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K'an-po or Abbot of Tibetan Monastery


Tibetan Buddhism or Lamaism evolved from Mahayana Buddhism brought by missionaries from India during the early 7th century AD. By 765, the earliest Tibetan monastery was founded at Samye during the regin of King Trisong Detsen. In AD 1040 a reform movement was initiated by the arrival of Atisa (AD 982-1054) a great Buddhist scholar from Bengal, India, invited by the king of Guge in western Tibet. Over the next centuries, a number of sects emerged. Since the 17th century, the predominant sect has been the Gelugpa, commonly known as the Yellow Hats, which includes the order of the Dalai Lama, political and spiritual ruler of Tibet, and the Panchen Lama, a main spiritual authority.

Leading several grades of Tibetan monks was the K'an-po or abbot, head of a monastery. Many religious institutions were destroyed during the "Cultural Revolution" of the 1960s and `70s. In the 1980's, some monasteries were allowed to re-open and recruit new monks. Today, however, Tibet has far fewer monasteries, which nevertheless remain centers of education, art, and public worship.

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[Fig.1: K'an-po or abbot of Tibetan monastery (Waddell 1895)]

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