Sikkim and Buddhism are almost synonymous although ironically the majority of the population of Sikkim profess Hinduism. Sikkim is replete with Buddhist sites all across the state.
After Buddha attained Nirvana, differences of opinion arose in the religion causing the formation of new sects. Finally in about 100 AD a split took place and caused the formation of two schools, which later became known as the Hinayana (Southern) and the Mahayana (Northern). The Hinayana adhered to more primitive Buddhism, which was primarily a philosophy with rules and ethics and emphasized on realisation of Nirvana (freedom from the cycle of birth and rebirth) only for oneself by directly worshipping the Buddha. The Mahayana schools believes in attaining Nirvana by worshipping the dieties called Bodhisattvas who do not want to attain Nirvana until they have freed all the humanity from suffering. The Mahayana has a wider base as it believes in attaining Nirvana for oneself as well as all suffering humanity.
The native religion of Tibet was called Bon which is said to be founded by Shenrab Mibo. This religion was fused and refined by Buddhism by Guru Padmasambva and this gave birth to the Red Hat Sect of Buddhism. The Red Hat sect was further reformed by Atisha and the Kadampa sect was established. Tsong-kha-pa modified the Kadampa and led to the formation of the Yellow Sect.
Tibetan Buddhism is therefore divided into the Red and Yellow Sects. The Red Sect comprises of the Nyingma, Kargyu and Sakya lineages and the Yellow Sect consists of the Gelugpa lineage. Whereas the Nyingma Sect is associated with Guru Padmasambva, the founders of Kargyu and Sakya are said to be Marpa and Khon Konechog Gyalpo respectively. The sects and the lineages are differentiated from each other by the rituals performed, monastic discipline and the founder. However the differences tend to blur with rituals of one lineage overlapping the other.
The Tibetan sacred books are called the Kanjur and the Tanjur. The Kanjur correspond to the original teachings of the Buddha and has three sections or Tripitakas whereas the Tanjurr are related to the teachings of the commentaries of the teachings. Each year or lo of the Buddhist calender is named after an animal these animals being: rat, bull, tiger, rabbit, garuda, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, hen dog and pig. Similarly each month of a year is named after an animal. These being: Tag (Tiger), the 11th month, Yeo (Hare) the 12th month, Druk (Dragon), the 1st month, Drul (snake), the 2nd month, Tah (Horse), the 3rd month, Lug (sheep), the 4th month, Trel (Monkey), the 5th month, Jya (Bird) the 6th month, Khye (Dog), the 7th month, Phag (Pig), the 8th month, Jewa (Mouse) the 9th month and Lang(Ox), the 10th month.
The count of the first month of the year according to astrological calculation begins from Tiger, the 11th month. The twelve months are grouped into four seasons of three months each. They are Chiyid-ka, the spring; Yar-ka, the summer, Ton-ka, the autumn and Gyun-ka, the winter.
Most of the monasteries in Sikkim belong to the Nyingmapa Sect. There are a few Karyugpa, one Sakyapa and one Gelugpa monastery in Sikkim.
The Nyingmapa Sect monasteries like Enchey Monastery and the Karyugpa monastery like Rumtek have been covered in the Places to visit section of the website. Pictures of the lesser visited monasteries of Sakyapa sect the Nor Gompa and the Gelupa sect monastery the Sera Jhe Dro Phen Ling Gompa both in the vicinity of Gangtok are shown below
Nor Monastery belonging to the Sakyapa Sect
Sera Jhe Dro Phen Ling Gompa belonging to the Gelupa Sect