Buddhism is a highly embraced religion nowadays, and many choose to convert to it because of the concepts it is based on and, somewhat ironically, because it does not require conversion in order to practice the teachings. Nowadays, it has the fourth highest number of adepts in the world. Although many religions encourage their adepts towards the belief in an external, higher power and the concept of a creator, Buddhism has a different approach, which might be confusing for those not familiar with it. Buddhism is based on the Buddha’s teachings, which, in the last 2500 years, has manifested differently based on the countries and cultures where the teachings have spread to. Tibetan Buddhism in particular, emphasizes a few concepts of the Buddha’s teachings, the most important being devotion to a guru, esotericism and skepticism. For a complete understanding of Tibetan Buddhism and its concepts, it would be best to start with a deeper understanding of those concepts.
The guru’s (teacher or lama) main role in Buddhism is teaching the spiritual and symbolic aspects this religion to adepts. They follow a strict set of ancient practices whose sources can be traced back to India. The role of the guru is to help one improve their practices, training them on the road to perfection. One important rule when following the teachings of a lama is never disturbing their mind, disappointing them or breaking one’s commitments to them. Although it is possible for an individual to have numerous teachers, they will generally take the view that one has more influence on their practice. This lama is known as their root lama. Many might be perceived as gurus, and many people might encourage having multiple teachers as you might become more practiced in the teachings but a root guru is generally the one introducing the adept to this religion.
Esotericism can be described as a moral code that prevents less-practiced individuals from being introduced to certain information or practices which may be otherwise detrimental to their spiritual practice. This is likened to preventing a newly-qualified driver from getting behind the wheel of a race car, which they will be more likely to crash if compared to a professional driver. The concept goes both ways; the less trained have to also restrain themselves from soliciting information they are not prepared to process and practice. However, esotericism highly depends on circumstances and context.
Buddhism is built upon four fundamental doctrines: moksha, nirvana, reincarnation and famously, karma. Reincarnation is the endless cycle of deaths and rebirths, which is characterized by an existence of suffering. The amount of suffering experienced is determined by karma, which also determines the type of rebirth a being will take. Humans will not always reincarnate as humans. Due to their karma, they could become in a future life a variety of animals, and based on the life lived, they might be able once again to become humans very far in the future. However, through dedicated practice of the Buddha’s teachings, we will be able to reach the final stage, nirvana, in which one is liberated from the endless cycle of deaths and rebirths. With a similar meaning is the concept of moksha, which names that a state or an object has been emancipated until they reached the stage of ultimate liberation.
Although Buddhism has as a key figure – the historical Buddha: this religion is also filled with a number of deities, such as Dorje Shugden. This enlightened deity is only present in this form in Tibetan Buddhism and considered to be a protective deity for the Gelug school of Buddhism.