The state religion of Bhutan is Vajrayana (or Tantric) Buddhism, which is highly flexible and dynamic. There are fully enlightened female Buddha’s, wrathful meditational deities, and local protectors. People sponsor rituals and religious institutions with great frequency, for matters mundane as well as lofty. Many are focusing their efforts on the path of enlightenment, and to helping others achieve realizations as well.
MONKS AND MONESTERIES
Monasteries are highly organized and hierarchic institutions that provide crucial religious services to the nation and its people. Today’s monastic body is nearly the same in structure that was established in the 17th century by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (1594-1651). The head of the Central Monastic Body is the Supreme Abbot or Je Khenpo, who equal in rank to His Majesty the King. The present Je Khenpo, Trulku Jigme Choeda, was elected to the office in 1996 is the 70th in the line. He is assisted by five acharyas who are masters in specialized religious disciplines. The acharyas are equal in rank to government ministers. Below them are preceptors and three prefects, and many junior masters. The monastic centre in each district is headed by an abbot known as the Lam Neten. Buddhist colleges and Meditation Centres are headed by principals and meditation masters. Yet intertwined with the formal monastic structure is the Bhutanese Buddhism represented by the lay community. Since laypeople are bound by circumstance to live a worldly existence, he or she is generally unable to reach the level of religious knowledge that is attained by monks and nuns. Thus lay people need ways to accumulate merit in order to advance on the Buddhist path. Practitioners can accumulate merit by making offerings to the Triple Gem; specifically, the Buddha, His Doctrine, and the Monastic Community. In return, the monastic community serves the nation and its people through providing teachings and performing religious rites and ceremonies.0