first came into contact with Buddhism when they occupied
the oasis cities of central Asia. Some time later, in
the 8th century AD, the first of many missionary monks arrived and the country's first monastery
was established in 787AD. However, despite some early
success Buddhism soon went into decline due to opposition
from Bon, the indigenous religion, and political turmoil.
In the 10th century monks from India
and Tibetans going to India re-introduced the religion
together with many aspects of Indian civilisation and
it soon began to flourish. As Tantra
was the main type of Buddhism in India at the time, it
was that which became established in Tibet.
the 17th century the head of the country's most powerful
sect, the Fifth Dalai Lama (1617-82), made himself king
and his successors ruled the country until 1951. Although
living in a sparsely populated and geographically isolated
region, the Tibetans gradually evolved one of the richest
and most sophisticated forms of Buddhism. However, the
powerful and conservative clergy refused to allow any
form of modernisation or contact with the outside world,
which made Tibet an easy target for communist China
which invaded the country in 1951. Between 1959 and
1977 almost all traces of Buddhism were destroyed and
hundreds of thousands of people were driven into exile.
However, refugee monks have been highly successful in
re-establishing themselves in India and since the 1960s
have been equally successful in founding temples and
centres in the West.
Batchelor, The Jewel in the Lotus - A Guide to the
Buddhist Traditions of Tibet, London, 1987;
Lama, Opening the Eye of New Awareness, London,