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According to Tibetan tradition, Buddhism was first carried to Tibet in the seventh century by the king's two brides: a Chinese and a Nepalese princess, who each brought a Buddha image. The king built temples to house these sculptures, establishing Tibet’s first Buddhist sites. At the end of the eighth century, the first Buddhist monastery was founded in Tibet with the assistance of two Indian saints: one a scholar-monk, the other a tantric magician.

Following the ninth-century collapse of the Tibetan empire, many Tibetans traveled to India to study with Buddhist masters. As they brought back new teachings and established new monasteries, Buddhism began to grow again in Tibet. The Nyingma, or "ancient" school of Tibetan Buddhism, traces its origins to this first dissemination of Buddhism in Tibet—especially to the eighth-century Indian guru Padmasambhava, who facilitated the religion’s spread. The three “new” schools of Tibetan Buddhism, Kagyu, Geluk, and Sakya, emerged from this later period of religious development. Tibetan monks continued to spread their teachings, expanding the boundaries of the Tibetan Buddhist world to encompass Bhutan and Mongolia, the Himalayan ranges of India and Nepal, and the borderlands of China.

In this visual glossary, explore key terms to Tibetan Buddhism that appear throughout the app.

Key Terms