The meeting in 1774 between Lobsang Palden Yeshes (1738-1780), the Third Pan­chen Lama, and George Bogle (1746-1781), an agent of the East India Company, was the first encounter between Britain and Tibet. This remarkable moment in world history brought the Scottish Enlightenment into contact with Tibetan Lamaist Bud­dhism. The commentaries written during this episode are used to test the widely held view that Enlightenment thinking led to European imperialism. The evidence from this encounter shows that Enlightenment-era mentalities could be both supportive of and antipathetic to imperialism. The article ends by glancing briefly at Tibetan impe­rialism in an earlier period to suggest that both Buddhism and the Enlightenment were sometimes implicated in the creation of empires but that neither can be viewed as the root cause of imperialism.