Religion in Bhutan

Religion plays a central role in everyday lives, from celebrating a birth to helping the dead transition. Buddhism is recognized as the spiritual heritage of Bhutan with a majority of people practicing the Mahayana tradition. Hinduism is prevalent in the southern parts of the country and a small proportion of the population practice Christianity as well. There are also remnants of Ban ism and Shamanism in certain pockets of the country.

The monastic body (Zhung Dratsang) of Bhutan consists of the central monastic body and district monastic bodies. In total, there are about 7000 registered monks in the country. The central monastic body is headed by the supreme abbot (Je Khenpo), and assisted by five venerable masters (Lopons). The monastic bodies in the district are each headed by a district abbot (Lam Neten). In addition, there are various Buddhist Colleges and meditation centres which are headed by Principals and meditation masters, and a Council for Ecclesiastical Affairs which was established in 1984. Till 2008, the monastic body was represented in the National Assembly and the Royal Advisory Council. Alongside the monks, there are over a thousand nuns in the 22 nunneries in the country.

Apart from the formal monastic body, there are various religious institutions in the country. In 2007, the National Assembly enacted the Religious Organizations Act of Bhutan to facilitate the establishment of and promote the effective use of resources from societies, foundations, non-profit entities and charitable trusts that seek to support religious institutions in the country. Religious institutions and personalities are considered as being above politics, and hence are expected not to participate in political affairs.

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