(Tibetan, lama, a superior; applied to monks generally, it strictly denotes a high-ranking ecclesiastic)

The official religion of Tibet. It is a variety of Northern Buddhism introduced from India in the 7th century A.D. It began to thrive in the 9th century. The Buddhist conqueror, Kublai Khan, 1260, made Tibet a dependent state under the head lama, now residing at Lhasa, as temporal and spiritual ruler. His successors, later known as Dalai Lama, are venerated as incarnations of Amitabha, the reigning Buddha of the Sukhavati paradise. Lamaism has its own form of belief and government. It is a composite of Buddhism with varying sects and practises. The popular religion embraces the degrading elements of Shiva worship, and of indigenous Bon shamanistic animism. It is of innumerable deities and idols, occultism, and superstitions. The efficacy of magic formulas and sacred names is stressed. They are popularly written on streamers exposed to the Wind, or turned in the native prayer-wheels. Its ritual and hierarchy were borrowed from Nestorianism during its propagation over Central and Eastern Asia, A.D. 635, and resemble the Catholic. Its scriptures are profuse. Once a virile nation, Tibet has steadily declined under its army of parasitical state-supported monks. Lamaism is also the religion of the Mongols introduced from Tibet, c.1600 AD. It has a following in Siberia, Manchuria, and China.

New Catholic Dictionary

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