Vajrayana Buddhism has flourished in Bhutan since the arrival of the great Indian saint Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche) in 747. Believed to have miraculously travelled on the back of a tigress from the East to Taksang (Tiger’s Nest), in Paro Valley, he is reputed to have subdued maleficent earthbound spirits by appeasing them with ritual and ceremony and so merged the Bon practices of the region with Buddhism. Today, Bhutan is renowned for these rich and colourful ceremonies, enjoyed by both locals and visitors alike.
As the state religion, Vajrayana Buddhism is a vibrant and vital dimension of Bhutan’s cultural heritage and guides its social values. Teaching non-violence and compassion towards all sentient beings, Buddhist wisdom forms the moral basis of daily life and is inseparably woven into the Bhutanese ident
Historically influenced by both Indian and Tibetan teachers, both the Drukpa Kagyu and Nyingmapa (or “Old School”) lineages of Vajrayana thrive in modern Bhutan. While the Drukpa Kagyu School has prevailed since the early 13th Century, the earlier Nyingmapa School was revived in the mid-14th Century by the great Tibetan Master, Longchen Rabjam (Longchenpa). Exiled from Tibet, he settled in, the now famous, Tharpaling Monastery in Bumthang, from where he taught widely, renovating and building Nyingmapa monasteries in Central and Eastern Bhutan. Still standing today, Tharpaling is revered as a sacred site.
Today in Bhutan, Buddhism flourishes in many ways unchanged over hundreds of years. In the many ancient and new monasteries and convents throughout Bhutan, shaven-head, maroon-robed monks and nuns study Buddhist philosophy, practice meditation and perform ritual ceremonies in service to the community. Adorning the Himalayan landscape, the monasteries and convents form an essential part of Bhutanese society and culture and are treasured as peaceful and welcoming destinations to visit by both Bhutanese and foreign visitors
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