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Robert A. F. Thurman on Tibet: The Ancient Kings and the Arrival of the Dharma (1999)
Robert Thurman explains that Tibetans tell their history in a magical way. They say they have multiple levels of history – ordinary perception, extraordinary perception and secret perception. Their lives are interfused with the presence of all kinds of supernatural beings.
The story Thurman tells of Tibet is of the transformation of a ferocious nation into a compassionate one seeking transformation. He begins by looking at the Tibetan Plateau at a time when it was quite regionalized, with a variety of rulers and warlords. He notes, too, that the demands of high-altitude living mostly insulated Tibet from being overrun by its neighbors.
Thurman tells stories of such important people as Songtsen Gampo, who unified Tibet, introduced Buddhism, and created the written Tibetan language in the 7th Century. Also, he introduces Padmasambhava, who, in the 8th century, brought Vajrayana Buddhism to Tibet and environs.