The importance of Tibet to Buddhism as a whole has yet
to be realised by the world at large. The 20th century, Western stereotype
of Buddhism developed mainly through early contacts with Theravada and
Zen Buddhism. Few people realised that these two schools were far from
representative of the total wealth of diversity which was Buddhism during
its first 18 centuries in India. India was its birthplace, cradle and
home until Muslim invasions more or less eradicated it from that land
in the 12th century. Theravada Buddhism, which spread from Sri Lanka
throughout South-East Asia, grew from just one of the eighteen early
Buddhist schools of India. Chinese (and later Japanese) Buddhism developed
from the seeds sown by their founders, who brought home from their sojourn
in India only the particular teachings they had encountered or preferred.
For 1100 years, that wealth of Indian Buddhism has been carefully and reverently preserved in Tibet. In the latter half of the twentieth century, it burst onto the world stage and is now benefitting millions of people everywhere.