Tibetan Buddhism

Status: Moderated

Note: This is most likely a 2 or even a 4 day lesson.


The students will be able to recite what is one key aspect of Tibetan Buddhism



  • Print out or display using projector the samples of mandalas.
  • Make copies of the Worksheets for each student in the class.


0. Gassho

1. Review of Theravada & Mahayana schism (This should have been covered in previous lessons)

In 80 BCE, the 1st Fourth Council meets to reiterate what they know/remember to try to weed out what they thought was a departure. This forms the first book (written on banana leaves). In 100 CE, the 2nd Fourth Council meets in what is now Kashmir and incorporates Nagarjuna's (and other) texts into the Canon. They are in Sanskrit instead of Pali since Sanskrit was the language used by Buddhist scholars and Pali was no longer spoken. This is the origin of the separation. It is not a schism such as between Catholicism and Protestants and Mahayana monks would study at Theravada temples and visa versa.

2. Presentation

In 8th Century Padmasambhava arrives to Tibet from India and merges tantric Buddhism with the local Bon religion to form what is now known as Tibetan Buddhism.

Give one page of the Worksheet - Shepherd - Master sheet to one student to read.

Help by writing down long Tibetan words on the white board.

Students should fill in the worksheets while following/reading along.

Have different student read the Teacher Master sheet. Then conclude with another student reading the Lama Master sheet.

3. Discuss and Q&A

Ask the students (make sure to ask students to raise hands and to only call students who do have hands raised; also say "*** has his/her hands up")


Basics questions from sheet: What is a Lama? What is a Tulka? Can priests marry?

What is its Basic beliefs? Is Tibetan Buddhism more like Theravada or Mahayana?

In what way is it different from Jodo Shinshu?

Note: This is a good spot to stop if this is going to be a 2 day lesson.

4. Exercise

Note: If this is a 2 day lesson, please review what occurred on the previous day.

"Tantric or Vajprayana practice involve ritual and visual/mental exercises. The key is to foster an ability to picture the sutras vividly in great detail as an form of Right View"

"Mandala is a tool to visually focus your mind. There are basic training pictures"

(Show simple Mandala examples)

"There are also more complex, conceptual Mandalas depicting the scenes from sutras"

(Show the Ryokai Buddha Mandala slide)

"In addition, the creation of these mandalas and the focus that it requires is considered a form of meditation. The classic example of this is the creation of the Tibetan sand mandalas"

(Show the Tibetan Sand Mandala video)

"This is the time for you to create your own mandalas. We will start with a simple focusing mandala with geometric shapes"

(Pass out the Mandala templates. Make sure that the students write their names. Pass out pencils/pens and perhaps rulers and compasses)

"Remember that the creation is a meditation. No talking except the recitation of the Nembutsu if you wish. You have # minutes"

(Start with Gassho and have students work for the time. When done, close with gassho)

(If there is sufficient time, they can see how well their focusing mandala works by staring at it for 30 seconds and then looking at a black sheet of paper. If there is sufficient contrast, they should see an inverse image (white on black))

"Now, choose a buddhist concept; for example, one of the 8fold Noble Path. Then choose a basic shape (circle, square, triangle). Then depending on the shape come up with aspects or examples of the concept. Keep the center/middle for the central concept. Draw pictures for the various sections for the various aspects. You have # minutes" (optional, only if time allows).

5. Group Exercise (if time permits)

"Now just like the Tibetan sand mandalas we're going to create a joint mandala."

Approximately 4~5 people per sheet of butcher paper. Give them a topic to each.

Ex. 6 Paramitas, 8 fold path. Decide on a basic shape (triangle, diamond, etc)

Again remind them that the creation is a meditation. Have them discuss and decide what to draw where. They can even sketch a model of the full Mandala. Once they are ready, start with a gassho and have the students work. At this point, if time is needed, then this could be extended to be another day.

Close each session with a Gassho.

5. Discussion


  • How did their mandalas turn out?
  • How did it feel when they were making the mandala?
  • Was there anything difficult?

6. Summary & Evaluation & Gassho


Conducted through the Discussion questions.


Mas Nishimura, nish221.at.gmail.dot.com, 2013

Mandala Template

Worksheet - Shepherd

Worksheet - Shepherd - Master

Worksheet - Teacher

Worksheet - Teacher - Master

Worksheet - Lama

Worksheet - Lama - Master

Mandala Worksheet