They were legendary warriors, and martial discipline or "action meditation" is their path to spiritual enlightenment.
The Dalai Lama leads one of the four schools, or denominations within Tibetan Buddhism. The 23-year-old Karmapa Lama leads another. His supporters believe he may one day succeed the older man as Buddhism's leading international voice.
Read more of the Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly interview with Tu Weiming, professor of Chinese history and philosophy and Confucian studies at Harvard University.
Buddhist teachings do not rule out the use of force to relieve a greater suffering, although the Buddhist tradition is rightly known for the systematic practice of nonviolence, its first ethical precept.
They teach nonviolence, but their demonstrations against the Chinese have sometimes become violent.
Read analysis and commentary on the Buddhist protests in Burma by Patrick Pranke and Donald Mitchell.