Tibetan Buddhism is the extant from of the Pala tradition of Buddhism, practiced historically in the Indian University of Nalanda and others. It is merely a main religion of ethnic minority for Tibetan in Modern China. The Literature were once in Sanskrit now entirely in Tibetan, as a result of over centuries of translation.
Tibetan Buddhism comprise teachings from three vehicles of Buddhism: the foundational vehicle, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. The Mahayana goal of spiritual development is to attain enlightenment (Buddha-hood) in order to most efficiently help all other sentient being attain this state. The motivation in it is the Bodhicitta mind of enlightenment – an altruistic intention to become enlightened for the sake of all sentient beings. Bodhicitta are revered achieving Buddha-hood more quickly by including the Vajrayana path in Mahayana.
Buddha-hood is defined as a state free of the obstruction to liberation as well as those to omniscience. When one is freed from all mental obscuration, one is said to attain a state of continuous bliss mixed with a simultaneous cognition of emptiness, the true nature of reality. In this state all limitations on one ability to help other living being are removed.
It is said that there are countless being who have attain Buddha-hood. Buddhas spontaneously, naturally and continuously perform activities benefit all sentient beings. However it is believed that one’s Karma could limit the ability of the Buddhas to help them. Thus, although Buddhas possess no limitation from their side on their ability to help others, sentient beings continue to experience suffering as a result of the limitation of their own karma.
There is a long history of oral transmission of teaching in Tibetan Buddhism. Orel transmission by lineage holders traditionally can take place in small groups or mass gathering if listeners and may last for seconds(in case of mantra) or months (in case of of a section of the Tibetan Buddhist canon). A transmission can even occur without hearing, as in Asanga’s visions of Maitreya.
An emphasis on oral transmission as more important than the printed word derives from the earliest period of Indian Buddhism, when it allowed teachings to be kept from those who should not hear them. Hearing teaching (transmission) readies the hearer for realization based on it. The person from whom one hears the teaching should have heard it as one link in a succession of listeners going back to the original speaker: the Buddha is the case of sutra or the author in the case of a book. Then the hearing constitutes an authentic lineage of transmission. Authenticity of the oral lineage is a prerequisite of the realization, hence the importance of lineages.
As in other Buddhist traditions, an attitude of reverence for the teacher, or guru, is also highly prized. At the begining of a public teaching, a lama will do prostration to the throne on which he will teach due to its symbolism, or to an image of the Buddha behind the throne, then student will do prostration to the lama after he is seated. Merit accrues when one’s interaction with the teacher are imbued with such reverence in the form of guru devotion, a code of practice governing then that derives from Indian sources. By such thing as avoiding disturbance to the peace of mind of one’s teacher, and wholeheartedly follow his prescriptions, much merit accrues and this can significantly help improves one’s practice.
There is a general sense in which any Tibetan Buddhist teachers are called Lama. A student may take teaching from many authorities and revere them all as Lamas is this general sense. However he will typically have one held in special esteem as his own root teacher and is encouraged to view the other teachers who are less dear to him. However more exalted their status, as embodied in and subsumed by the root guru. Often the teacher the student sees as the root guru is simply the one who first introduce him to Buddhism, but a student may also change his personal view of which particular teacher is his root guru any number of times.
Skepticism is an important aspect of Tibetan Buddhism, an attitude of critical skepticism is encouraged to promote abilities in analytic meditation. In favor of skepticism towards Buddhist doctrines in general. Tibetan are fond of quoting sutra to the effect the one should test the Buddha’s word one would the quality of gold.
The opposing principles of skepticism and guru devotion are reconciled with the Tibetan injunction to scrutinies a prospective guru thoroughly before finally adopting him as such without reservation. A Buddhist may study with a lama for decades before finally accepting his as his own guru.
Vajrayana is acknowledged to be the fastest method for attaining Buddha-hood but for unqualified practitioners it can be dangerous. To engage in it one must receive an appropriate initiation (known as empowerment) from a guru who is fully qualified to give it. From time one has resolved to accept such a initiation, the utmost sustained effort on guru devotion is essential.
The aim of preliminary practice (nyon-dro) is to start the student on the correct path for such higher teachings. Just as Sutrayana preceded Vajrayana historically in India, so sutra practices constitute those that are preliminary tanric ones. Preliminary practices includes all sutrayana activities that yield merit like hearing teachings, prostration, offering, prayers, and acts of kindness and compassion, but chief among the preliminary practice are realizations through meditation on the three principle stages of the path: renunciation, the altruistic Bidhichita wish to attain enlightenment and the wisdom realizing emptiness. For a person without the basis of these three in particular to practice Vajrayana can be like a small child trying to ride an unbroken horse.
While the practices of Vajrayana are not known in Sutrayana, all Sutrayana practices are common to Vajrayana. Without training in the preliminary practices, the ubiquity of allusions to them in Vajrayana is meaningless and even successful Vajrayana initiation becomes impossible.
The merit acquired in the preliminary practice facilities progress in Vajrayana. While many Buddhist may spend a lifetime exclusively on sutra practices, however, an amalgam of the two to some degree is common. For example, in order to train in calm abiding, one might use a tantric visualization as the meditation object.
In Vajrayana particularly, Tibetan Buddhist subscribe to a voluntary code of self-censorship, whereby the uninitiated do not seek and are not provided with information about it, This self censorship may be applied more or less strictly depending on circumstance such as the materiel involved. A depiction of a mandala may be less public than that of a deity. That the higher tantic deity may be less public than that of a lower. The degree to which information on Vajrayana is now public in western language is controversial among Tibetan Buddhists.
Buddhism has always had a taste for esotericism since its earliest in India. Tibetans today maintain greater or lesser degrees of confidentiality also with information on the vinaya and emptiness specifically. In Buddhist teaching generally, too, there is caution about revealing information to people who may be unready for it. Esoteric values in Buddhism have made it at odds with the values of Christian missionary activity.
A distinct features of Tibetan Buddhism is the system of incarnate lamas, but such genuine innovation have been few. A small corpus of extra-canonical scripture, the treasure texts(terma) is acknowledged by some practitioners, but the bulk of the canon that is not commentary was translated from Indian sources. True to its root in the Pala system of north India, how ever, Tibetan Buddhism carries on a tradition of eclectic accumulation and systematization of diverse Buddhist element, peruses their synthesis. Prominent among these achievement have been the stages of the path and motivational training.