In a world, where, who we are, is, determined by what name each of us call our gods, Bhutan is more or less a Buddhist country. We are a land distinct in culture, cuisine, conviction, costume and custom. But more importantly, we are the last purely Mahayana Buddhist kingdom. A major chunk of our people are Buddhists; Buddhism and its values are inherently visible as one travels in and around the country. People from all walks of life seem to bear the stamp of a devout Buddhist. Frequent sights of a toddler feeding a loft of pigeons, an adolescent visiting a temple, an adult gleefully working for some charity or an elderly person circumambulating a religious monument leaves very little doubt that the principles of Buddhism have indeed penetrated the hearts of many a Bhutanese. Every other hilltop or a mountain or a ridge has a monastery built on it by some revered religious figure, almost all of them bearing baffling accounts of how they came about. These monasteries are home to exceptionally rare objects of veneration, some of them so sacred that ordinary folks are forbidden to even look at them.
In Bhutan, every house shelters an altar room where deities of the Buddhist pantheon in the form of sculpted images are venerated on a daily basis. Offerings in the form of butter lamps, fruits and flowers are made every day and rituals are conducted periodically. And then there is also the frequent recital of profoundly heartfelt prayers accompanied by backbreaking prostrations for the benefit of all sentient beings, to enable them to attain Buddha hood – the end of suffering, the point of absolute enlightenment with no stopovers in the intermediate realms.
Most Bhutanese either pray for the happiness and well-being of their fellow sentient beings or take to doing whatever they can in terms of physical assistance, to alleviate the plight of the less fortunate ones. These include saving the lives of animals which are on the verge of being slaughtered, donating clothes and necessities to the deprived and being a part of some other illustrious charitable activity like contributing physical labor or financial remuneration for the construction of a religious monument. Some take up meditation in their leisure time while most live a life following a simple basic principle, ‘do good and be good’, which is somehow in line with what the Buddha taught. Most Bhutanese continue to live their lives embracing the Buddhist principles and morality with immense dedication. Despite that many years having passed since the advent of Buddhism and modernity having set in, Buddhist ideologies still appear seemingly rich and strong in most parts of the country.