Religion of Bhutan

Bhutan is the only country in the world where Mahayana Buddhism is the official religion and is endorsed by the government. To ensure the perpetuation of Buddhism, normally, one son from each family attends monastic school. The Buddhist faith plays a fundamental role in the cultural, ethical and sociological development of Bhutan and its people. It permeates all strands of secular life, bringing with it a reverence for the land and its well-being. Annual festivals (Tshechu and Dromchoes) are spiritual occasions in each district and are dedicated to either Guru Rimpoche or other deities.

In the 8th century Guru Rinpoche (Precious Master) arrived in Bhutan and laid down the foundation of Tantric Buddhism in Bhutan. According to legend Guru Rinpoche flew to Paro Taksang (Tigers nest) on the back of a flying tigress. Taksang is a monastery perched on the side of a 3000 meter cliff and is recognized as one of the holiest Buddhist sites. Guru Rinpoche meditated in a cave next to the present day monastery, and introduced Bhutan to Mahayana Buddhism.

Monasteries and convents were common throughout Bhutan in the late twentieth century. Both monks and nuns kept their heads shaved and wore distinguishing maroon robes. Their days were spent in study and meditation but also in the performance of rituals honoring various Bodhisattva, praying for the dead, and seeking divine intercession on behalf of the ill. Some of their prayers involved chants and singing accompanied by conch shell trumpets, thighbone trumpets (made from human thighbones), metal horns up to three meters long, large standing drums and cymbals, hand bells, temple bells, gongs, and wooden sticks. Such monastic music and singing, not normally heard by the general public, has been reported to have “great virility” and to be more melodious than its Tibetan monotone counterparts

Chortens or Stupas are a common sight to behold in Bhutan; they preserve sacred Buddhists text and relics. Many Chortens in the middles ages were consecrated on the grounds where powerful Buddhist Lamas subdued demons that were harmful to the Buddhist teachings. Buddhist saints have subdued evil spirits and reformed them to become protectors or guardian deities of the land.