The Treasury of Lives

Tibetan Buddhism in America

Tibetan Buddhism is a small but growing part of the North American religious landscape. Dharma centers connected to Buddhist and Bon teachers from Tibet, Bhutan, Mongolia, Nepal, and India can be found in almost every state and province, and university courses and graduate programs in Tibetan religion are now common.

Although there were some depictions of Tibetan religion in North American popular culture, and the first teachers in the Tibetan tradition came as early as 1949, it was only after tens of thousands of Tibetans fled their homeland in 1959 following the Communist takeover that North Americans began to encounter Tibetan religion more widely. Several Tibetan lamas came to North America to teach at universities, and Western religious seekers traveling in India and Nepal encountered lamas whom they invited to Canada and America to teach. Beginning in the early 1970s they set up dharma centers and by the early 1980s lamas were performing major public rituals in North America.