Religion in Bhutan

Bhutanese people follow two major religions that are similar in many beliefs and faith. Northern India was the seat of both the religions from where it spread to other parts of Asia.

In Bhutan, the Northerners are mostly Buddhist while the Lhotshampas in the south follow the Hindu faith.

Both Hindu and Buddhist festivals are celebrated throughout the country and the festivals see many Buddhists and Hindus celebrating together.

Buddhism is the state religion in Bhutan. In ancient times, it was customary for every family to enroll one of their children in the monastic school.

With the advent of modern schools, the tradition has however lost its prevalence today.

Headed by the chief abbot, Je Khenpo, the monastic body in Bhutan looks after the spiritual aspect of the country. Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel founded the dual system of administration that includes civil and spiritual administration of the nation in the 17th century.

Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel has been the most influential highest Buddhist spiritual leader in Bhutan.

Today, every district has a dzong, forts built during the time of Zhabdrung. The dzong is the center of both spiritual and civil affairs..

The two religions have no history of conflict in the country and have peacefully co-existed with one another throughout time. Both Hindus and Buddhists believe in compassion, karma, reincarnation and rebirth.

Buddhist Heritage in Bhutan

Bhutanese in general are deeply religious people. The basic Buddhist belief of compassion and interdependence has allowed a society where people live in respect of his environment that constitute not only other people, but also all other living beings.

Buddhism came to Bhutan around the eighth century when Guru Padmasambhava, the great tantric Buddhist master visited Bhutan to subdue evil spirit and liberate human beings from demons.

Guru Padmasambhava, who had earned the peoples’ faith by vanquishing evil spirits, taught Buddhism in Bhutan. Today, many important temples and monasteries in the country are dedicated to the life and work of Guru Padmasambhava.

Buddhism had however, already become popular in India when a royal prince, Siddhartha achieved enlightenment by meditating on human life, suffering, disease, old age and death.

Siddhartha abandoned his wife and son, wealth and princely luxury and set upon the task to lift the curse of sickness, old age and death by meditating more than six years. When he had found the answers, Siddhartha is said to have achieved enlightenment.

Siddhartha’s teaching has since then evolved into Buddhism, crafted and molded by many of his followers and disciples.  Siddhartha, who later came to be called Lord Buddha is said to have taught anyone who came to him.

His teachings constituted compassion, emptiness, interdependence, impermanence and the abstinence of desire, which he had identified as the root cause of suffering.

Today Buddhism is recognized as the state religion, while allowing a secular system for people to practice other religions too. The chief abbot, the Je Khenpo overlooks the spiritual aspect of the country.

Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel instituted the dual system of governance, which include the secular and the spiritual in the 17th century. The secular looked after civil administration and politics while the spiritual handled religious affairs of the country.

religion in bhutan