Bhutan is considered one of the last bastions where Tantric Vajrayana form of Mahayana Buddhism is maintained as the state religion. A sizeable minority follows other faiths like Hinduism and Christianity. But going by the majority, the country can comfortably qualify as a Buddhist nation.
The constitution recognizes and respects the plurality of religious faiths. But the supreme law prohibits proselytizing. Thus, Bhutan is a nation where one can choose his faith on his own will. How sacrosanct the religion is considered is reflected in the political spectrum as well. Bhutan embraced parliamentary democracy in 2008. It was a political paradigm shift. The country had been under benign monarchy for the last one century.
The new polity separates religion and politics. The official justification has been to maintain the sanctity of religion. Therefore, Bhutan’s religious community does not participate in politics. The religious figures are not allowed by the constitution to field themselves as political candidates and to vote.
So far not much misgiving has been expressed by the people about the exclusion of the religious community from politics. The acceptance could roughly be interpreted as people’s understanding and regard that ‘religion is above politics’.
Bhutan’s traditional and cultural heritage is entwined with Buddhist values. From the way of eating, dressing, and conducting rituals to maintaining friendship are associated with the thoughts of two Buddhists schools of Drukpa Kagyupa and Nyingmapa.
However, the practices cannot be claimed to be intact as modernization is already here to test the society. Bhutan considers the onslaught of globalization as one of the looming challenges in its pursuit of maintaining traditional values and cultural identity.
Given the importance of Buddhism as the country’s official religion the two institutions of Drukpa Kagyupa and Nyingmapa are state-sponsored. The sight of verdant hills adorned with fluttering prayer flags, chanting monks, architecturally aesthetic temples, and monasteries bear intrinsic meanings of Buddhism.