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see Tibetan BuddhismTibetan Buddhism,
form of Buddhism prevailing in the Tibet region of China, Bhutan, the state of Sikkim in India, Mongolia, and parts of Siberia and SW China. It has sometimes been called Lamaism, from the name of the Tibetan monks, the lamas [superior ones].
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a trend in Buddhism; it is practiced in the autonomous regions of Tibet and Inner Mongolia, the Mongolian People’s Republic, and certain parts of Nepal and India. In the USSR, Lamaism has a certain number of followers in the Buriat ASSR, Kalmyk ASSR, Tuva ASSR, and the Ust’-Ordynskii Buriat and Aga-Buriat national okrugs.

Lamaism began in Tibet, where Mahayana Buddhism had penetrated from India in the seventh century, at the same time as the creation there of the first unified state (seventh through ninth centuries). Toward the end of the eighth century, Buddhism became the state religion of Tibet. There the first Samye monastery was built, Tibetan monks appeared, and monasterial landholding began. A hierarchy of clergy developed in the early ninth century. The process of Lamaism’s formation was completed with what is called the late wave of Buddhism in Tibet, which began in the second half of the tenth century. The feudal fragmentation that began in this period fostered the formation of a multitude of Lamaist sects, among which the most important were the Kadampa (founded in the mid-11th century), Sakyapa (11th century), Kagyupa (11th century), and Karmapa (12th century). In the late 14th and early 15th centuries the largest Lamaist sect arose, the Gelukpa (Yellow Hat sect), founded by Tsong-khapa (1357–1419). In the 16th century the heads of the Gelukpa sect began to bear the title of Dalai Lama. By the mid-17th century the fifth Dalai Lama, Avganlobsan-jamtso (1617–82), and the upper clergy succeeded in subjecting to their authority (both spiritual and secular) all the main regions of Tibet, which thereby became a theocratic state. The institution of the Panchen Lama, who occupied the second position in Lamaism after the Dalai Lama, also began under the fifth Dalai Lama. During the 16th and 17th centuries Lamaism became the dominant religion in Mongolia, where it spread from Tibet; at the same time it was adopted by the Kalmyks, who migrated to the Volga region in the 17th century. Lamaism took hold in Tuva during the 16th and 17th centuries and began to spread to Buriatia by the end of the 17th century.

The theoretical basis of Lamaism is expounded in two main canonical works written in the 14th century—the Kangyur and Tangyur, with commentaries on the texts included in the Kangyur—and in the works of the best known lamas. The Kangyur and Tangyur have been translated from Tibetan into Mongolian.

Besides features common to the Mahayanist movement in Buddhism as a whole, Lamaism has a number of individual features. As a religion, Lamaism is extremely eclectic. Magic and belief in numerous local deities hold an important place along with retreat from secular life and meditation. Highly developed rituals and the complete subordination of the disciple to the lama, the teacher, are characteristic of Lamaism. A special role is attributed to the Boddhisattvas, who are not only guides on the path of “liberation” but deities who give help in concrete secular affairs. Avalokiteshvara, the Boddhisattva of Great Mercy, is given particular emphasis, as are certain Buddhas—for example, Maitreya, Buddha of the Future. On the basis of the concept of reincarnation, a theory arose in Lamaism about the incarnation of Buddhas, Boddhisattvas, and deities into persons called trulku (in Tibetan) or khulbigans (in Mongolian). In the realm of philosophy, Lamaism confines itself to commentaries on translated texts.

Large-scale monastery landholdings were the economic basis for Lamaist rule. Lamaism was a significant impediment on the road to economic, social, and cultural development of those peoples among whom it spread. At present, the Lamaist clergy in the main regions where Lamaism has spread has lost its former economic and political influence.


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