Thibet, Religion of

Thibet, Religion of The religion of Buddha was introduced into Thibet under king Srongstan Gampo, in A.D. 617-698, by priests from Sinde. These priests brought with them the art of writing, and translated the sacred books of the Indian Buddhists into Thibetan, and their monasteries became the centers of learned education and professional skill. In the 11th century, the Bompa religion (the old worship of evil daemons) was once more established, but after eighty years the Buddhist priests again came into power. These priests, in the 14th century, had become mere jugglers; and then arose a reformer, the monk Tsonkhapa, born in 1355, in the district of Amdo, where is now the famous monastery of Kunbum. He opposed the tricks and pretended miracles of charlatanism, and undertook the task of uniting and reconciling the dialectical and mystical schools of Thibetan Buddhism. His innovations were never universally acknowledged. In the 15th century, GednuDub, provost of a large monastery, claimed to be an incarnation of Buddha, and assumed the title of the "very costliest teacher ocean." The Mongols called him Gyasto, or Dalai Lama, the "priest ocean," and thus was inaugurated Lamaism (q.v.), which became the established religion of the country. The election of the grand lama, although by lot, has been so managed as to prevent any child from being elected which might be disagreeable to the Chinese government. The last election took place in 1875, and a child from the western boundary, towards Ladak, was elected, which seems to indicate a decrease of the Chinese influence. Thibet is greatly oppressed by its ecclesiastical system. The number of monasteries and monks is almost incredible. Eighteen thousand live in and around Lassa; on an average every thirteenth, and in some places every seventh, man is a monk, and must be provided for by others. The poverty of the people is very great, their moral depravity still greater. Between 1854 and 1864 some French missionaries attempted to establish a Roman Catholic station at Bonga, in South-eastern Thibet, but were violently assailed by the lamas, and, unprotected by the Chinese authorities, they were obliged to leave. All other efforts to introduce Christianity have also failed; indeed, so jealous of Europeans are the authorities that they are rarely even admitted into the country. SEE LAMAISM.

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