How to practice tibetan buddhism

How to practice tibetan buddhismAlthough there are different schools of Buddhism, throughout India, Japan, Tibet, China, and Southeast Asia, they all utilize a number of similar sacred rituals in the journey to self-enlightenment. Although meditation is typically one of the most well-known Buddhist rituals, mantras, mudras, prayer wheels, and pilgrimages are some of the otherritualistic practices incorporated by traditional Buddhists.

Buddhist bells at monastery of Doi Suthep near Chiang Mai, Thailand

Meditation is a way of mentally focusing or being mindful that is intended to help the practitioner achieve enlightenment. The variations between Buddhist schools of thought has produced different types of meditation, the two primary forms being samatha (tranquility) and vipassana (insight). The two types may be used either separately or together.

A mantra, a Sanskrit word which means “that which protects the mind,” is a sacred sound that is believed to invoke deities, garner supernatural protection and generate personal power. Tibetan Buddhism is focused more on mantras than most other types of Buddhism, and mantras are often chanted during meditation practice. A well-known Tibetan Buddhism mantra is “Om mani padme hum,” which is intended to invoke the deity Avalokiteshvara, and translates roughly to “Praise to the Jewel in the Lotus.” Mantras may be chanted privately or in large groups, depending on the strength of protection desired.

Less commonly known than mantras, mudras are a Buddhist ritual that involves the use of symbolic hand gestures in order to evoke specific ideas, Buddhas, deities, or scenes. They may be used in practice or be depicted in artistic renderings, and are intended to aid in Buddhist meditation. The five main esoteric mudras found in Buddhist art depict the five Dhyani Buddhas.

Mostly used by Tibetan and Nepalese Buddhists, prayer wheels are another aspect to Buddhist ritual. Prayer wheels are hollow cylinders, inside which are placed scrolls of mantras, that are mounted on rods and spun by Buddhists in lieu of chanting the mantras out loud. Oftentimes, prayer wheels may also represent the Wheel of the Law (Dharma) that Buddha set in motion. Prayer wheels are especially popular among devotees on pilgrimage.

Buddhist pilgrimage is a ritual of great significance. The most important destinations for Buddhist pilgrims are in Northern India and Southern Nepal’s Gangetic plains, between New Delhi and Rajgir, where Gautama Buddha lived and taught. The four main sites of pilgrimage are Lumbini (Buddha’s birthplace), Bodh Gaya (Buddha’s place of enlightenment), Sarnath (where Buddha first preached), and Kusinagara (where Buddha achieved Parinirvana).

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Non-initiates in Tibetan Buddhism may gain merit by performing rituals such as food and flower offerings, water offerings (performed with a set of bowls), religious pilgrimages, or chanting prayers (see prayer wheels). They may also light butter lamps at the local temple or fund monks to do so on their behalf.

In Bhutan, villagers may be blessed by attending an annual religious festival, known as a tsechu, held in their district. In watching the festival dances performed by monks, the villagers are reminded of Buddhist principles such as non-harm to other living beings. At certain festivals a large painting known as a thongdrol is also briefly unfurled — the mere glimpsing of the thongdrol is believed to carry such merit as to free the observer from all present sin.

Tantric practitioners make use of rituals and objects. Meditation is an important function which may be aided by the use of special hand gestures (mudras) and chanted mantras (such as the famous mantra of Avalokiteshvara: “om mani padme hum”).

A number of esoteric meditation techniques are employed by different traditions, including mahamudra, dzogchen, and the Six yogas of Naropa.

Qualified practitioners may study or construct special cosmic diagrams known as mandalas which assist in inner spiritual development. A lama may make use of a variety of ritual objects, each of which has rich symbolism and a ritual function.

Another important ritual is the Cham, a dance featuring sacred masked dances, sacred music, healing chants, and spectacular richly ornamented multi-colored costumes. Mudras are used by the monks to revitalize spiritual energies which generate wisdom, compassion and the healing powers of Enlightened Beings. With accompanying narration and a monastic debate demonstration, the program provides a fascinating glimpse into ancient and current Tibetan culture. However, due to China’s occupation of Tibet, this ritual is now forbidden.

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Tibetan Buddhism, also known as Vajrayana or tantric Buddhism, embraces a wide variety of experiences and mental and physical energies for use on the path to enlightenment.

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How to practice tibetan buddhism

How to practice tibetan buddhism

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Buddhism for Beginners is an initiative of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, a print and digital magazine dedicated to making Buddhist teachings and practices broadly available.

Buddhism for Beginners is an initiative of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, a print and digital magazine dedicated to making Buddhist teachings and practices broadly available.

Level 2

Tibetan Buddhism, also known as Vajrayana or tantric Buddhism, embraces a wide variety of experiences and mental and physical energies for use on the path to enlightenment.

Start your journey here!

Buddhism for Beginners is an initiative of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, a print and digital magazine dedicated to making Buddhist teachings and practices broadly available.

Not at all. Since the exodus of Tibetans from their homeland in 1959 (in the wake of the Chinese occupation), and subsequent travel by Tibetan Buddhist teachers to virtually every continent in the world, the important practice texts of all the great Tibetan traditions have been translated into other languages—including English and Mandarin—so that students in every part of the world can read and understand them.

Most Tibetan teachers these days use hybrid, or combination, practice texts that include the original Tibetan script, a transliteration (phonetic spelling so that you can pronounce the Tibetan words), and a translation into the language of the reader.

When Tibetan teachers first traveled to Western countries in the 1960s, they encouraged students to learn to read Tibetan script, which was developed in the 7th century by Thonmi Sambhota (a Tibetan imperial minister) at the emperor’s request. (Tibet at that time had no alphabet, so Thonmi traveled to India and created a Tibetan alphabet based on Indic letters.) Since the written language was initially developed to translate Buddhist texts from Sanskrit, many Tibetan teachers felt that the script itself was blessed, and that blessing could be imparted to anyone who used it.

But in response to requests from new students in the West, translation of Tibetan Buddhist texts into English and other languages became a priority. Tibetan teachers in all lineages began training translators and producing texts that could be read and used by Western dharma students. Similar requests were met in Taiwan and other Asian countries, and Tibetan texts increasingly became available in new languages.

By the turn of the 20th century, texts were being produced that allowed students to receive the direct blessing believed to result from reciting prayers and practices in their original languages (using transliteration) and at the same time receive the clear meaning of texts in the dharma students’ own languages.

Today, Tibetan language study is offered in colleges in various countries. Monasteries and dharma centers also have translation schools and committees to help deepen students’ understanding, train translators to help with the interpretation of oral teachings and written works, and prepare practice and study texts for new generations of dharma practitioners.

But for the average student of Buddhism and daily practitioner of Tibetan chants and meditation, learning the Tibetan language is not a requirement, just as you don’t need to know Sanskrit and Japanese to join a Zen sangha or Pali to follow a Thai Forest Tradition teacher.

Tk copy here about related articles cpy here and here in paragraph form with links to related content that the reader might be interested giving them context and related information here and tk copy link to article here and here tk copy here and here.

Gain access to the best in sprititual film, our growing collection of e-books, and monthly talks, plus our 25-year archive

Buddhism for Beginners is an initiative of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, a print and digital magazine dedicated to making Buddhist teachings and practices broadly available.

Buddhism for Beginners is an initiative of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, a print and digital magazine dedicated to making Buddhist teachings and practices broadly available.

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Start your journey here!

Buddhism for Beginners is an initiative of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, a print and digital magazine dedicated to making Buddhist teachings and practices broadly available.

Not at all. Since the exodus of Tibetans from their homeland in 1959 (in the wake of the Chinese occupation), and subsequent travel by Tibetan Buddhist teachers to virtually every continent in the world, the important practice texts of all the great Tibetan traditions have been translated into other languages—including English and Mandarin—so that students in every part of the world can read and understand them.

Most Tibetan teachers these days use hybrid, or combination, practice texts that include the original Tibetan script, a transliteration (phonetic spelling so that you can pronounce the Tibetan words), and a translation into the language of the reader.

When Tibetan teachers first traveled to Western countries in the 1960s, they encouraged students to learn to read Tibetan script, which was developed in the 7th century by Thonmi Sambhota (a Tibetan imperial minister) at the emperor’s request. (Tibet at that time had no alphabet, so Thonmi traveled to India and created a Tibetan alphabet based on Indic letters.) Since the written language was initially developed to translate Buddhist texts from Sanskrit, many Tibetan teachers felt that the script itself was blessed, and that blessing could be imparted to anyone who used it.

But in response to requests from new students in the West, translation of Tibetan Buddhist texts into English and other languages became a priority. Tibetan teachers in all lineages began training translators and producing texts that could be read and used by Western dharma students. Similar requests were met in Taiwan and other Asian countries, and Tibetan texts increasingly became available in new languages.

By the turn of the 20th century, texts were being produced that allowed students to receive the direct blessing believed to result from reciting prayers and practices in their original languages (using transliteration) and at the same time receive the clear meaning of texts in the dharma students’ own languages.

Today, Tibetan language study is offered in colleges in various countries. Monasteries and dharma centers also have translation schools and committees to help deepen students’ understanding, train translators to help with the interpretation of oral teachings and written works, and prepare practice and study texts for new generations of dharma practitioners.

But for the average student of Buddhism and daily practitioner of Tibetan chants and meditation, learning the Tibetan language is not a requirement, just as you don’t need to know Sanskrit and Japanese to join a Zen sangha or Pali to follow a Thai Forest Tradition teacher.

Tk copy here about related articles cpy here and here in paragraph form with links to related content that the reader might be interested giving them context and related information here and tk copy link to article here and here tk copy here and here.

Gain access to the best in sprititual film, our growing collection of e-books, and monthly talks, plus our 25-year archive

Buddhism for Beginners is an initiative of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, a print and digital magazine dedicated to making Buddhist teachings and practices broadly available.

Buddhism for Beginners is an initiative of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, a print and digital magazine dedicated to making Buddhist teachings and practices broadly available.

Please check your email to confirm your subscription.

Would you like to sign up for our other mailing lists?

Please check your email to confirm your subscription.

Welcome to this self-paced practical guide to Tibetan Buddhism.

We hope that your experience with these beautiful, ancient practices brings more joy, calm and meaning to your life during these uncertain times. And that if you are planning travel to Tibet that the course will bring you a deeper understanding of Tibetan culture that will enrich your visit.

How to practice tibetan buddhism

There are 8 basic lessons, each highlighting a core Buddhist practice.

By the end of the eight-week course, you will feel comfortable performing a range of basic Tibetan Buddhist practices that Tibetans commonly learn from a young age.

We suggest one week per topic, but of course feel free to take the course at your own pace.

Let’s begin your guide to Tibetan Buddhism…

How to practice tibetan buddhism

Week 1: Your Shrine

How to practice tibetan buddhism

Week 2: Mantras

How to practice tibetan buddhism

Week 3: Water offerings

How to practice tibetan buddhism

Week 4: Trengwa

How to practice tibetan buddhism

Week 5: Prostrations

How to practice tibetan buddhism

Week 6: Common Prayers

How to practice tibetan buddhism

Week 7: Kora

How to practice tibetan buddhism

Week 8: Karma

How to practice tibetan buddhism

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If you find the course helpful, and you have the means, we ask that you support our work preserving and nourishing Tibetan culture while helping people all over the world experience its joys.

Updated on March 31, 2020. First published on January 19, 2011.

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5 Things You Might Not Know about Tibetan Buddhism

Buddhism has an almost mystical way about it. Its teachings are ethereal, and its followers exude the idea that Zen-like peace awaits all who embrace the tenets of this enlightenment-seeking religion.

Tibetan Buddhism, in particular, is one sect that garners a lot of Western attention. Its symbol of compassion, wisdom, and goodwill—the Dalai Lama—sells out arenas for speaking engagements and encourages his thirteen million Twitter followers with quotes anchored in love, peace, and the common good. However, it can be difficult to get a handle on what Tibetan Buddhists actually believe and how it differs from Buddhism in other nations. Here are five facts about Tibetan Buddhists that can help frame your gospel conversations and prayers for them.

Peace is elusive

One misconception about Tibetan Buddhism is that peace is easily found and kept. However, the search for peace is ongoing and always seems just out of grasp. Tibetan Buddhists are participating in a never-ending cat-and-mouse game to atone for sins so they can live at rest knowing they’ve settled their karmic score.

Tibetan lamas (teachers) heavily concentrate on finding this peace while the everyday Tibetan Buddhist focuses on offsetting their bad karma so their next life is a better one. To do this, people recite mantras, meditate, give donations, make pilgrimages, spin prayer wheels, and light incense.

Elderly Tibetans are the most active in their faith and practice

The nagging question for Tibetan Buddhists is how to know how many good works are enough to balance out the bad karma they’ve accrued.

As Tibetans age, the reality that their life is coming to an end motivates them to get rid of bad karma to improve their standing in their next life. Younger Tibetan Buddhists go to temples to make merit for their next life, but they often lack the urgency of their need to tip the good karma scale.

That’s why on any given day, you’ll see elderly men and women walking clockwise around a Tibetan Buddhist temple. Their hands often have sculpted callouses earned from years of rolling mantra prayer beads between their thumbs and index fingers. These callouses are a testament to their devotion to Buddhism.

Demons, spirits, and dreams are an everyday fear

Contrary to popular perception, most Tibetan Buddhists don’t live in a state of peace and enlightenment. Instead, people often fear the spirit world and demons, and they blame everything from illness to bad luck on demonic influence.

Demonic entities are depicted in artwork and statues. The famous Wheel of Life image symbolizes the cyclical existence of life, the “three poisons” of ignorance, attachment, and aversion, and the role of karma. It represents the six states of the cycle of life: the realms of gods, demi-gods, humans, animals, hungry ghosts, and hell.

How to practice tibetan buddhism

A tapestry depicting The Wheel of Life symbolizes the role of gods and karma in a Buddhist’s journey to nirvana.

In the image, Yama, the god of death, personifies impermanence, and he grips the wheel as he bites into it.

Yama controls the turning of destinies. Outside of the circle is Buddha and nirvana. Tibetan Buddhists believe getting out of the spinning wheel to nirvana is the goal, and they can achieve this through good works, even if it takes several lifetimes. Failure to atone for bad karma results in a bad next life in the wheel.

There are different sects of Buddhists, and the Dalai Lama is the head of only one of them

The two main forms of Buddhism are Theravada and Mahayana, which have different expressions of Buddha’s teachings.

Zen Buddhism—a branch of Mahayana Buddhism—emphasizes meditation and is often what Westerners associate with Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism combines teachings from Tantric, Shamanic and Mahayana Buddhism to form one goal of the soul’s existence: liberation from all worldly vices and hindrances.

As the name suggests, Tibetan Buddhism differs from Buddhism in China, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and Japan. The Dalai Lama is specific to Tibetan Buddhism. He is believed to be the incarnation of the bodhisattva of compassion, or, someone who wishes to achieve Buddha status for the benefit of mankind. There have been fourteen Dalai Lamas, dating back to the 1600s, all believed to be reincarnations of past lamas who chose to be reborn for the benefit of mankind instead of moving out of the wheel of life to nirvana.

Traditionally, the Dalai Lama is the governing and spiritual leader of Tibet and Tibetan peoples. The current Dalai Lama, according to a Harris Interactive survey, was polled as the most popular world leader in 2013. He serves from exile in India.

To be a Tibetan is to be a Buddhist

Tibetans often say, “To be a Tibetan is to be a Tibetan Buddhist.” Buddhist traditions are intertwined in festivals, cultural mores, family life, holidays, births, deaths, and people’s motivations. Becoming a Christian, then, often feels like a divorce from family and culture. Tibetan Christians may struggle with this severance and how they fit into their society.

There are an estimated 6.4 million Tibetans who make up ninety-five people groups, many of whom live in China, Nepal, Bhutan, and India. Nearly 97 percent of Tibetans are Buddhist, which means they need someone to bring them the good news of everlasting peace and the message that their sins are forgiven apart from any good works.

It’s our hope Tibetans will know that to be Tibetan is to be loved by a forgiving God. Join us in praying for the ninety-five Tibetan people groups. Pray they will know in whom their eternal security is found.

Caroline Anderson is a writer for IMB.

A key feature of Buddhism is the way, throughout time and space, it fuses with its surroundings. For example, when Mahayana Buddhism reached Tibet, it fuzed with the Tantric, shamanic, and Bon traditions of the area. Bon is an ancient Tibetan religion. Through this intermingling, Tibetan Buddhism today stands as a spiritual discipline full of transformational practices, unique imagery, rich culture, and rich history.

On our special journey to Ladakh, we’ll be offered teachings and practice with a Tibetan Buddhist lineage from the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism: the Drukpa Lineage. It is because of this journey to Ladakh in 2021 that we now wish to expand on the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism at large and, in the meantime, study them in a way that’s applicable for anyone here who’s willing to read and learn. Thus we’ve created this list of 5 essential Tibetan Buddhist teachings and practices along with descriptions concerning how to best apply the teachings to one’s life.

1. The Idea of Bodhisattvas and Buddhahood in Tibetan Buddhism

Mahayana Buddhism holds that Buddhahood is a state of being freed from all mental obscurations. The Mahayana tradition places special emphasis on attaining this special state of enlightenment with the intention of bodhicitta, or a mind of awakening. Further, Bodhicitta is the selfless intention to attain enlightenment not only for oneself but for others as well.

Can you read where this is going? The idea is to better oneself to be of benefit, rather than harm, to all others in our vicinities. When we work on ourselves, whether it be through meditation, chanting, fitness, visualization, or active listening, we’re watering our seeds of Buddhahood. These will eventually bear the fruit of enlightenment and help us be like Bodhisattvas, or someone who is dedicated and has even gone as far as vowing to dedicate their lives to the peace and enlightenment of all beings.

2. The Four Noble Truths in Tibetan Buddhism

The Four Noble Truths, a core concept of Buddhism in general, is upheld in Tibetan Buddhism. This teaching was revealed to followers by Siddhārtha Gautama himself, establishing it as a central teaching throughout most later-established secs of the religion. These Truths are as follows:

  1. dukkha – unsatisfiable suffering
  2. sumadaya – the origin of suffering (often desire and attachment)
  3. nirodha – letting go of desire and attachment to end dukkha.
  4. magga – the path (Noble Eightfold Path) leading to the end of dukkha.

To someone new to Buddhism, these truths may at first seem nihilistic. The first of The Four Noble Truths is that the universe is comprised of suffering. Does this seem pessimistic? To Buddhists, it is not. They hold that it is only through accepting this truth of the universe that a practitioner may proceed on the path to ending suffering. And remember, the Truths don’t only give us the truth of suffering. They also offer the origin of it, the possibility of ending it, and precisely how to go about ending it.

In terms of applicability, we can study The Four Noble Truths as a way to accept hard truths in order to better work with and transcend them. For example, accepting that suffering is a part of life is difficult, yes, but it’s the beginning of the path by which we achieve higher states of joy and overall being.

3. Lamrim

Lamrim translates to “stages of the path.” It presents the stages of spiritual practice leading to enlightenment and is highly regarded in the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. The teaching is rooted in A Lamp for the Path of Enlightenment, a Buddhist text composed in Sanskrit by 11th century by Atiśa Dīpankara Śrījñāna. Atiśa was a Bengali Buddhist religious teacher partly responsible for spreading Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism throughout Asia.

A key component of Lamrim is the 3 motivations, that is, motivations depending on an individual’s depth of motivation in search of enlightenment. For example, a modest seeker should set out to be as joyful as possible within samsara. Meanwhile, a more fervent seeker might aim to completely alleviate the suffering of not only him/herself, but of other beings as well.

Lamrim teaches us to be where we are on our paths and to set goals accordingly. If we have a sudden impulse to become yoga masters, as an example, we shouldn’t expect to be guiding the world to enlightenment in 1, 2, or even 3 years. Our focus should be on our own strength and happiness to start.

4. Chod

Chod comes from traditional Tibetan religious traditions. It’s a meditative practice whose aim is “cutting through the ego.” The practice utilizes visualizations, music, and prayer to ignite a full embodied, powerful experience toward cutting through hindrances and obscurations.

Jamgön Kongtrül, a Buddhist scholar and poet, said that Chöd involves “accepting willingly what is undesirable, throwing oneself defiantly into unpleasant circumstances, realizing that gods and demons are one’s own mind, and ruthlessly severing self-centered arrogance through an understanding of the sameness of self and others.”

Chod teaches us to dive head-first into facing our demons rather than allowing them to lurk inside of us indefinitely. As we face said demons, we clear out dullness, depression, anxiety, and other neuroses for love and peace to take their place.

We’ll be participating in a Chod practice among other spiritual teachings on our journey to Ladakh.