Renowned for its vibrant culture and spiritual traditions, a remarkable civilization has flourished for more than a thousand years on the ‘roof of the world.’ Enriched by a thousand years of Buddhism brought from India, this civilization emerged from the Tibetan plateau to embrace a sweep of peoples and lands stretching from China to Afghanistan, indelibly marking the character of cultures from one end of Asia to the other, through its religion, its language and its arts.
FROM INDIA, TO TIBET, AND BEYOND With Tibet at its heart, this Buddhist civilization has grown to encompass a vast area stretching from northern India, Bhutan and Nepal, over the Himalayas and across the high plateaus of Asia to Mongolia, Buryatia and beyond. Together, the peoples of these lands represent the living legacy of a millennium-old civilization and the lasting influence of Tibetan culture.
AN ENDURING LEGACY, FROM THE 8th CENTURY… From the 8th century on, this Buddhist culture spread from central Tibet, Amdo and Kham, to Himalayan Nepal and Bhutan in the south, to Mongolia in the north — and into Russia, crossing the steppes from Buryatia and Tuva, to take hold in Kalmykia in the far west. Throughout these lands, great monasteries and renowned teachers rose up — one of whom so impressed the Mongol Altan Khan that he called him Dalai Lama or “Ocean of Wisdom.” By the dawn of the 20th century, millions of people across a swath of Asia rivaling the sizes of India and China looked to Lhasa and the Dalai Lamas for spiritual leadership.
…FACING THE CHALLENGES OF MODERNITY… This civilization has managed to survive a half century and more of repression in its Tibetan and Mongolian homelands. In newly-independent Mongolia (formerly Outer Mongolia), Tibetan Buddhism is once again openly practiced without fear after surviving underground for 70 years, with its monasteries being rebuilt with the help of the current Dalai Lama and others — a tribute to the ties which still bind these peoples together.
…EVEN IN ITS HIMALAYAN HOMELANDS Protected for centuries by the world’s highest mountain range, Tibetan Buddhism lives on in the peaks and valleys of Nepal, home to the world-famous Sherpas and a rich array of other Tibetan Buddhist peoples; in remote Himalayan regions ranging from Ladakh and Mustang to Sikkim and Tawang; and in the kingdom of Bhutan, which has entered the 21st century with its millennium-old Buddhist culture vibrant and alive.