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Tibetan Prayer Wheel


Tibetan Buddhism (Lamaism) evolved from Mahayana Buddhism brought by missionaries from India during the reign of Songtsen Gampo (AD 618-640). The native Tibetan religion, called Bön, included shamanism and animal sacrifice. From the beginning, Lamaism incorporated ritual practices of the mystical sect known as Tantric Buddhism, which showed affinities with the shamanistic features of Bön. One major monastic order in Tibet, the Nyingmapa ("Old order"), still retains elements of Bön.

Also during Songtsen Gampo's reign, writing was introduced into Tibet based on Sanskrit texts from India, Kashmir and Nepal. All available Buddhist literature in India and Tibet was translated into Tibetan by the 14th century. Tibetan writing (read from left to right) is shown here on a prayer wheel, of a type used by many Tibetans on a daily basis.

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[Fig.1: Tibetan Prayer Wheel and writing in the Tibetan alphabetic script (Huc 1852).]

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