Lamaism (Thibetan, bLama* lord, master, teacher), the prevailing religion of Thibet and some other parts of Asia. It is a form of Buddhism modified by the adoption of some of the doctrines and practices of Sivaism, one of the religions of India, and Shamanism or spirit worship, a Mongolian superstition. The most essential features of Lamaism are described in the article Buddhism, vol. iii., pp. 399 et seq. Of the religion of Thibet previous to the introduction of Buddhism nothing certain is known. According to the Thibetan and Chinese annals, a king of Thibet named Ssrong-bTsan-sGam-po (the upright wise prince), who reigned in the early part of the 7th century, was the introducer of Buddhism into that country. He had two wives, one from China, the other from Nepaul, in both which countries Buddhism had been established for several hundred years. These princesses brought with them Buddhistic books and idols. For the preservation of the latter, temples were built at Lassa (Lha-ssa, god-land), which afterward became and still remains the great metropolis of Lamaism. In 032 Ssrong-bTsan sent his prime minister Thumi-Ssam-bho-ta to Nepaul to study Buddhism, and to adapt the Devanagari or Sanskrit alphabet, to the Thibetan language.
This king also introduced the wonderful mystic formula of six syllables, Aum ma-ni pad-me hum, which is supposed to mean, "God! jewel in the lotus, Amen." It is a kind of universal prayer or invocation, and great spiritual and corporeal benefits are attributed to its utterance. During the century following the death of Ssrong-bTsan, Buddhism made but little progress in Thibet; but it received a new impulse from Thi-Ssrong-de-bTsan, who reigned from 740 to 786. He built many monasteries, invited to his court learned men from India, and completed the translation of the bKa' hGyur (pronounced Kanjur, versio verbi), the great canon in three sections, and containing, in 100 volumes, 1,083 different works, treating of everything connected with the doctrines and discipline of Buddhism. The third king who is regarded as sacred by the Lamaists was Khri-lDe-Ssrong-bTsan, who increased the power of the priesthood until it became unendurable, and he was murdered by the supporters of his brother gLang-dar-ma, between 821 and 840. The latter immediately commenced a bloody persecution of Buddhism, in consequence of which the priests called him a khu-bilghan of Shisnus, or incarnation of the devil, and finally murdered him; but for a long time afterward the religion made little progress.
In the 11th century a learned Buddhist, Jo-bo-Atisha, introduced several reforms, and by his efforts and those of his Thibetan disciples, especially Brom-bakshi, a new impulse was given to the religion. New monasteries were established, and Kun-dGa-ssRing-po, abbot of the monastery of Ssa-skya, about 1070, is said to have been the first grand lama of Thibet; but it is not certain that his authority was universally recognized. In the 13th century the greater part of Thibet was subject to China, and in 1279 it passed with the rest of the empire under the dominion of Kublai Khan, grandson of the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan. Kublai Khan was a patron of learning and became a Buddhist. He took the lama of Ssa-skya under his protection, and subjected the whole country to his authority. This lama, who among his numerous titles bore that of Ti-ssu, emperor's teacher, is said to have contrived letters for the Mongolic language. Kublai and Ti-ssu, with the aid of Thibetan, Uiguric, Chinese, and Sanskrit scholars, revised the Kanjur, and it was printed at the sNar-thang monastery in 1285-1306. He also sent an embassy to Ceylon, which brought back the bhikshu bowl, two molar teeth, and a miraculous image of Sakyamuni. The successors of Kublai were equally zealous.
Temples were restored, convents were erected in China as well as Thibet, and so many Chinese pretended to be monks in order to escape payment of taxes and the performance of other duties, that it is said 500,000 of these impostors were expelled from the cloisters of a single province. After a rule of 89 years the Mongol dynasty called by the Chinese the dynasty of Yu-en was expelled, and in 1308 the Ming dynasty was established. In 1373 Tai-tsu, the Chinese emperor, desirous of lessening the power of the lama of Ssa-skya and of increasing the influence of China, conferred equal dignities and titles upon four lamas. This policy of dividing and thus weakening the power of the lamas was followed by the succeeding emperors, though the lama of Ssa-skya was still regarded as the highest in dignity. In 1403 a lama named bTsong-Kha-pa commenced a great reform. Many wonderful legends of his miraculous conception and birth are preserved, and he is regarded in Thibet, Mongolia, and among the Calmucks with almost as much reverence as Buddha himself. He proclaimed the duty of celibacy on the part of the priesthood, originated the sect or order of dGe-lugss (of virtue), wrote many works, and founded many monasteries.
Previous to his time one of the distinguishing marks of the priesthood had been a red cap. He and his followers adopted a yellow cap, as being more in accordance with the original custom of the Buddhists. The Lamaists thus became separated into two sects, which to this day are called red-caps and yellow-caps, but at present the sect of red-caps in Thibet is very small and of little importance. Some time between 1417 and 1429 bTsong-Kha-pa died, or, as his followers believe, was translated to heaven - The organization of the lamaistic hierarchy as it exists at the present day is essentially the same as it was left by bTsong-Kha-pa. At the head are two lamas of equal sanctity, who consecrate each other. The one is called dalai lama, dalai being a Mongol word signifying " ocean." In the Thibetan language dalai is rGya-mThso, but the Mongol word is generally used, He resides at Potala near Lassa. The other is called pan-tchhen lama, pan-tchhen signifying great-teacher-jewel, but used very much as our words "right reverend." He is also called tesho lama and bogdo lama, especially in Europe. He resides at bKra-Shiss-Lhun-po, near gShiss Ka rTse or Dzigartchi. Both lamas have many other titles, the chief of which are rin-po-tchhe, precious jewel, and rGyal-po, king.
Although in theory the two lamas are in all respects equal, yet the dalai lama presides over a far greater territory and his influence is much greater than that of the bogdo lama. Their followers believe that these two lamas never really die. When the body of one of them perishes, he immediately becomes incarnate in some boy of four or live years, who must be found by the lamas next in dignity to the two highest, under the direction of the surviving grand lama, and taken under their care to be educated for his high office. Many solemn forms are gone through with, and the child when found is subjected to many tests to determine whether he is the real incarnation of the departed lama. As a matter of fact, however, at the present day the choice always falls upon some one satisfactory to the emperor of China. The dalai lamas are supposed to be the successive incarnations of Avalokitesvara, a boddhisattva, and the patron saint of Thibet, while the bogdo lamas are regarded as incarnations of the great reformer bTsong-Kha-pa, himself, according to the prevailing opinion, an incarnation of the boddhisattva Amitabha. Jo-bo-Atisha and Brom-bakshi are considered the prototypes of the double lama papacy.
The next in rank to the two grand lamas are the khutuktus or vicars, who maybe compared to the cardinals and archbishops of the Catholic church. Of these there are from seven to ten, though some authorities place the number much higher. They represent the authority of the dalai lama in the different provinces, and almost all the civil power is also in their hands. They are khubilghans, or incarnations of former saints, and share with the grand lamas the right to the title rin-po-tchhe or precious jewel. Women sometimes attain to this rank. The third class is composed of those who are called simply khubilghans or incarnates. This is a Mongol word, but much more generally used than byangtchhab, the corresponding Thibetan name, and a translation of the Sanskrit boddhisattva. Their number is very great. They are at the head of a large proportion of the monasteries, and fill other important offices. The two grand lamas, the khutuktus, and the khubilghans constitute that portion of the hierarchy to whom, as being the incarnations of former existing saints, a peculiar sanctity is attached. They are principally taken from privileged families, and political considerations have more or less influence in their selection.
The second great division of the hierarchy is composed of four classes, which in ascending order are as follows: 1, the genyen (virtue-nourished) or novice, who is generally from 7 to 15 years old; 2, the getsul, or deacon, generally from 15 to 20 years old; 3, the gelong (virtue-beggar), or fully consecrated monk or priest, who must be over 20 years old; 4, the khanpo or teacher, master. The last are the abbots of the great monasteries, and often one khanpo has several smaller monasteries under his supervision. The third and last great division constitutes what may be called the academical or theological order. It is composed of: 1, the kabtchee, master, those who have given evidence in a public examination of their acquaintance with the ten most important books of the lamaistic religion; 2, the rabjampa, the overflowing, those who in a public discussion have shown their knowledge of the whole body of religious learning, and who are authorized to give instruction in the law, and are connected with those monasteries to which high schools are attached.
There are two other learned degrees, which are conferred by the grand lamas only on persons who have distinguished themselves by extraordinary learning: the tchoiji or law-prince, and the pandita, which, as denoting the highest possible attainments, is very rare. - In no part of the world do the religious orders constitute so large a proportion of the population as in those countries where Lamaism is the prevailing faith. There are many vagabond or begging lamas, and a few hermits who live in caves. With these exceptions all lamas are monks or nuns, and are vowed to celibacy. The female lamas are called sisters-in-law, venerable aunts, etc, and are divided into classes corresponding to those of the male lamas. In Mongolia the lamas are estimated at one eighth of the whole population. The chief lama, or gegen khutuktu, is considered equal in rank to the two grand lamas of Thibet. He resides at Urga, on the road from Peking to Kiakhta, with about 20,000 monks and 30,000 families of slaves. In Thibet the great metropolis of Lamaism is Lassa, in which city and its neighborhood are 30 great lamaseries.
The chief of these are Potala (Buddha's mount), the residence of the dalai lama and occupied by about 10,000 lamas; Sse-ra (golden), with 15,000 lamas; 'Brass-ssPungss (branch-heap), with a Mongolic school, 300 sorcerers, and 15,000 lamas; and dGa' IDan (joy of heaven), with 8,000 lamas. The two last named were founded by the great reformer bTsong-Kha-pa. These are not exceptional cases, but are specie mens of hundreds of others which are scat-tered throughout central Asia. To several of them printing offices are attached. This vast horde of priests and monks are supported partly by their own labor, partly by the revenues derived from their immense landed estates, and partly from the practice of arts founded on the superstitious reverence in which they are held by the rest of the population. They are physicians, astrologers, fortune-tellers, and magicians. Children are baptized on the third or tenth day after birth, and are confirmed as soon as they can speak and walk. These ceremonies must be performed by the lama. Marriage is a civil and not a religious rite, but the auspicious day for its performance can only be learned from the lama, and it is considered highly important that it should be accompanied by his prayers.
The interment of the dead is forbidden, and there are no funeral ceremonies requiring the presence of the lama. After death the bodies of distinguished persons and of wealthy laymen are burned. The bodies of the common people are exposed to be devoured by beasts and birds of prey, or by sacred dogs kept for the purpose; but the auspicious day and hour when and the place where the body must be exposed must be determined by the lama. When rich persons are about to die, the lama must be present to assist the departure of the soul by making a small hole in the scalp. He also says masses for the departed soul until it is released from Yama, the infernal judge, and is ready to enter upon its new existence. For these and numberless other services the lama must be rewarded according to the means of the person for whose benefit they are rendered. The lamas also make and sell idols, amulets, relics, consecrated pills, and other things of this kind. They print all the books, and to them literary education is almost exclusively confined. There are three great festivals, and innumerable smaller ones.
The first great festival, in commemoration of the victory of Sakyamuni over the six heretic teachers, is celebrated at the time of new moon in February. It also marks the commencement of the new year and of spring, and hence the victory of warmth and life over darkness and cold. It is the Thibetan carnival, and lasts for 15 days, during which the population abandon themselves to every kind of pleasure. The second is held in commemoration of the incarnation of Sakyamuni, and is the oldest festival of Buddhism. It marks the commencement of summer, and is characterized by the procession of idols. The third is the water festival at the commencement of autumn. Of the other festivals, the most important is the lamp festival, in commemoration of the translation to heaven of bTsong-Kha-pa. There are also a great number of fasts, the objects and characteristics of which it would be tedious to enumerate. Small chapels, prayer wheels, the turning of which is considered equivalent to the utterance of the prayers inscribed upon them, sacred inscriptions on walls and columns, and silken flags inscribed with prayers and hoisted upon consecrated poles, abound in the streets and along the highways. The lamas assemble three times each day for worship, at sunrise, noon, and sunset.
The worship consists principally in the recitation of prayers and sacred texts, accompanied by a chaotic clamor of horns, trumpets, and drums. When the grand lama appears in public he sits cross-legged, is clothed in splendid robes of fine woollen or silk richly wrought with gold, and distributes his blessings in silence by the motion of his hands. The architecture of the lamaic temples is a mixture of the Chinese and Indian styles. They are square, and in Thibet always face the east, in Mongolia the south. They are divided into three apartments, the entrance hall, the main hall with two parallel rows of columns, and the sanctuary in which are the chief idol, the altar, and the throne of the chief lama. The walls are generally painted in lively colors, and the halls adorned with carpets, statues, and various ornaments. The temple is surrounded by the buildings necessary to supply the temporal and spiritual wants of the lamas, the whole forming the dGon-pa, monastery or lamasery. - The great body of lamaic literature is contained in two immense collections: the bKa' hGyur or Kan-jur mentioned above, a copy of which is in the national library at Paris, and the bs Tan hGyur (pronounced Tanjur), in 225 volumes, which consists mostly of translations from Sanskrit and Prakrit of treatises on dogmas, philosophy, ethics, medicine, grammar, and other sciences, of fragments of epic poems, vocabularies, and various other matters.
The imperial library of St. Petersburg possesses both these collections. The Kanjur is regarded as sacred, the Tanjur merely as high authority. Only a very small number of lamas possess any real knowledge of either collection. Like other Buddhists, the Lamaists recognize no worship of gods. The essence of all that is holy is comprised in an ideal trinity designated by the name dKon-mTchhog-gSsum, three precious jewels, viz., the Buddha, the doctrine, and the priesthood. Far beneath these are many good and evil beings, partly gods borrowed from the Indian pantheon, partly spirits from the ancient religions of the Mongol nations. The intervention of the lamas is necessary to propitiate these and ward off their evil influence, but they are not properly objects of worship. - See Csoma de Koros, "Asiatic Researches," etc.; Hue, Souvenirs (Tun voyage dans la Tartarie, le Thibet et la Chine (Paris, 1852; English translation by TV. Hazlitt, 2 vols. 12mo, 1852); Karl Ritter, Erdkunde von Asien; K. Fr. Kop-pen, Lamaische Hierarchies etc. (Berlin, 1859).
* Throughout this article a small letter unaccompanied by a vowel and immediately followed by a capital, is not pronounced; thus bLama is pronounced Lama. Such is the Thibetan spelling and pronunciation.