tibetan translator (lotsava) Rinchen Zangpo (958-1055): Driving forces to revive Buddhism in western Tibet.

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Ringdum Gompa in the Zanskar, at the Base of 7 135 m high Nun Kun (Part of western Tibet in the Past)
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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Thöling in western Tibet, Capital of the Guge Kingdom
Photo: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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Tsaparang in western Tibet, Main Temple of the Guge Kingdom
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

In eastern Tibet Buddhism is restored by Nepaleses master Smrti and in the central parts by the Tibetan spriritual travellers Drogmi (992-1072) and Marpa (1012-1096), a student of the great Indian teacher (Mahåsiddha) Naropa (1016-1100).

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Acces to the Buddhist Shrine Swayembunath, west of Kathmandu in Nepal
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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The Buddhist Stupa of Swayembunath which is also holy to Hindus
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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Pilgrims in Swayembunath
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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The Buddhist Stupa with Buddha's Eyes in Bodnath, east of Kathmandu in Nepal
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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Pilgrims in Bodnath
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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The Stupa Chabahil situated between Pashupatinath and Bodnath in Kathmandu in Nepal
Photo: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

Once Buddhism was re-installed, the doors were closed to outside influence and the Mahâyâna Buddhism of India was reverently preserved by diligent Tibetan guardians. A distinctive, "bhuddocratic" style of government developed. The teachings were analysed and a complete canon of Tibetan Buddhism created by Butön (14th century): Kangyur (Sûtra: 108 volumes) and the Tengyur (Shastra: commentaries: 225 volumes).

Middle: 11th Century: Alliance: Nobility with religious orders: Nyingma-Pa; Kagyu-Pa; Kadam-Pa and Sakya Pa (dominance with support of Mongols).

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Rumtek Gompa, south of Gangtok in Sikkim: Sikkim is presently the Focus of the Kadam-Pa Sect of the Tibetan Buddhism
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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Martam south of the Rumtek Gompa
Photo: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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Lachen with the Kadam Pa Gompa in northern Sikkim
Photo: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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Lachen Gompa
Photo: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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Lachung Gompa in Northeast Sikkim
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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Tashiding Gompa in western Sikkim
Photo: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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Gompa in the old Capital of western Sikkim, Yuksom
Photo: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

Nyingma-Pa (Old Ones) goes back to Padmasambhava. Mindroling is their most important monastery. They have "secret" texts (terma) hidden by Padmasambhava (a person who finds such texts is a tertön). The school is individualistic to anarchistic with married monks (Ngakpas).

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Tardjeeling Gompa in West Tibet in the upper Tsangpo Valley
Photo: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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Tradün Gompa in West-Tibet in the upper Tsangpo Valley
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

Kadam-Pa (Bound by Command) can trace back its lineage to Atisha. His disciple, Dromtön (1008-1064) founds the monastery of Reting: strict rules of religious order which were later not very popular in Tibet.

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Gertze in the Tschangthang in northern Tibet
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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Tsochen in the Tschangthang in northern Tibet
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

Sakya-Pa is founded 1073 by Konchog Gyalpo (1034-1102), a disciple of Drogmi. Sakya-Pa favours the teachings of the Indian adept Virûpa.

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Sakya Gompa, south of Shigatse in central Tibet
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

The Kagyu-Pa (Transmitted Command) has a number of branches but all go back to the Indian masters: Naropa and Tilopa and ultimately back to Buddha Vajradhâra (Yogas of Naropa: heat yoga (dumo) and the yoga of the bardo). The spiritual founder is Marpa and his disciple Milarepa (1052-1135). Milarepa's most influential disciple is Gampopa (1079-1153) whose disciples found three sub-branches: Karma-Pa (Black Hat Sect)(Tsurphu monastery), Drugpa (Bhutan and Ladakh) and Drigung-Pa.

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Nyalam inTibet With the Milarepa Cave in the Milarepa Gompa with the View to the South: into Nepal and into the  Langtang Himalaya
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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Nyalam with the MilarepaCave in the Milarepa Gompa
Photo: Copyright: Klaus Dierks



12th Century: Gengis Khan threatens Tibet: Tibet offers tribute.

1240: Sakya Pandita saves Tibet by converting Godan (grandson of Gengis Khan) to Buddhism: Kublai Khan, another grandson of Gengis Khan grants regency overTibet to Sakya-Pa.

Sakya-Pa falls before Mongolian empire due to inner-Ttibetan differences.

For three centuries different kings and religious orders ruleTibet which is practically independent.


During 14th and 15th century Tsong Kha-pa (Lobsang Drakpa or Jé Rimpoche)(1357-1419), believed to be an incarnation of Bodhisattva Manjushri (wisdom), reformed Tibetan Buddhism by the creation of a new religious order: Gelug-Pa (Yellow Hat Sect). He originates from the Lake Kokonor in north-eastern Tibet. Originally he favours the Kadam-Pa school. He founded the three "Pillars of Buddhism", the three monasteries near Lhasa: Ganden (1409), Drepung (1416) and Sera (1419) (Drasang: monastic universities). Tsong Kha-pa also established the Great Prayer Festival (Mönlam Chemno) after New Year (Lossar). He confirms Atisha's stress upon monastic virtues and the need to establish a firm basis in the Sûtras before graduating to the Tantras. He follows the teachings of the great Indian teachers Nâgârjuna, Asanga and Dignâga.

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One of the "Three Pillars of Buddhism" Ganden Gompa, east Lhasa in the Central-Tibetan Province Ü: during the Chinese Cultural Revolution destroyed and partly re-constructed (1997)
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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Ganden Gompa: Tsong-Kha-pa: Founder of the Order of the Gelug Pa (Yellow Hat Sect)
Photo: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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Drepung Gompa: west of Lhasa
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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Drepung Gompa: Mani Stones with Tsong-Kha-pa
Photo: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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Drepung Gompa: The Buddha of the Future: Maitreya
Photo: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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Sera Gompa: north of Lhasa
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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View from the Sera Gompa to the South with Lhasa and the Potala Palace
Photo: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

On the death of Tsong Kha-pa his successor is Gedün Drub who implements the system of incarnations (tulku system) to establish the heads of the Gelug-Pa.

1578: Sonam Gyatso (3rd Incarnation) gets the title "Dalai Lama" (Ocean) by the Mongolian ruler, Altan Khan. The title of first Dalai Lama is posthumously bestowed to Gendün Drub (1391-1474), the disciple of Tsong Kha-pa. Another important reincarnating system is the system of Panchen Lamas from Tashilhunpo Monastery at Shigatse.

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Tashi Lumpo in Shigatse, 1997
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

The Gelug-Pa achieves more importance by strengthening their ties with the Mongols.

1642: The Mongolian ruler Gushri Khan crushes all opposition against the Gelug-Pa, especially from the Karma-Kagyu Pa sub-school.

Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso (1617-1682) becomes the 5th "Great" Dalai Lama. He unifies and pacifies Tibet and completes the Potala Palace in Lhasa which he extends from Srong Tsen Gampo's chapel. The relationship with the Chinese Manchu-Dynasty remains on diplomatic level. This situation changes with the death of the 5th Dalai Lama (the death was concealed for 13 years).

Love-struck 6th Dalai Lama and unstable Mongolian fractions lead to the intervention of the Chinese: The Manchu Emperor uses the Quosot Mongols to pursue their intentions to control the unstable 6th Dalai Lama who subsequently dies on a forced trip to China to Manchu Emperor Kang Hsi.

1767: The Dsungar Mongols invade Tibet and defeat the Qosot Mongols. The Manchus interfere directly: The first Chinese army is wiped out but the second army is successful and is warmly received in Tibet because the Manchus bring the 7th Dalai Lama.


Manchu Emperor Kang Hsi secures toehold overTibet by implementing the system of two Chinese "Ambans": the protective city walls of Lhasa are demolished.

The Dalai Lamas from 8th to 12th are weak and unable to govern Tibet efficiently (during the greater part of the 18th century).

1792: the Nepalese Gurkhas conquer Shigatse. They are, however, defeated by the Manchus who close Tibet to the outside world.

1856: The Gurkhas invade again Tibet. This time Tibet is not protected by the Manchus. Tibet has to pay tribute to Nepal (for one century).

Amdo and Kham are consequently incorporated into the Chinese motherland by the Manchus. But, the protective role of the Manchus has disappeared completely by the fall of the 19th century (fall of the Qing Dynasty 1911).


The end of the 19th century is overshadowed by a rivalry between Russia and the UK in Central Asia: British suspicions are strengthened by the visit of the Buddhist and Russian "research traveller" Khampo Agvan Lobsang Dorjeff (Burjat Mongol) who visits the Russian Tsar in 1898. Dorjeff is acting as intermediary to the 13th Dalai Lama, Tubten Gyatso (1876-1933) (followed by Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, b. 1935). The UK is further worried by stories about a clandestine Sino-Russian treaty on Tibet. The British conquer Sikkim at the beginning of the 20th century. This leads consequently to the "Younghusband-Tibet- Campaign" to Gyantse, Shigatse and finally to Lhasa in 1904 which opens Tibet to British influence for some decades.

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Kumbum Tschörte in Gyantse, Tibet
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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Buddhist Main Temple Pelkor Chöde with Kumbum Tschörte in Gyantse, Tibet
Photos: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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View from the Pelkor Chöde with the Town of Gyantse with the Fortress (Dzong) in the Background
Photo: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

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View from the Dzong with the Town of Gyantse with Pelkor Chöde and Kumbum in the Background
Photo: Copyright: Klaus Dierks

In the 20th century Dzogchen (Great Perfection) based on the practical idea of the practical-minded Chinese Ch'ang brand of Buddhism develops, although it is transmitted as a tantric teaching of the Nyingma-Pa school. It can be regarded as an essence of all other teachings and its origins can be traced back to pre-Buddhist times, when it flourished among the Bön-po of Zhang-zhung, the mythical original Tibet.

End Note: This summary is based on: "John Snelling: The Buddhist Handbook: A Complete Guide to Buddhist Teaching and Practice, Rider: London, Sydney, Auckland, Johannesburg, 1997"

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