In what sense what the final product a combination of Mahayana Buddhism and the new Tantric movement? How did the creation of a "holy empire" forever change Tibetan culture and national identity?
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It was fused with imperialism and became the religion of the kings during the reign of Song Tsen Gampo who ruled from 617 AD to 650 AD. He married two Chinese princesses who were Buddhists. He had the holy book of Sutras translated into the Tibetan language and thus the common people were able to read and understand the Buddhist scriptures. In the 8th century, King Trisong Detsen brought in the great Buddhist scholars from India, Pandit Shantarakshita, Kamalasila and Padmasambhava to spread the word of Lord Buddha. The first spiritual community was set up as a Buddhist monastery in Samye. This helped the Indian version of Buddhism to be established in Tibet and not the Chinese version. In 842 AD, King Lang Dharma persecuted Buddhists and tried to uproot the religion as he tried to bring back the original Bon religion. By 978, during the reign of King Yeshe, Buddhism was revived and with the help of Indian pundits, Buddhism was brought back as the official religion.
According to Smith (2001, p. 45-49), final product of Buddhism was a combination of Mahayana Buddhism and the Tantric movement. Mahayana actually began as a splinter group from the Buddhist Mahasangha and it prescribed a more liberal monastic tradition and attitude for the followers. The followers of Buddhism were used to the Mahabharata and the Ramayana and they had notions of heroes, evil sprits, good, bad and other folklore. Accordingly, Lord Buddha was represented as different godlike Buddha images in different stages. With this belief came the adherence to sutras that are holy utterances and scriptures. Tantras are holy scriptures and writings that explain the process of enlightenment through rebirths and the endless wheel of life. Tantra was practiced by the Siddhi, the expert who knows the secrets of Buddhism. The most important of the sutras are Prajñaparamita also called as the Perfection of Wisdom; Suddharma-pundarika or the true Dharma; Vimalakirti-nirdesha or
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