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Related to Lamaism: Zen Buddhism, Mahayana, Sangha


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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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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.


Pozdneev, A. M. Ocherki byta buddiiskikh monastyrei i buddiiskogo dukhovenstva v Mongolii. St. Petersburg, 1887.
Pubaev, R. E., and B. V. Semichov. Proiskhozhdenie i sushchnost’ buddizma-lamaizma. Ulan-Ude, 1960.
Bogoslovskii, V. A. Ocherk istorii tibetskogo naroda. Moscow, 1962.
Waddell, L. A. The Buddhism of Tibet or Lamaism. Cambridge, 1934.
Stein, R. A. La Civilisation tibétaine. Paris, 1962.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Our nostalgia for a pure and perfect Tibet is certainly the bond we stake on the dream of good's triumph in the world; it is fed by images of an ancient culture, but in the face of the facts, in the face of a worsening situation, in the face of imminent major changes following the evolution of Lamaism, Western countries could do more to support the Tibetans: they love the Dalai Lama, because he is peaceful and full of laughter, but they turn away from him as soon as the stakes become concrete.
Traditionally, Buddhist Lamaism was the predominant religion.
Although Lamaism replaced shamanism, traces of the older tradition may still be seen.
By the middle of the nineteenth century, the vast majority of those Buriats who inhabited the region on the eastern side of Lake Baikal, known as the Transbaikal, practiced Mahayana Yellow Hat Buddhism, or Lamaism.
"The Bkah-Brgyud Sect of Lamaism." Journal of the American Oriental Society.
Dorzhieva, Buddiiskaia tserkov' v Kalmykii v kontse XIX-pervoi polovine XX veka (Moscow: Institut rossiiskoi istorii, 2001); Dittmar Schorkowitz, "The Orthodox Church, Lamaism, and Shamanism among the Buriats and Kalmyks, 1825-1925," in Of Religion and Empire, 201-25; Galina G.
Religions (2004): Buddhist Lamaism 50%, Muslim 4% (primarily in the southwest), shamanist and Christian 6%, and none 40%.
Among their topics are early Buddhist art in China, cave temples, temple sculptures, Buddhist painting, Chinese calligraphy, Chinese Buddhist architecture, and the art of Tibetan Lamaism. There is a section of 50 color plates; some are not of the best quality, but many capture objects from private collections that may not be available anywhere else.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons), Secret Sect of Tibetan Lamaism (Mizong Buddhism), and the Unification Church are also registered but did not provide membership statistics.
In this review I would like to make the general Nepalese scholars aware that Buddhism and Lamaism of Tibet by Austine Waddell cannot and should not be taken as an authoritative book of "Tibetan Buddhism" (as it is well known as) but which I call Vajrayana of Tibet.
A leading member of the Sino-Swedish Expedition in 1930-33 to northwest China with Sven Hedin, he became an authority on Lamaism, in particular with his studies on the Yung-ho-kung temple in Peking.