Religious pluralism characterized Tibetan Buddhism by the eleventh or twelfth century, allowing for the development of many schools and sects with little differentiation in religious products. The early Ming dynasty (1368–1424) saw a significant shift in policy on Tibetan affairs compared to the Mongolian Yuan dynasty (1271–1368). Relative disengagement from Tibet translated into a liberalization of local politics, resulting in a shift from secular politics and clan wealth to ecclesiastical monastic institutions. The Geluk sect formed during this period, introducing superior technology in its organizational characteristics—celibacy, ordained abbots, casuistical adherence, scholastic training, and doctrinal orthodoxy—that distinguished it from other schools and sects. With the loss of its major Tibetan patron, the Gelukpa faced a serious challenge from its fiercest competitor, the Karmapa, and raised the stakes by introducing the incarnate position of the Dalai Lama and his labrang (financial estate). This allowed the Gelukpa to directly compete with the Karmapa for wealthy patrons. By forming an alliance with the Mongols, the Gelukpa were willing to counter violence with violence to become the monopoly religion.

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