Tibetan Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction

ISBN : 9780199735129

Matthew T. Kapstein
152 Pages
115 x 173 mm
Pub date
Dec 2013
Very Short Introductions


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  • Provides an objective overview of the history and doctrines of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition
  • Looks into what the position of the Dalai Lama is
  • Explores how Tibetan Buddhism has spread across the world

The Tibetan Buddhist tradition has known over thirteen centuries of continuous development. During that time, it has spread among the neighboring peoples - the Mongol, Himalayan, and Siberian peoples, Manchus and Chinese. At its height is has been practiced in regions as far west as the Volga river and to the east in Beijing. Its capacity for creative adaptation is demonstrated by its recent growth in Europe and America. At the same time, it is at the center of political contestation in ethnically Tibetan regions of China, while its best known exponent, the Dalai Lama, has become one of the most admired religious leaders in the world today. But what does this religion teach? Just what is the position of the Dalai Lama, and how will his succession be assured? Is it true that Tibetan Buddhism in entirely suppressed in China? Scholar Matthew Kapstein offers a brief account responding to these questions and more in this Very Short Introduction, in terms that are accessible to students, general readers, journalists, and others who are curious to learn the most essential features of Tibetan Buddhist history, teachings, and practice.


1. The World of Men, Demons, and Gods
2. Sources of Tibetan Religious Traditions
3. The Growth of the Orders and Schools
4. Spiritual Exercise and the Path of the Bodhisattva
5. Philosophical Developments and Disputes
6. Enlightenment in this Body and Life
7. Dying and Death
8. Tibetan Buddhism Today
Appendix: The Nine Ways of Buddhism and of Bön

About the author: 

Matthew T. Kapstein, Numata Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies, The University of Chicago Divinity School, USA

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