At present, numerous Tibetan Buddhist groups exist in Europe and North America, but the Buddhism of these groups differ from the "customary Buddhism" that is an integral part of daily life for the Tibetans themselves. From the point of view of a Tibetan, the Buddhism of those groups are not a part of Tibetan culture but rather of Western culture, and are a form of Western religion like Christianity. In this paper I will consider using examples why such a "Tibetan Buddhism" spread throughout Europe and North America, what its outlines are, and how it has developed.
The following three reasons can be suggested for the rise in popularity of Tibetan Buddhism in Europe. First, European interest in Tibet is high, with many travelogues, popular novels, and movies depicting Tibet as a utopia (Shangri-La), and this idealistic image is also projected onto Tibetan Buddhism. In other words, people discover in Tibetan Buddhism a "spirituality that has been lost in the modern West." Second, along with theflight from Tibet of the Dalai Lama, many monks have become refugees, and a portion of them have built centers in Europe and North America where they are actively engaged in religious missions. However, the Buddhist missions are different from the former Christian missions. Because it is intertwined with the economics that support the lives of the refugees, the Buddhist missions do not aggressively push Buddhist doctrines or teachings, but rather are flexible in form and adopt Western values according to the wishes of their clients. Accordingly, by linking itself with issues important to modern society, including non-violence, peace, health, the environment, and so on it has evoked a favorable response. The third reason is the popularity of the Dalai Lama. Through his many published books and the teachings he gives in the cites of Europe and North America every year, he has skillfully linked the abovementioned keywords with Tibetan Buddhism and created interest in it. The popularity of the Dalai Lama is probably because he is seen as himself symbolic of those values. In many cases, the management of Buddhist centers and the planning and promotion of events such as teachings are carried out by Westerners. The image of Tibet on which Western values are projected and the linkage with refugee economics that capitalizes on that image can be thought of as factors leading to the expansion of Tibetan Buddhism.