Bhutan is a Buddhist country and often referred to as the last stronghold of Vajrayana Buddhism (a stream of Mahayana Buddhism, also known as Tantric Buddhism). Buddhism was first introduced by the Indian Tantric master Guru Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) in the 8th century. Until then the people practiced Bonism, a religion that worshipped all forms of nature, remnants of which are still evident. The Tibetan king Songtsän Gampo (reigned 627–649), a convert to Buddhism, ordered the construction of the two Buddhist temples, at Bumthang in central Bhutan and at Kyichu Lhakhang in the Paro Valley.

Bhutan is the only country in the world to have adopted Mahayana Buddhism as its official state religion. It is estimated that three-quarters of the Bhutanese population follow Vajrayana Buddhism and about one-quarters are followers of Hinduism. The Buddhism practiced in the country today is a vibrant religion that permeates nearly every facet of the Bhutanese life. It is present in the Dzongs, monasteries, stupas, prayer flags and prayer wheels that punctuate the Bhutanese landscape. The chime of ritual bells, sound of gongs, people circumambulating temples and stupas, fluttering prayer flags, red robed monks conducting rituals stand as testaments to the importance of Buddhism in Bhutanese life. Buddhism has a significant influence on the values of the Bhutanese, which has shaped the institutions, organizations, arts, drama, architecture, literature and social structure.


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