bhutan39In 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. Generations later Bhutan is the only country in the world that practices Mahayana Buddhism as its state religion.

Several powerful and learned Buddhist Lamas appear in Bhutan’s past and their presence in the kingdom marked invaluable contributions towards the flowering of Buddhism to all corners of the land. They have preserved sacred teachings and relics inside Temples and Chortens (Stupa) which are scattered all across the terrain.

In Bhutan religion permeates every strand of secular life; colorful prayer flags venerate the landscape and send prayers to the heavens. Buddhist values and beliefs guide the everyday lives of the Bhutanese people. The teachings of the respected Buddhist Masters still reverberate in the age-old religious rituals performed in our homes and the monasteries.

The altar room is the most revered space inside the Bhutanese dwelling; the room enshrines images of venerable Buddhist saints and offerings to the local protective deities. Religious rituals which trace their origins back to when Buddhism first flourished in Bhutan are performed inside the shrine room, protecting the dwellers from harm and insuring their health and happiness. The Bhutanese religious calendarcontains several festival dates which are celebrated throughout the year in all the districts of Bhutan. The festivals draw crowds in their thousands and provide an insight into Bhutanese culture which is deeply infused with spirituality.

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.

Thimphu valley’s powerful guardian deity Gyenyen Jagpa Melen was suppressed by the Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal in present day Dechephu Lhakang. The temple is located 2 kilometers from Thimphu proper; residents of the valley frequently visit the temple to pay homage to their guardian deity.

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