Religion in Tibet

The main religion in Tibet has been Buddhism since its outspread in the 8th century AD. The historical region of Tibet (the areas inhabited by ethnic Tibetans) is nowadays mostly comprised by the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, and partly by the provinces of Qinghai and Sichuan. Before the arrival of Buddhism, the main religion among Tibetans was an indigenous shamanic and animistic religion, Bon, which now comprises a size-able minority and which would later influence the formation of Tibetan Buddhism.

According to estimates from the International Religious Freedom Report of 2012, most of Tibetans (who comprise 91% of the population of the Tibet Autonomous Region) are bound by Tibetan Buddhism, while a minority of 400,000 people (12.5% of the total population of the TAR) are bound to the native Bon or folk religions which share the image of Confucius (Tibetan: Kongtse Trulgyi Gyalpo) with Chinese religion, though in a different light. According to some reports, the government of China has been promoting the Bon religion linking it with Confucianism.

There are four mosques in the Tibet Autonomous Region with approximately 4,000 to 5,000 Muslim adherents,although a 2010 Chinese survey found a higher proportion of 0.4%. There is a Catholic church with 700 parishioners, which is located in the traditionally Catholic community of Yanjing in the east of the region.


Animism is the most ancient form of Tibetan religion

Animism means “breath, spirit, life” in Latin. It encompasses the beliefs that spirits or souls exist not only in humans but also in animals, rocks, geographic features such as mountains or rivers, and other entities in natural environment such as thunder or wind.

Bon Religion

Founder of Yungdrung Bon-Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche and Bon religion Origination in Zhang-zhung

Bon or Bonism is the indigenous religion of Tibet before the arrival of Buddhism. It’s name was probably derived from the ritual recitation (“Bon” means invocation). It is very controversial if Bon has influenced Tibetan Buddhism or the other way around. 


nyingma-tibetan-buddhism Image

Nyingma is the oldest school of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism (The other three are Kagyu, Sakya and Gelug). The word “Nyingma” literally means “ancient” and Nyingma is also called Red Sect because all the monks wear red hats.


Sakya Sect

Sakya is one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism and is the smallest school today. Sakya means “pale earth” in Tibetan and it got the name due to the grey land of Sakya Monastery.It is developed during the second translation of Buddhism from India to Tibet in the eleventh century.


Tsongka pa life story (1357-1419) Tsongkapa was born in Tsongka, Amdo, in 1357, the fourth of six sons.

Gelug was founded by Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) but the lineage can be traced from Kadampa tradition of the great Indian master Atisha (982-1054). Tsongkhapa was of the founder of Ganden Monastery built in Lhasa which became the main seat of Gelug tradition.



Kaygu is the third largest school of Tibetan Buddhism. It is also known as “Oral Lineage” or Whispered Transmission school because it emphasizes on oral esoteric transmission from teacher to disciple and Kagyu means “oral transmission” in Tibetan.


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