"THE ROOF OF THE WORLD"
A country so high that few trees grow; an intriguing land beyond the
Himalayas on the high plateau of Central Asia. The altitude of the
plateau is between 10,000 in the south, and 15,000 feet in the north,
but it is rimmed with high mountains, including Mt Everest and the
Himalayas on the south which reach up to 35,000 ft.
Its elevation and its snow-bound mountain ranges have given Tibet a
natural isolation, and until the last thirty years, few foreigners had
the opportunity to visit the land that has been referred to as
"Shangri-la" ("Paradise"). Tibet covers an enormous area - almost
one million sq. miles. It is almost a quarter of modern China; and about
a quarter the size of the United States.
Ethnic Tibet is a much larger area than the province that China
calls the “Tibet Autonomous Region,” which is actually only about
one-third of traditional Tibet. The region, except for the snow
mountains, is mostly dry, as the ocean's moisture often does not get
over the mountains.
The southern and eastern river valleys have not only a milder
climate, but also space for irrigated agriculture.
The northern steppes (vast flat plains without trees), are
extremely rich areas for pasturing goats, horses, and yaks - those
versatile, bison-like creatures that assure considerable wealth for the
many nomadic Tibetans. But the steppes are bitterly cold in the winter,
causing the herdsmen to head for shelter in the southern valleys.
The dry climate makes it possible to store surplus grains for many
years, and so Tibet has never been barren or poverty-stricken. Living
has tended to be simple and austere, but there has never been famine in
recorded Tibet history, except during the times of occupation by foreign
Most of the major rivers in Asia originate in the Tibetan
highlands, including the Indus and its tributaries, the Ganges, the
Brahmaputra, the Salween, the Mekong, the Yangtze, and the Yellow
Tibet may be divided into eight main regions and ethnic groups.
1 LHASA. south central 5 AMDO. northeast
2 SHIGATZE. southwest 6 GOLOG. northeast
3 WEST TIBET 7 KHAM. southeast
4 CHANG. north 8 JIARONG. east
- "THE GOD PLACE"
Lhasa is the spectacular capital of Tibet. Hla-sa means "god
place." But hla does not mean the Almighty God. A hla
is a tutelary (guardian) spirit - a god or goddess. And there are
many in Tibetan beliefs!
In the centre of the Lhasa is the imposing Potala Palace - formerly the
Winter palace of the Dalai Lama. It is a massive structure, 13 stories
high, with over 10,000 rooms. In the past it housed thousands of monks,
as well as the Dalai Lamas.
The Potala is one of the "wonders of the world," and for many hundreds
of years, it was the largest "skyscraper" in the world. It was the
Winter palace of the Dalai Lamas.
castle existed on this site since the 7th century A.D., but the present
building was begun by the 5th Dalai Lama in the 17th c.
The Potala has now been turned largely into a museum. It is still
attended to by a number of monks dressed in drab grey garments - not
the gold and maroon-robed lamas that are normally seen in the
monasteries. The monks collect the "contributions" and "fees" which the
Chinese agents gather up at the end of every day.
Statues of lamas, gods, demons and historical figures line the hallways,
and colourful brocade tapestries with paintings of gods and demons,
hang from the ceilings and walls. Hundreds of butter lamps flicker,
giving an eerie light to the dark rooms. High up are the throne rooms,
and tombs, of various Dalai Lamas.
The inhabitants of the high southern valleys appear to be related
racially to the peoples on the other side of the high passes, to the
Tai, the Burmans, and Yunnanese in the east; to the Nepalis and North
Indians in the middle, and to the Dards (Greco-Indo-Scythians) in the
west. The northern semi-nomads appear to be related to the Turko-Mongols,
and even to the Indo-European Yuezhi.
The Tibetan stock is an extremely diverse genetic pool, as is amply
evidenced upon acquaintance with any community of Tibetans.
Tibet seems to have always been a place for spiritual refugees who went
up further and further away from the steppes and river valleys to escape
the struggles of traditional territories.
Turning away from the cities, they were willing to live with the wind,
the altitude, and the sparseness of the high country in order to avoid
the problems posed by violent humanity.
The Tibetans are a hardy breed, strongly individualistic and
self-reliant, inclined to think for themselves, tolerant of diversity,
and open to new ideas and objects. They're a mixture of warrior
toughness, and of fun-loving license that classifies them as among the
most relaxed of cultures about hierarchy and sexuality. (They have no
castes, and both polyandry and polygamy are practiced in Tibet).
Tibetans are a friendly, lovable people who like rich colours, and who
readily laugh at themselves, and at others' misfortunes. They are
extremely religious, and Lamaism governs most aspects of their lives.
Every family seeks to have at least one son trained as a Buddhist monk;
and every mother knows that her son could possibly turn out to be an
A TIBETAN BOY NAMED
TSHERING; A YOUNG KHAMBA LADY;
AND A YOUNG KHAMBA MAN
WITH TYPICAL KHAM HEAD DRESS
Tibet has experienced a checkered political history for many centuries.
According to Tibetan records, the first Tibetan king was Nyatri Dzenpo,
somewhere between the 2nd century BC and the 5th century AD.
Buddhism, it is thought, first reached Tibet in the 4th century.
The first Tibetan emperor was Songzen Gampo (620-649 AD.) He defeated
the previous rulers, the Zhang-zhung empire, unified all Inner Asia,
held his own against the Tang emperor Taizong, and put up columns as far
away as Bihar in India, Yunnan in China, and the Tarim basin in Inner
Asia. He married princesses from the Tang empire and Nepal, built the
capital in Lhasa, constructed a Buddhist cathedral, had a new alphabet
created, and promulgated the Buddhist "Law of ten virtues" in
During Songzen Gampo's dynasty, Buddhism was the state religion. But
this was opposed by regional leaders in the name of the previous, Bon
religion. Bon was a mixture of animism and the Zhang-zhung religion.
This occult religion was a form of shamanism (witchcraft), and it
practiced human sacrifice, the worship of the king of hell, and
The rituals of the Bon religion such as the flying of prayer flags and
the turning of prayer wheels, were blended together with the esoteric
practices of Tantric Buddhism, and evolved into what is now known as
The first Tibetan Buddhist monastery, Samye, was constructed in about
775 AD, and then a great cultural development began. By the 9th century,
Buddhism had spread throughout Tibet.
In 842 AD, however, Tibetan expansion came to a sudden halt with the
assassination of the king when the region broke up into independent
From the 10th to the 13th century, regional rulers sponsored the return
of Buddhism and culture to Tibet.
From 1209 to 1260 the hierarchs of the Sakyapa order, Sakya Pandita and
Phagspa, represented Tibet to the Mongol emperors and were eventually
given official rulership by Kublai Khan.
With the fall of the Mongols, a secular Tibetan dynasty was
re-established by Jangchub Jazenl, which lasted until the early 17th
century. At one time Tibetan armies controlled the 'Silk Road' including
the great city of Kashgar and even sacked the imperial city of Chang'an
(present day Xian).
In the 1630s and 40s, when Manchu banners rose over China, the Mongolian
chief, Gushri Khan, quelled factional struggles emerging from the
decline of the secular dynasty, and then gave the rule of Tibet to the
leader of the Gelungpa order, the 5th Dalai Lama (1617-1682). His
religious and secular rule of Tibet was respected and supported by the
Manchu emperors of China, who looked to his spiritual authority to keep
the Mongol nations peaceful. Religion and politics became entwined with
the Dalai Lama becoming both spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet.
The 5th and the 7th Dalai Lamas created a unique form of government
with a monastic bureaucracy that in the early 18th century,
demilitarized Tibet and used the monastic institutions to mediate
between noble and commoner. This government kept the peace within Tibet
for 300 years, and served an important diplomatic role in avoiding
conflicts throughout Inner Asia.
In the 19th century, with the Mongol nations fully pacified, the Manchu
Chinese encroached on Tibet's independence after being called upon to
defend against the Gurkhas. After the 1911 fall of the Manchu Qing
dynasty, however, the 13th Dalai Lama expelled all Chinese
representatives and, with British help, set about trying to modernize
his people - with limited success.
Upon coming to power in China in 1949, Mao Tse Dong set the conquest of
Tibet, which they regarded as a part of China, as a major priority. In
1950 the Communist Army invaded and occupied Kham and Amdo in eastern
In 1953, the young Dalai Lama
was forced by
the Chinese to
sign a 17-point Agreement on the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet.
In 1959, an
uprising was crushed by the People's Liberation Army. The Dalai Lama and
more than 100,000 of his countrymen fled to India that year.
The Chinese saw themselves as 'liberators' overthrowing a sadistic
theocracy, and ending 1,300 years of serfdom and feudalism. Monasteries
were considered evil. During the dark days of the Cultural
Revolution most of the 1,500 monasteries were
The Chinese administration has built new roads, hospitals and schools to
modernize Tibet, and has integrated the region into the Chinese
"motherland." The main Tibetan territory is called an "autonomous region
of the People's Republic of China."
After the death of Mao Tse Dong and the repudiation of the Gang of Four,
Chinese policy in Tibet moderated, and a degree of religious freedom was
introduced. Many monasteries were restored and re-opened, and thousands
of boys left home to become monks and lamas. Since 1979, the land has
been returned to private farmers.
Most major positions in government and commerce are held by Chinese, and
the civilian Chinese population in Tibet has dramatically increased as
the Chinese government encourages citizens to go to Tibet for business
and to develop the country more.
Lhasa, the capital, is serviced by modern planes, and in 2006, an
awesome railway line through the rugged high mountains was opened,
linking Beijing to Lhasa.
The cities of Shingatse and Gyantze have grown, and like Lhasa, are
being beautified with trees and gardens.
Meanwhile, many of the Tibetan refugees and their descendants are now
dispersed throughout the nations.
SPIRITUAL NEED OF TIBET
"Now is 'the well-accepted time'; now is 'The Day of Salvation'."
The Tibetan people are very religious, and believing in reincarnation,
are constantly seeking to accrue merit that will help them attain to a
better future life.
In Lhasa, devout Tibetans prostrate themselves before the Jokhang – the
main Buddhist temple in the country, and crowds walk clockwise around
the temple continuously every day. The older generations, particularly,
wield prayer wheels and finger prayers beads wherever they go. Colourful
prayer flags flutter from building, bridges and every high place,
shrine, temple and monastery. Lamas and monks in maroon garments are
PROSTRATING IN FRONT OF
JOKHANG TWO LAMAS IN LHASA
Religion is flourishing in Tibet. But the spiritual need of the Tibetans
is to hear and understand that salvation is the gift of God, and is not
attained through meritorious works of “righteousness” which we do.
THE ALMIGHTY GOD …
loved the world - including Tibet - that He gave His only begotten Son,
that any Tibetan believing in Him will not perish by have eternal life.
God is not willing for any Tibetan (or anyone else) to perish,
for all of them to come to repentance!
"How then shall they call on
Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe
in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear unless
someone proclaims the Good News? And how shall they proclaim if
they are not sent? As it is written,
HOW BEAUTIFUL ON THE
MOUNTAINS ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO PROCLAIM THE GOOD NEWS OF PEACE.
WHO BRING GLAD TIDINGS OF GOOD THINGS!
[Isaiah 52:7. Romans 10:14-17)
Today the opportunities to reach Tibetans with the Gospel are greater
than at any time in the past! If you are interested to help the
Tibetans, firstly, pray for them. If you know Y’shua the Messiah as your
personal Saviour, then exercise the privilege of your priestly ministry
by interceding on behalf of these dear people.
If you believe that the Almighty God loves the world, and is not willing
that any should perish; if you believe that His Hand is not shortened
that it cannot save; and if you are born again and believe God answers
prayer, and that the ministry of intercession is the ministry of every
believer; and if you believe your Master is waiting for the ingathering
of the members of His Bride from the uttermost parts of the earth, then
believer, pray for the Tibetans. God loves them, and is waiting for an
ingathering from amongst these precious people.
Tibet is no longer a Shangri-la; if it ever was! Tibet is
modernizing, but it is in great spiritual need, and the people live in
the shadow of death.
There is a prophecy of the prophet Isaiah, concerning the people of
Zebulun and Naphtali in Galilee, and it will surely be fulfilled also in
Central Asia. Let's believe so! ...
"The people who walked in
darkness have seen a great light; upon those who live in the land of the
shadow of death, the light has shone. You (Messiah) shall
multiply the nation. You shall increase its joy. They will rejoice
before You as with the joy at the harvest, as men rejoice when
they divide the spoil. For You shall break the yoke of their burden and
the staff on their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, as in
the day and battle of Midian."
FRIENDS WITH TIBETANS
Wherever you are, anywhere in the world, watch for Tibetans and seek to
befriend them. You may not speak Tibetan, but it is likely they will
(I met a group of Tibetans in Australia recently. I spoke to a young
Tibetan, in Tibetan. He replied; "I'm sorry, I don't speak Tibetan."
Very surprising, but there you are!
There are Tibetan traders on street stalls in nearly all major cities of
India - especially in Winter. Why not make an effort to bless them?
Sharing the love of God with them. And the message needs to be shared
with much care and wisdom, for Tibetan terms have quite different
meanings to what we understand from the Bible. The message needs to
explained very clearly.
Let's look at some of the beliefs and Tibetan/England terms; and I’ll
suggest more suitable terms and give amplifications suitable for
Tibetans, in various Bible passages.
The following section will help you understand some of the main
differences between Christian and Tibetan Buddhist concepts.
The Christian Gospel is the good news that Yahweh, the Heavenly Father
loved the world so much that He sent His one-and-only, unique, eternal
Son, to seek and to save the lost who walk in darkness. But here is one
first difference. In Buddhist there is no …
Tibetans do not have a concept of a God who is eternal, unique and
unchanging – One who is personal, pure and holy, and who saves sinners.
They do not believe in a Creator, or in a personal God who loves them.
They believe the universe is eternal.
The Tibetan "God" - Kunchok - is a Buddhist Trinity
"Buddha" the intangible, enlightened life force
does not describe the God of the Bible. (See explanation below on Who
and What is God?).
Using the name “Kunchok” will not describe the Almighty, Creator,
Redemptive God of the Bible. There are other words that do, such as
Yahweh the Heavenly Father; the Father of Yeshu; Y'shua/Jesus; the
Heavenly Master, the Most High Master; the Eternal Father.
"In the beginning God,
Yahweh the Heavenly Father, created the heavens and the earth."
"Lord Yahweh, the
so loved the world, that He gave His one-and-only, unique Son,
Y’shua, so that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have
Tibetans, like everyone, are quite aware of right and wrong, but their
concept of sin is closer to "offence" or "crime." There is no concept of
sin being an offence to a holy God. And their concept of sin can be
quite opposite to the Bible.
Idolatry to the Buddhist is not a sin, but is a virtue - an act of
"reverence.” But the killing of animals, even insects, is a major sin.
Animal or human sacrifice is offensive to the Buddhist, and so the
Atonement needs to be presented very carefully. The atoning sacrifice of
the Messiah is strange to the Buddhist mind. He needs to know why the
sacrifice was required. This means a very definite defining of sin (dikpa)
as an offence to the Heavenly Father, and of the penalty for death –
separation from the Eternal One.
"For the wages of sin -
of all offences against Yahweh, the Heavenly Father is death, but
the free gift of Yahweh is eternal life in Y'shua the Messiah, our
"And this is eternal life,
that they may know You, Yahweh, the one true Heavenly Father, and
Y'shua the Messiah whom You have sent."
There is no concept God’s forgiveness for sins in Tibetan Buddhism. Sin
brings de-merit. One cannot be simply forgiven for sins; he must pay the
penalty through the circle of rebirth. So one must learn not to sin,
even though this process may take 1,000 lives.
"Of Him (Y'shua) all the
prophets bear witness that through His Name, every one who
believes in Him has received forgiveness of sins and been set free
from sin's penalty."
SALVATION - FREEDOM FROM KARMA (REBIRTH)
To Buddhists, salvation (tharpa) means to be saved from the cycle
of rebirth and suffering. All Tibetans know that they are sinners. The
very fact they are alive shows that they must be sinners. Otherwise,
they would have gone to Nirvana - into a sea of “fulfilment.” Somehow
they need to get out of the birth-growth-decay-death-birth
They believe there are six stages in the circle of life:
i. in 'heaven'
ii. as a 'god'
iii. as a human being
iv. as a hungry ghost
v. as an animal
vi. in hell
They believe they can fall at any time, from one level to another.
Their future is therefore hopelessly uncertain. They may have another
10,000 lives before reaching Nirvana. No matter how good their life has
been, they must go to hell for at least 49 days and nights. Even Buddha
had to spend time in hell on his way to enlightenment and deity.
The Circle of Life means that you are trapped in your own karma.
Salvation (tharpa) means freedom from your karma - to be released
from desire, suffering, and from the cycle of life itself.
To present an offering at home or in the temples, is to appease the gods
and evil forces. They make offerings to gain merit, yet they inwardly
know that the merit they gain will be lost because they sin while trying
to outweigh their past sins. That can be quite depressing!
Instead of talking about “salvation” (tharpa) which to a Tibetan
means release from rebirth, we should speak about
from the penalty and condemnation of sin; saved from eternal separation
from the Heavenly Father – and from the eternal hell).
"Lord Yahweh, the Heavenly
Father saved us, not because of righteous works that we have done, but
because of His mercy. He saved us through cleansing our lives and giving
us new life, and through the renewing power by His
"For by the grace of
Yahweh you have been saved, through faith - and this is not
of yourselves, it is the gift of the Heavenly Father - it is
not as a result of good works, lest anyone should
Tibetans believe everyone must spend a minimum of 49 days in nyella
(hell) between each life time. The fierce guardians seen inside
temples are there to prepare devotees for the horrors of hell.
Tibetan Buddhists believe that if they give money regularly to monks, it
is possible that while in hell, one of the monks will recognize them and
pull them out.
Oh the tragedy of souls in hell when they realize that it is not for 49
days! And there's no one to pull them out!
Y’shua says: "I give them
eternal life, and they shall never go to hell: and no-one will snatch
them out of My hand."
"For what I received I
passed on to you as of first importance, that Y'shua the Messiah died
and paid the penalty for our sins, according to the Holy
Scriptures, and that His body was place in a tomb, and that He was
raised to life on the third day according to the Holy
"These are written that you
may believe that Y'shua is the Messiah, the Son of Yahweh the Heavenly
Father, and that, through believing, you may have life in His Name."
The Tibetan Buddhists believe in an inferno that is divided into eight
hot, eight cold hells, and two additional hells. Each hell has several
sub-hells in which sinners are made to suffer until they work off their
demerits. There is also a fear that one may be
in any of his future lives.
"Therefore, since the
children share in flesh and blood (a common physical nature as human
beings), Y'shua Himself likewise shared the same humanity so
that by His death He might render ineffective and ultimately
destroy the one who had the power of death - that is, Satan, the
chief devil - and deliver those who through their fear of death,
were held in slavery all their lives."
Prayer (mernlam), Tibetans believe, is the wish or desire of the
mind, and may be directed to Buddhas, saints or spirits. Mernlam
is largely the 4-word 'mani’ mantra, which may be constantly voiced, or
printed on prayer flags, rocks and other objects.
Prayer flags are strung out at every peak, stupa, home, temple and
monastery. Rocks with prayers engraved on them, are seen in many places.
The most religious spin hand-held prayer wheels - (printed prayers are
inside the wheels) - and spin huge metal prayer drums with prayers
engraved on the sides, at temples.
TIBETAN WOMEN, ONE CARRYING A
PRAYER WHEEL, THE OTHER, PRAYER BEADS WHILE GOING AROUND A STUPA (SHRINE),
FROM WHICH PRAYER FLAGS FLUTTER IN THE WIND
The more devout Buddhists continuously finger "mani beads" (similar to
rosary beads), and the monks chant mantras and their scriptures. But in
all this, there is an absence of personal prayer to the Heavenly Father.
Y’shua said: "Talk to the
Heavenly Father and pray, like this: 'Our Father in heaven, holy is
Your Name." (Matthew 6:9)
Tibetans frequently go on pilgrimages, to Lhasa, Mt Kailash or to other
religious places. They sometimes travel on their knees, falling
prostrate all the way for many miles, to earn merit. At the festivals
they try to get used to the scary demon masks so they will not be so
fearful when they meet devils in hell). The more lamas they see, and the
more money they give, the more likely they will be recognized by a lama
who can lift them out of hell!
"... the gospel according to
the power of Lord Yahweh, the Heavenly Father, who has saved us, and
called us with a holy calling - not because of our good works,
but because of His own purpose and grace."
(2 Timothy 1:8-9)
BREAKING THE CHAINS
Psalm 107 was written specifically concerning ancient Israel. But it
could also be a prophecy concerning the Tibetans - except for one main
dwelt in darkness and in the
shadow of death,
prisoners in misery and
because they had rebelled
against the words of God,
and despised the counsel of
the Most High.
Therefore He humbled their
heart with labour.
They stumbled, and there was
no one to help.
Then they cried out to
Yahweh in their trouble;
He saved them from their
He brought them out of
darkness and the shadow of death,
and broke their chains in
Let them give thanks to
Yahweh for His lovingkindness,
and for His wonders
to the sons of men!
For He has broken gates of
and He has cut through
the bars of iron."
The one main point of exception is that the majority of Tibetans have
neither rebelled against the words of Yahweh, nor have they called out
to Him. They have not despised the counsel of the Most High, for the
tragedy is that most have
seen or heard the Word of God. They
know that there is an Almighty God who loves them. They
know who the Most High is. They
know that there is a gift being offered to them by the Heavenly Father -
the priceless gift of Eternal Life.
It is written: "WHOEVER WILL
CALL UPON THE NAME OF YAHWEH-Y'SHUA the LORD WILL BE SAVED."
(Joel 2:32 & Romans
how can they call upon His Name when they have never heard His Name?
The apostle Paul also asks this question:
“How then shall they call on
Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe
in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear unless
someone proclaims the Good News? And how shall they proclaim if
they are not sent?
“As it is written,
HOW BEAUTIFUL ON THE
MOUNTAINS ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO PROCLAIM THE GOOD NEWS OF PEACE,
WHO BRING GLAD TIDINGS OF GOOD THINGS!
But they did not all obey the Good News; for Isaiah says,
'LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED
So then faith comes from hearing, and the hearing and
understanding comes through the Word of God.”
In 1885 the
first mission base was established amongst Tibetans in Ladakh, India,
where a church continues today. (Ladakh was called “Little Tibet”
because of the Tibetan population living there. They read the Tibetan
language, but their pronunciation was quite different to central
beginning of the 20th century, a mission was opened in inland China, and
missionaries began to penetrate the Amdo area of eastern Tibet. But they
were never able to set up a base in central Tibet. After the communists
took over, a number of workers moved from east Tibet to India, and
continued their work there.
Over the past 45 years, many Tibetans in India and Nepal, and even some
in Tibet, have heard of Yeshu Mashika (Y'shua Messiah). Today, there are
several Tibetan churches in India and Nepal, but there’s no visible
church in Tibet, and there are still relatively few Tibetan believers
Tibetan Christian radio programs are being broadcast into Tibetan areas,
and they have brought an encouraging response. The "Jesus" film in
Tibetan has also been produced.
So many people are now hearing about Yeshu, but most have never heard
the Name of Yahweh the Father! Sadly, most Christian workers and
missionaries have been ignorant, indifferent, or hesitant, when it comes
to revealing the Name of the Heavenly Father!
BEAUTIFUL TIBETAN LADIES IN
AND WHAT IS “GOD”
The English word “God” can mean anything – it depends on the concept in
the mind of the individual. To some, “God” is the Almighty.” To others,
“God is an unknowable Force.” Others think “God” is a stone, or a
In some languages there is not a suitable word that can be used to
convey the Biblical revelation of who God is. Even the English word
“God,” in pre-Christian times, was a local deity. But the word was
gradually adapted and became the general title of the Almighty of the
The Tibetan word Kunchok (pronounced Koonchor, Goonchok or
Gernchok in various dialects), has been used to translate our word
'God' in Biblical translations into Tibetan. And for the past 60 years
or more, Christians have been seeking to convince Tibetans that
Kunchok is the God of the Bible. But the Tibetan's Kunchok
is far from the God revealed in the Bible.
The Tibetan Buddhist concept of Kunchok is complex, but
essentially it is a Trinity – “Kunchok Sum.” The three
parts of Kunchok are;
The Enlightened, intangible spirit.
That is, the incarnate lamas - not the ordinary monks, but those having
already reached Nirvana (enlightenment) and who have returned to earth
to help people find release from karma - rebirth - and thus the release
Buddhist Scriptures -
That is the Kunchok Sum, the Trinity of Tibetan Buddhism. But it
is not the God of the Bible!
To quote the late Geoffrey Bull, a missionary in East Tibet in the late
1940’s: "We take up and use a word in Tibetan, unconsciously giving it a
Christian content. For them, however, it has a Buddhist content. We
speak of God (Kunchok). In
minds this word conveys to us the concept of the Supreme and Eternal
Spirit, Creator and Sustainer of all things, whose essence is love,
whose Presence is all holy, and whose ways are all righteous.
them, the Tibetan word God means nothing of the kind.
We speak of prayer, the spiritual communion between God our Father
and His children. For them prayer is a repetition of abstruse formulae
and mystic phrases handed down from time immemorial. We speak of sin.
For them the main emphasis is in the condemnation of killing animals."
Another Christian workers says, “The term Kunchok can refer to a
vague conception of a supreme deity, but most often is used to mean the
Buddha, his teachings, and the body of monks (the so-called Kunchok
Sum or triple refuge). While Christian Tibetans use the term
Kunchok to refer to God, who is eternal, personal, holy, just and
loving, none of these qualities are implied in the Buddhist sense of the
Sadly, the word Kunchok has been used by early translators of
the Bible for the English word 'God.' A Moravian Tibetan Christian
leader explained to me some years ago, ''Our fathers decided to use the
word Kunchok for God, with the expectation that
it would come to have a Christian connotation."
The few Tibetans brought up in a Christian environment apply Kunchok
to the God of the Bible. But to the 99% of Tibetans, Kunchok
means "Kunchok Sum" – the Buddhist Trinity.
Take John 3:16, as we read it in the Tibetan Bible; "Kunchok so
loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever
believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
What meaning can a Tibetan gather from this? Only that Buddha loved the
world and sent an incarnate lama so that we might have life through
believing in that rimpoche.
Another Tibetan leader told me: “We don't use Kunchok Sum. We use
Tsowo Kunchok (Lord Kunchok).” Yet another told me, "We mostly
avoid Kunchok and speak of Tsowo Yeshu (Lord Jesus)." Yet
another Tibetan said to me, "We don't need to worry about the Father -
we just need to talk about Yeshu."
We may accept these explanations, but the fact is that throughout the
Tibetan Bible, we read of Kunchok - a term which gives an unclear
message. In fact, the Buddhist perceives that we are saying that the
Buddhist God and the Christian God is one and the same. But they think
Christians have some weird interpretations, and that we are distorting
the truth about Kunchok!
So is there other Tibetan word that can be used to translate "God"? An
early Catholic translation used Namdak - "Sky Master." The term
"Creator" is not so good as Tibetans do not believe there is a Creator.
encourage Tibetan workers to use the Name of the LORD - Yahweh, and
some are doing so now-a-days. But it is sad that most Tibetans have
never ever heard the Name of the Heavenly Father, or even that there is
a Heavenly Father.
use the phrase,
Yawe Namkar Shukpei Yap"
Yahweh the Heavenly Father.
in the Old Testament
The Old Testament was translated into Tibetan many decades ago, and the
complete Bible was published in 1948. The OT uses the term Yehowa
Kunchok for “LORD God.” There is, of course, a confusion here. A
Tibetan would probably understand from this that there is a Buddha
called 'Yehowa.' And he would think that Yehowa is one of the many
The Tibetan O.T., however, is seldom used as it's not a satisfactory
translation. A revision has been coming along slowly, on for many years.
It is not yet complete.
The Name of Yahweh (or some pronounce it was Yahwah) is known and used
by many Christians today. And as we now know, Yehowah and Jehovah are
not correct renditions of the Hebrew Name of YHWH, it is important to
introduce the correct form of the Name - Yahweh - in our Gospel
And as YHWH (Yahweh) is used 6855 times in the Hebrew Bible – far more
than any other name in the whole Bible, how can we dismiss that Name,
and can we deprive the Tibetans, or anyone else, of that sacred Name?
Instead of trying to convince Tibetans that Kunchok is the
Christian God, let's teach them about the Lord Yahweh, the Heavenly
Father, who sent His Son, Yeshu the Messiah, to redeem the world from
the bondage of sin.
Listen to how the message sounds when the Name of God is used, as in
this Tibetan translation of John 3:16.:
"Lord Yahweh gave His own and only Son because He loved the world so
whoever has faith in Him, should not perish, but receive everlasting
Tsowo Yawe khi
nyi kyi se chikpo nangwa tsamthu jiktenla champar dzepe suyang
chepa mepar mi gyur gyi, thamepe sok thop’par chao. (Yohanen 3:16)
Tibetan often need to be amplified to clarify their meaning. All terms
need to be carefully used and clearly clarified.
explanatory translation of John 3:16 reads:
jikten di la shintu champar dzepe, khong khi rang khi jepei se Yeshu
khong la thepa chepa the me par mi gyur gyi, tha mepei sok thoppar chao.
loved this world so much, that He gave His own beloved Son Yeshu
Messiah, so whoever believes in Him, will not perish, but will receive
translation makes it very clear who “God” and “the Son” are. Let us use
MONK FOR JESUS
"Who is this Yeshu? I have never heard this story before!"
said a young Tibetan monk as we bumped along in the back of the truck
heading for Litang (a city 4,000 meters above sea level, on the edge of
the Tibetan plateau, in Sichuan, China). Later that day my friend Simon
and I had the joy of introducing this young man to the Saviour. We knew
something had happened. There was light in his eyes and a smile on his
face. "Now that I am a Yeshupa (Christian)," he said, "I'll worship
It was hard to say good-bye. Our new brother in Christ was travelling
into a closed area where foreigners are not permitted. Would we ever
see him again? We had given him a New Testament and a few Christian
books which he had hidden at the bottom of his bag. Our hearts ached as
we thought of him returning to a monastery with no known believers in
the surrounding area. How could he grow in Christ? Is it right we
thought, to bring a child to birth and leave him alone to fend for
himself? Simon reminded me,
Yeshu is with him! And, we can pray!"
Many Christians have prayed for Tibet for years, but many have been
discouraged when they have not heard reports of a major breakthrough.
But things are happening! The Heavenly Father is still seeking
to pray for Tibetans. Will you join us in prayer, that this dark corner
of the earth may be exposed to the Light of the Gospel?
Pray that Tibetans everywhere will have an opportunity to hear the Word,
and come to know of Yahweh the Heavenly Father, and that they will be
saved through faith in His Son.
Pray that when they hear of the Atonement - the sacrifice of the Lamb of
God, that they will not be repulsed, but that the Holy Spirit will bring
conviction of sin, and an inner longing for forgiveness, as they realize
that Yeshua died on their behalf.
Pray that the veil of spiritual blindness over their minds will be
removed so they will see that God gives only one life after which they
will either go to heaven or hell. Pray that they will be set free from
the deception of needing to gain merit.
Pray that workers will have wisdom and understanding in presenting the
Gospel, defining the terms they use carefully, and not presuming that
listeners understand Bible concepts.
Pray for the day when there will be true religious freedom in Tibet, and
when a strong church will reach out with the Good News that sets people
Dave was one of the first Christian foreigners in recent history to
visit Tibet. On one occasion he visited the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa,
armed with a handful of yellow Gospels of John. As he entered the prayer
hall he noticed an elderly monk standing on his own at the far left
corner of the room. He went over and gave him a booklet.
"I had a vision two years ago" said a Tibetan Buddhist monk with tears
in his eyes, "that a foreigner would come and give me a little golden
book about the truth. I’ve been praying and watching each day. You are
that man!" he said.
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