1. The Stone
In 1835, Brian Houghton Hodgson (1800-1894), an ornithologist who served as the British resident of the Kingdom of Nepal, began a correspondence with the young French Sanskritist Eugène Burnouf (1801-1852). In their letters, Hodgson and Burnouf arranged the dispatch of the newly discovered Buddhist Collection of Sanskrit books from Kathmandu to Paris. In the month of April of the same year, Hodgson published a concise study entitled “Remarks on an Inscription in Ranjá and Tibetan (Ucchén) Characters, taken from a Temple on the Confines of the Valley of Nepál” in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal.
On the road leading from Nepal into Tibet, recounts Hodgson in his essay, about two miles beyond the mountain ridges of the Kathmandu valley, there stood a stone chaitya—a Buddhist funerary monument. On the chaitya’s base were inscriptions in Indian and Tibetan characters. “Upon the outer surface of the retaining walls of this basement are inscribed in a variety of texts from the Bauddha Scriptures, amongst others, the celebrated Shad-Akshari Mantra, Om Mani Padme Hom.” In Hodgson’s view, the import of his discovery was that the inscription revealed the “practical conjunction” of the Indian and Tibetan alphabets, used, respectively, by the Buddhists of Nepal and those of Tibet.
2. The Spell
Hodgson appended a reproduction of the ṣaḍakṣarī, that is the “spell in six letters” of the inscription to his brief article. Inscribed on the base of the chaitya, the oṃ maṇi padme hūm formula of the Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva provided a visual hint of the letters in which the Buddhist mantras of India had been preserved in Nepal. The Tibetans called these letters “lantsa.” The Nepalese, clarifies Hodgson, called this style of Indian script “ranjá.”
The inscription of Avalokiteśvara’s ṣaḍakṣarī revealed the similarity of the Tibetan dbu chen and of the Nepalese ranjá script, which compilers and translators had used in the two Asian nations to commit Buddhist scriptures to writing. It was a considerable similarity, observes Hodgson, given the differences between the Tibetan and the Sanskrit languages; but also, he notes, because the inscription of the spell retained the traces of the transmission of Buddhism across the Himalayas. Indeed, in the work of translation from Sanskrit into Tibetan, Buddhist literature had long taken root in Tibet. Unlike the Tibetans, however, the Nepalese still read Buddhist literature in Sanskrit. While in India, concludes Hodgson, “for four centuries probably, the very memory of it has passed away.” 
Having invited his readers to learn more about the significance of “Oṃ maṇi padme hūm” in two modern European sources, that is, Antonio Agostino Giorgi’s 1762 Alphabetum Tibetanum and Julius von Klaproth’s 1831 essay “Fragmens Bouddhiques,” Hodgson closed his note with the following thought:
In conclusion, I may observe, that this habit of promulgating the mantras of their faith, by inscriptions patent on the face of religious edifices, is peculiar to the Tibetan Buddhists, those of Nepál considering it a high crime thus to subject them to vulgar, and perchance uninitiated utterance. The Tibetan sentiment and practice are, in this respect, both the more orthodox and the more rational. But in another sense, the Nipálese followers of the Buddha are far more rational at least, if far less orthodox, than their neighbours: for they have utterly rejected that absurd and mischievous adherence to religious mendicancy and monachism which still distinguishes the Tibetans. 
In Hodgson’s opinion, the custom of writing mantras on stones and monuments, and of still observing the Indian Buddhist tradition of keeping the monastic vows, were the two features that distinguished the Buddhists of Tibet and those of Nepal. Hodgson writes:
The curious may like to know, that Tibetan Buddhism is distinguished from Népalese, solely by the two features above pointed out. 
According to the British scholar, then, Buddhism differed in the two countries in the way in which the mantra was made popular, or, on the contrary, in the way in which it was kept secret. Yet, the Buddhism of Tibet also differed from the Buddhism of Nepal in the ways in which the institution of monastic ordination, tracing back to the Buddha himself, had been either religiously observed or readily discarded in the two nations.
“Tibetan sentiment and practice,” observes Hodgson, was closely related with that of the Buddhists of ancient India, along with its “absurd and mischievous” monasticism. For, if compared to that of the Nepalese, this sentiment and practice was “more orthodox and more rational.” Still, although it appeared “far less orthodox,” the Buddhism of Nepal seemed “far more rational at least,“ for Nepalese Buddhists adhered to a form of the religion that was less rooted in the monastic institution. Indeed, the monastic institution was a feature that made the Buddhism of Tibet resemble Catholicism in many ways. Now, setting aside Hodgson’s own anti-Catholic sentiment against Tibetan Buddhism, it should be noticed how here, in Hodgson’s essay, we find what is perhaps the earliest occurrence of the term Tibetan Buddhism in English.
In particular, Hodgson claimed that two kinds of practices—writing mantras on stone monuments and keeping the monastic vows—were the only features that distinguished Tibetan from Nepalese Buddhism. Indeed, as he expressed his own views on national sentiment and practice, Hodgson also raised doubts about the ways in which European Orientalists articulated the diversity of forms of Buddhism across the nations of modern Asia.
3. Nation and Translation
A few months earlier, in his 1835 essay “European Speculations on Buddhism,” Hodgson observed that upon a first analysis of the Nepalese Collection, Buddhist scriptures must have been originally committed to writing in Sanskrit and must have been translated into other languages only at a later time.
Unlike the Buddhist scriptures preserved in Tibet, which were translations from Sanskrit, those preserved in Nepal were the originals that had been compiled in India. It was the latter, therefore, not the former, that conveyed the identity of character of Buddhism throughout the nations whose scriptures, preserved in translation, still existed in the modern world. Sanskrit, therefore, not Tibetan, Chinese, or Pāli should be regarded as the language that conveys Buddhism its identity as a single religion.
Unlike European scholars of his time, who posited a radical difference between what, between the late 1820s and the early 1830s, they incorrectly regarded as the Buddhist monotheism of ancient India and the Buddhist idolatry of modern nations, Hodgson regarded the fidelity of Asian translations as that which had made Buddhism a single religion of many forms, in space and time.
Thus, in this first formulation of the modern concept of Tibetan Buddhism, Hodgson appears to posit difference in Buddhist “sentiment and practice” in two Asian kingdoms not in terms of national character—for, when understood in terms of national character, Buddhism and its scriptures could only be “Indian“—but in terms of fidelity.
Despite the variety of emphasis in sentiment and practice, Tibetan translators seemed to have consistently deployed precision and accuracy in the activity of translation of Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit, whereas, on the contrary, the Nepalese still left those scriptures untranslated and employed the Sanskrit originals. Fidelity to the Indian original, then, was of paramount importance. When translating Buddhist scriptures in their language, Tibetans even left those powerful elements only transcribed in Tibetan letters and yet completely untranslated from Sanskrit.
To end, when addressing the materiality of such elements, Hodson seemed to conceive of difference in national sentiment and practice based not on the language of such spells, for Sanskrit identified the Indian character of Buddhism across nations, but on other factors, such as the type of supports upon which spells were written of carved, or the custom of placing such supports in ways that marked the land with the power of prayer.
When compared with the Nepalese form, Hodgson thus conceived of Buddhism as Tibetan based on how widespread was the practice of writing Sanskrit spells on stone monuments. Still, beyond such differences, Tibetans seemed to have preserved fidelity to the Indian character of Buddhism—something which Hodgson, based on his own Protestant sentiment and practice, disliked—in other areas of the religion. Unlike Nepalese Buddhists, Tibetan Buddhists seemed to adhere to the monastic code in ways that reflected religious practice in India before the demise of Buddhism there, says Hodgson, in its land of origin, at least four centuries earlier.
Notes to the text:
 See Brian Houghton Hodgson, “Remarks on an Inscription in Ranjá and Tibetan (Ucchén) Characters, taken from a Temple on the Confines of the Valley of Nepál,” in Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, vol. IV (Calcutta: Baptist Mission Press, 1835), p. 196.
 Ibid., p. 197.
 Ibid., p. 197.
 Ibid., p. 197-8.