The state religion of Bhutan is Buddhism. Approximately 75% of the total populations in Bhutan are followers of Buddhism. Bhutan is also referred as the last stronghold of Vajrayana Buddhism. Bhutan is the only country in the world following Mahayana Buddhism in the form of Vajrayana, tantric Buddhism.
According to the historical events, Buddhism was introduced to Bhutan since the 2nd century. Although Many saints from India and Nepal meditated in various caves in Bhutan however, Buddhism was never flourished in the country. Later in the 7th century, great Tibetan religious King, Songtsen Gempo built two Buddhist temples in Bhutan such as Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro and Jampa Lhakhang in Bumthang. The credit of introducing Buddhism in Bhutan goes to Guru Rinpoche, a great Tibetan master who visited Bhutan from Tibet in the 8th century. Until then the Bhutanese people practiced Bonism, a religion that includes worshipping of all forms of nature. Remnants of Bonism are visible even today in some remote villages of Bhutan.
After the arrival of Guru Padmasambhava, Buddhism flourished within the country, specifically directed the flourishment of the Nyingmapa Institute of Buddhism in Bhutan. Besides Guru Padmasambhava, there were other Tibetan masters who also propagated Buddhism in Bhutan. Phajo Drugom Zhigpo from Ralung in Tibet was instrumental in introducing yet another school of Buddhism – the Drukpa Kagyu sect. He came to Bhutan in 1222. His arrival in Bhutan holds great historical significance and a major milestone for Buddhism in Bhutan. He strengthened the Drukpa Kagyu training of Buddha and supported it as the state religion. All of his sons and descendants were also influential in preaching in western Bhutan regions.
Another master who was so prominent and By far the greatest contributor to the spread of Buddhism was Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal. He arrived in Bhutan from Tibet in 1616 and was another landmark event in the history of the nation. He brought the various Buddhist schools that had developed in western Bhutan under his domain. He is famously known as the unifier of Bhutan since he unified the country into one nation-state, giving its people their distinct identity as “Bhutanese”. Perhaps the most important single factor in the molding of Bhutanese personality and thought has been the teaching of Lord Buddha. Bhutanese people are humble and down to earth who believe in living in peace and harmony with nature. Some of the sights that u will be welcomed with while you are in Bhutan are the majestic dzongs sitting on hilltops adorned with beautiful Bhutanese designs surrounded by prayer flags, monks circumambulating the stupas, and chanting mantras. Happy and humble people to greet you “ kuzuzangpo la”.
Hinduism or Hindus, living in the low lands of southern Bhutan, practiced Hinduism. The country gives freedom to practice other religions. In the year 2012, the first Hindu temple was constructed by His Holiness The Je Khenpo, Chief Abbot of Bhutan in Thimphu. Hindus of Bhutan practice their religion in small to medium-sized groups. Hinduism is more common among the Lhotshampa ethnic group, although a fair amount of ethnic Lhotshampa also follow Buddhism. About 23% Hindu live in the country in harmony, moreover, Dasera is also a national holiday in Bhutan. Covering 0.2% of the whole country's population practice Muslim religion. An overview will look at 75% of the Bhutanese following Buddhist, with 0.4% follow other creeds. Christians are present in small numbers, especially in the Nepalese ethnic group. International Christian relief organizations and Roman Catholic Jesuit priests engaged in education and humanitarian activities. Christianity was first brought to Bhutan in the late 17th century by Portuguese Jesuits.
Though Bhutan is often referred to as the last Vajrayana Buddhist country, you can still come across animistic traditions and beliefs being practiced by the people. The form of Buddhism practiced in Bhutan has absorbed many of the features of Bonism such as nature worship and animal sacrifice. Also, worship of a host of deities, invoking and propitiating them. According to Bonism, these deities were the rightful owners of different elements of nature. Each different facet of nature was associated with its own specific type of spirit. Although Buddhist practices do not include worship of animals or nature, people in Bhutan still worship a variety of animals and nature. For example, Bhutanese worship the deity/goddess jomo who is believed to reside in mt Jumolhari. Water bodies such as lakes and rivers are also considered sacred and a variety of mythical creatures such as the mermaids, snakes etc are also worshipped, not to mention the chief guardian of the kingdom which is the dragon. These shamanistic rituals are performed for various reasons ranging from to keep evil spirits at bay, bring in prosperity, to cure a patient or to welcome a new year.
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