Before the arrival of Buddhism in Tibet, the Tibetan people followed the Bon religion, a form of Shamanism brought from the Shang-shung kingdom in Ngari Prefecture. During the reign of King Lha Thothori Nyantsen, Indian missionaries brought sacred Buddhist scriptures to his court. These scriptures were kept secret and referred to as Nyanpo Sangwang, symbolizing the spread of Buddhism in Tibet.
In the 7th century, Emperor Songtsan Gampo sent scholar Thomi Sambota to study Indian script and language. He returned after six years, having mastered these skills and also translated Buddhist scriptures, including the lotus sutra. This marked the beginning of Buddhism in Tibet. Songtsan Gambo may have been influenced by his wives Trizun Brikuti from Nepal and Wencheng, and also for political and foreign relations reasons, he built numerous Buddhist temples.
As Buddhism gained popularity, Bon declined. Trisong Deutsan, in the late 8th century, built many monasteries and translated Buddhist scriptures to promote Buddhism as the state religion. Indian scholars, such as Pandit Shantarakshita and Kamalasila, were invited to Tibet. Padmasambhava combined elements from the Indian Esoteric Sect and Bon religion to form Tibetan Tantrism. The first Buddhist monastery, Samye, was built by Padmasambhava. During this period, scriptures were translated and Indian scholars were invited to Tibet.
In 792, King Trisong Detsen declared Indian Buddhism as the state religion. After the death of the last emperor, the Tibetan Empire fragmented, and Tibetan Buddhism went quiet for over a century. It began to revive in the 11th century with the arrival of Atiśa, an exponent of the Pāla form of Buddhism. Different independent sects emerged during this time.
Tibetan Buddhism is based on the Mādhyamika and Yogācāra doctrines. The general methods of practice include transmission and realization, analytic and fixation meditation, devotion to a guru, scepticism, preliminary practices, and the approach to Vajrayāna and esotericism.