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Early Developments

Tantric ideas and practices began to be incorporated into the monastic curricula at the great Buddhist universities of medieval India—including Nalanda and Vikramasila—leading to the development of the Vajrayana as a distinct Buddhist school.

Schisms and Sects

The Vajrayana itself can be understood as a kind of schismatic movement, in that many of its beliefs and practices—rooted in tantra—represent significant reworking, if not rejection, of central Buddhist doctrines and practices.

Exploration and Conquest

In Tibet the Vajrayana has, since its introduction in the 8th century, been intimately intertwined with kingship and political rule. The current Dalai Lama, the spiritual and political leader of Tibet, is himself a Vajrayana monk.

Missions and Expansion

The Vajrayana was introduced into Tibet as early as the 8th century, and it soon became the dominant form of Buddhism there. The Vajrayana also spread to China, Japan, Nepal, Mongolia, and throughout southeast Asia.

Modern Age

Since the expulsion of the Dalai Lama from his homeland in 1959, which began the "Tibetan Diaspora," the Vajrayana has become particularly popular in the West, where it has been embraced by a number of prominent celebrities as both a religion and a political cause.