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Indian Roots of Tibetan Buddhism with Benoy K. Behl

Indian Roots of Tibetan Buddhism

Indian Roots of Tibetan Buddhism:

This documentary is narrated by Buddhist scholar, art historian, film-maker, photographer and author Benoy K. Behl and was produced by Ministry of External Affairs of India.

Filmed in various parts of India, Tibet and Kalmykia in European Russia, this documentary traces the foundation of Tibetan Buddhism to its roots in ancient India’s Nalanda University and the hundreds of year-old spiritual relationship that India share with Tibet.

Buddhism was one of the largest religions in ancient India before its decline due to numerous political and cultural changes. The practice of Buddhism as a distinct and organized religion lost its influence and declined gradually in the land of its birth.

However, the decline of Buddhism in India was not without some significant impacts. Through the efforts of hundreds of Indian scholars including Atisha and Shantarakshita, the Nalanda tradition has gained a stronghold in Tibet and many other Himalayan countries. As a result, Tibetan Buddhism is currently practiced widely in Tibet, Bhutan, Mongolia and in various parts of Russia, Nepal, and India.

Once Buddhism reached Tibet, translations started. There was no vocabulary in Tibetan to translate Buddhist knowledge and traditions. So new words were created. So, therefore, eventually, Sanskrit vocabulary or Sanskrit terminology and Tibetan terminology go exactly the same.

According to Geshe Samten:

“The Tibetans scholars made a special effort to translate the Sanskrit works into the Tibetan language by developing the Tibetan language in such a manner that it could retain the thematic meaning, as well as the literal meaning with the great precision. The translations are done word by word and sentences by sentences. Therefore, the precision that is maintained in Tibetan is unparalleled.”

Tibetan Buddhism also spread to many western countries as a result of the Chinese occupation of Tibet and the subsequent exodus of Tibetan people from Tibet. The Tibetan diaspora spread this religion to many western countries where it has gained widespread recognition.

The Tibetan people regard India as ‘Arya Bhoomi’ the land of the great teachers. However, as Buddhism declined in India, it was Tibet which preserved this ancient Indian knowledge in the form of Tibetan Buddhism.

Some of the largest repositories of this ancient Indian knowledge are preserved only in the Tibetan language, translated from the original Sanskrit by Tibetan translators. Therefore, as His Holiness the Dalai Lama rightly says in this film:

“Therefore, when I meet an Indian, I always say you are traditionally our Guru. We are chela. India is our Guru. Then also I mention we Tibetans not only Indian Guru’s chela, but also a chela.

That means, in Guru’s own land Buddha Dharma had lots of ups and downs. During this period, we your chela kept your knowledge intact, through centuries. So we are a chela. So our relationship is something very unique, Guru and Chela.”

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