One of the countries in which Buddhism has had a recent impact is Tibet. "Recent," in this case means, oh, about 1000 years ago, when Buddhism was brought to Tibet from India by Padmasambhava.

These days, Tibetan Buddhism is popular world-wide. The Dalai Lama has written many books, won a Nobel prize, and fills stadiums to overflowing with people who want to learn more about Tibetan Buddhism and experience its ceremonies.

One thing that makes Tibetan Buddhism so popular is that they guarantee you can become enlightened in this lifetime.

Of course, this claim has a problem. That is, if this claim were actually true, then every person who practices Tibetan Buddhism should reach enlightenment before they die. But if you ask the Dalai Lama whether he has achieved enlightenment, he says, "Oh no, I am simply a monk."

I don’t think he’s joking or presenting some kind of false humility.

There is a tendency for each new branch of a religious tree to imagine itself to be the latest and greatest and declare itself superior to everything that came before it. While Tibetan Buddhist practices usually include some of the rituals, scriptures and meditations from earlier versions of Buddhism, it's revealing when Tibetans, much like the Japanese Zen Buddhists, speak of the earlier forms of Buddhism from Southeast Asia as "Hinayana," which means "lesser vehicle," instead of the traditional name, "Theravada," which means "the path of the elders."

Inside Tibetan Buddhism itself, there are also conflicts about which of the four sects is the best.

The Gelugpa lineage, that of the Dalai Lama, is certainly the most successful and well-known. Then there's the Kagyu school, popularized by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who was one of the first Tibetan Buddhists to teach in the West, wrote dozens of books, and founded Naropa University in Colorado.

Next is the Nyingma school, which overlaps with the Kagyu school quite a bit. Actually, a lot of the Nyingma lamas are Kagyu lamas as well, and vice versa.

The Sakya school is the last and least well-known of the Tibetan Buddhist lineages.

Each of these four lineages places a different emphasis on things like studying the Scriptures, or monasticism, or meditation, etc. One example is the Kagyu school, which is known for focusing on direct experience and meditation more than the Gelugpa lineage, which is best known for philosophical study, logic and a knowledge of scripture.

However, let's ignore the fact that Tibetan Buddhism is such a sexy trend right now, in no small part because they promise quicker and better results than other Buddhist schools, and let’s consider something else: There is always a degree of salesmanship in any religion or spiritual path. Ever stumble upon a religion that tells you, "Yeah, we’re not a bad path. But to tell you the truth, if you really want spiritual enlightenment, you would be SO MUCH better off if you practiced some other religion." Not likely, is it?

It may well be that Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhist meditation are the best path for you, but to paraphrase the Dalai Lama, it could be worth exploring the religion you were born into before you embrace something completely different.

Author's Bio: 

Steven Sashen began meditation when he was eight years old, was one of the first biofeedback pioneers, and researched cognition and perception at Duke University. In addition to a successful career as an entrepreneur and entertainer, Steven has taught transformational techniques around the world and developed the Instant Advanced Meditation Course, which Dr. Gay Hendricks calls, "Perhaps the fastest and easiest way to relax, expand awareness, and find deep inner-peace."

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