Religion & Society

Religion

The Bhutanese constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Citizens and visitors are free to practice any form of worship so long as it does not impinge on the rights of others. Majority of the population are Buddhist thou Hinduism and small community of Christianity are also present in the country.

Buddhism

Bhutan is a Buddhist country and people often refer to it as the last stronghold of Vajrayana Buddhism. Buddhism was first introduced by the Tibetan king called Songtsen Gompo in the 7th century. After that it was reintroduced by the Indian Tantric master Guru Padmasambhava in the 8th century. Until then the people practiced Bonism a religion that worshipped all forms of nature, trace of which are still evident even today in some remote villages in the country.

With the visit of Guru Padmasambhava, Buddhism began to take firm roots within the country and this especially led to the propagation of the Nyingmapa (the ancient or the older) school of Buddhism.
Phajo Drugom Zhigpo from Ralung in Tibet was instrumental in introducing yet another school of Buddhism the Drukpa Kagyu sect. In 1222 he came to Bhutan and established the Drukpa Kagyi sect of Buddhism, the state religion.

By far the greatest contributor was Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyal. His arrival in 1616 from Tibet 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 and unified the country as one whole nation giving it a distinct national identity.

The Buddhism practiced in the country today is a vibrant religion. It is present in the Dzongs, monasteries, stupas, prayer flags, and prayer wheels which 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.

Society

Bhutanese society is free of class or caste system. Slavery was abolished by the Third King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck in the early 1950s through a royal edict. Though, a few organizations to empower women were established in the past Bhutanese society has always maintained relative gender equality. In general our nation is an open and a good-spirited society.

Living in Bhutanese society generally means understanding some accepted norms such as Driglam Namzha, the traditional code of etiquette. Driglam Namzha teaches people a code of conduct to adhere to as members of a respectful society. Examples of Driglam Namzha include wearing a traditional scarf (kabney) when visiting a Dzong or an office, letting the elders and the monks serve themselves first during meals, offering felicitation scarves during ceremonies such as marriages and promotions.

Seniors and elders are politely greeted. The Bhutanese bow their head a bit while greeting. Recently, shaking hands has become an accepted norm.

The Bhutanese are a fun-loving people fond of song and dance. We are a social people that enjoy weddings, religious holidays and other events.