BUDDHIST STUDY IN BHUTAN
Buddhism is the most widely practiced religion in Bhutan. Vajrayana Buddhism is the state religion of Bhutan, and Buddhists comprise two-thirds to three-quarters and Hinduism one-quarter of its population. Although the Buddhism practiced in Bhutan originated in Tibetan Buddhism, it differs significantly in its rituals, liturgy, and monastic organization. The state religion has long been supported financially by the government through annual subsidies to Buddhist monastery, shrines, monks, and nuns. In the modern era, support of the state religion during the reign of Jigme Dorji Wangchuckincludes the manufacture of 10,000 gilded bronze images of the Buddha, publication of elegant calligraphied editions of the 108-volume Kangyur (Collection of the Words of the Buddha) and the 225-volume Tengyur (Collection of Commentaries), and the construction of numerous chorten (stupas) throughout the country. Guaranteed representation in the National Assembly and the Royal Advisory Council, Buddhists constitute the majority of society and are assured an influential voice in public policy.
To bring Buddhism to the people, numerous symbols and structures are employed. Religious monuments, prayer walls, prayer flags, and sacred mantras carved in stone hillsides are prevalent. Among the religious monuments are chorten, the Bhutanese version of the Indian stupa. They range from simple rectangular "house" chorten to complex edifices with ornate steps, doors, domes, and spires. Some are decorated with the Buddha's eyes that see in all directions simultaneously. These earth, brick, or stone structures commemorate deceased kings, Buddhist saints, venerable monks, and other notables, and sometimes they serve as reliquaries. Prayer walls are made of laid or piled stone and inscribed with Tantric prayers. Prayers printed with woodblocks on cloth are made into tall, narrow, colorful prayer flags, which are then mounted on long poles and placed both at holy sites and at dangerous locations to ward off demons and to benefit the spirits of the dead. To help propagate the faith, itinerant monks travel from village to village carrying portable shrines with many small doors, which open to reveal statues and images of the Buddha, bodhisattavas, and notable lamas.
Bhutan is a devoutly Buddhist land. Similar to Tibet, monks and nuns are venerated by all and they still honor the centuries-old custom of having one son from every family enter a monastery. The monasteries, with their stunning architecture, are filled with treasures of Buddhist sacred art. They will be your classroom where you will study philosophy, sacred art and Bhutan’s Buddhist traditions. You will offer your services at a school and will be totally immersed in Bhutan’s remarkable culture.