It is Tibetan Mahayana Buddhist culture that is typical of the Buddhism found in Ladakh. Buddhism appears in the form of a monastic order and all four sects are represented there:
3. Kargyudpa – red hat
4. Gelugpa – yellow hat
The coming of Buddhism to Ladakh – Buddhism came to Ladakh in two waves:
1. 1st and 2nd centuries AD – when the place was ruled by local chiefs who governed small principalities.
2. 10th – 11th centuries –
with the establishment of the Namgyal dynasty in the 10th century, Buddhism received
the king’s patronage and so
its spread is directly linked
to the patronage it received from the royal family.
But of this early period of Buddhism in Ladakh very little remains or is known. From the 1st century BC to the 5th century AD the Kushanas ruled over a large territory comprising eastern Afghanistan and all of north-western India which probably included Ladakh as well. They very soon became converted to Buddhism, which had already reached north-west India in the 3rd century BC thanks to their patronage. Gandhara (now Northern Pakistan), the name by which the central part of their wide domains was known, became a kind of second Buddhist holy land, rivaling ancient Magadha in the central Ganges valley, which was the first home of the Sakyamuni Buddha’s religion.
The only proof we have of Kushana interest in Ladakh is proved by an inscription in the Indian Kharoshti script they used at Khalatse. By the 5th century the Kushana Empire collapsed under the attacks of invaders from Central Asia. There then followed a period of political turmoil and disruption. But in the 8th century you had the rule of an extraordinary warrior-king Lalitaditya-Muktapida who ruled in Kashmir – and it is during his reign that the Buddhist rock relief’s in Ladakh are attributed to. Most people presume that Buddhism first came to Ladakh from Tibet, but actually Buddhism first came to the region via Kashmir.
The Buddhists of Ladakh regard His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as their supreme spiritual leader and as living incarnation of Buddha. The present Dalai Lama, who is the 14 Dalai Lama was originally known as Tenzin Gyatso. As a child he was recognized as an incarnation of the previous Dalai Lama, who had passed away in 1933. Tenzing Gyatso was brought to Lhasa and proclaimed the new spiritual leader of the Tibetan people on Feb 22nd 1940.
Due his resistance to the Chinese occupation Tibet, the Dalai Lama became an icon of political as well as spiritual leadership for the Tibetans. The Dalai Lama left Tibet and came to India in March, 1959. Ever since, he has led an international campaign against the Chinese occupation of Tibet. He received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1989 for his leadership of the struggle for the peaceful liberation of Tibet.
Central Institute of Buddhist Studies
The Central Institute of Buddhist Studies in Ladakh is the premier for the study of Buddhism in Ladakh. Established in 1959, the institute was created by the combined effort of ten important Gompas of Ladakh. Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, extended the support of the Indian Government to this institute of learning. The Institute currently offers courses from primary education to Doctoral Degrees and has 29 Gompas and nunneries affiliated to it. The Central Institute of Buddhist Studies is located in Choglamsar, about 8 kilometres from Leh.0