Tibetan Religion

Tibetan Buddhism
Religion is extremely important to the Tibetans and has a strong influence over all aspects of lives. Bon is the ancient religion of Tibet, but has been almost eclipsed by Tibetan Buddhism, a distinctive form of Mahayana and Vajrayana, which was introduced into Tibet from the Sanskrit Buddhist tradition of northern India.Tibetan Buddhism is practiced not only in Tibet but also in Mongolia, parts of northern India, the Buryat Republic, the Tuva Republic, and in the Republic of Kalmykia and some other parts of China besides Tibet. During China's Cultural Revolution, nearly all Tibet's monasteries were ransacked and destroyed by the Red Guards.A few monasteries have begun to rebuild since the 1980s (with limited support from the Chinese government) and greater religious freedom has been granted-although it is still limited. Monks returned to monasteries across Tibet and monastic education resumed even though the number of monks imposed is strictly limited.

Tibetan Buddhism has four main traditions (the suffix pa is comparable to "er" in English):

Gelug(pa), Way of Virtue, also known casually as Yellow Hat, whose spiritual head is the Ganden Tripa and whose temporal head is the Dalai Lama. Successive Dalai Lamas ruled Tibet from the mid-17th to mid-20th centuries. This order was founded in the 14th to 15th centuries by Je Tsongkhapa, based on the foundations of the Kadampa tradition. Tsongkhapa was renowned for both his scholasticism and his virtue. The Dalai Lama belongs to the Gelugpa school, and is regarded as the embodiment of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.

Kagyu(pa), Oral Lineage. This contains one major subsect and one minor subsect. The first, the Dagpo Kagyu, encompasses those Kagyu schools that trace back to Gampopa. In turn, the Dagpo Kagyu consists of four major sub-sects: the Karma Kagyu, headed by a Karmapa, the Tsalpa Kagyu, the Barom Kagyu, and Pagtru Kagyu. The once-obscure Shangpa Kagyu, which was famously represented by the 20th century teacher Kalu Rinpoche, traces its history back to the Indian master Niguma, sister of Kagyu lineage holder Naropa. This is an oral tradition which is very much concerned with the experiential dimension of meditation. Its most famous exponent was Milarepa, an 11th century mystic. Nyingma(pa), The Ancient Ones. This is the oldest, the original order founded by Padmasambhava.

Sakya(pa), Grey Earth, headed by the Sakya Trizin, founded by Khon Konchog Gyalpo, a disciple of the great translator Drokmi Lotsawa. Sakya Pandita 1182ĘC1251CE was the great grandson of Khon Konchog Gyalpo. This school emphasizes scholarship.

Tibetan Islam
Muslims have been living in Tibet since as early as the 8th or 9th century. In Tibetan cities, there are small communities of Muslims, known as Kachee (Kache), who trace their origin to immigrants from three main regions: Kashmir (Kachee Yul in ancient Tibetan), Ladakh and the Central Asian Turkic countries. Islamic influence in Tibet also came from Persia. After 1959 a group of Tibetan Muslims made a case for Indian nationality based on their historic roots to Kashmir and the Indian government declared all Tibetan Muslims Indian citizens later on that year.[73] Other Muslim ethnic groups who have long inhabited Tibet include Hui, Salar, Dongxiang and Bonan. There is also a well established Chinese Muslim community (gya kachee), which traces its ancestry back to the Hui ethnic group of China.

Tibetan Christianity
The first Christians to reach Tibet were undoubtedly Nestorians of whom various remains and inscriptions have been found in Tibet and they were also present at the imperial camp of Mongke Khan at Shira Ordo where they debated in 1256 with Karma Pakshi (1204/6-83), head of the Karma Kagyu order.

Roman Catholic Jesuits and Capuchins arrived from Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. Some scholars believe Portuguese missionaries Jesuit Father Antonio de Andrade and Brother Manuel Marques first reached the kingdom of Gelu in western Tibet in 1624 and was welcomed by the royal family who allowed them to build a church later on.[76][77] By 1627, there were about a hundred local converts in the Guge kingdom.[78] Later on, Christianity was introduced to Rudok, Ladakh and Tsang and was welcomed by the ruler of the Tsang kingdom, where Andrade and his fellows established a Jesuit outpost at Shigatse in 1626.Some sources suggest the First Jesuit missionary is Johann Grueber who, circa 1656, crossed Tibet from Sining to Lhasa (where he spent a month), before heading on to Nepal.He was followed by others who actually built a church in Lhasa. These included the Jesuit Father Ippolito Desideri, 1716ĘC1721, and various Capuchins in 1707ĘC1711, 1716ĘC1733 and 1741-1745, Christianity was used by some Tibetan monarchs and their courts and the Karmapa sect lamas to counterbalance the influence of the Gelugpa sect in the 17th century until in 1745 when all the missionaries were expelled at the lama's insistence.

In 1877, the Protestant James Cameron from the China Inland Mission walked from Chongqing to Batang in Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province, and "brought the Gospel to the Tibetan people." Beginning in the 20th century, in Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan, a large number of Lisu people and some Yi and Nu people converted to Christianity. Famous earlier missionaries include James O. Fraser, Alfred James Broomhall and Isobel Kuhn of the China Inland Mission, among others who were active in this area.