In 7th century in central Bhutan, a king lay sick surrounded by his courtiers, ministers and mistresses, without a cure and waiting to die. Somewhere in India, Guru Padmasambhava had already set a name for his miraculous powers of vanquishing evil.
Pots and cups filled with gold, jewellry and silk were sent off with a caravan to invite the lotus born to Bhutan and treat the king. Subsequently the Guru reached Bhutan and investigated the king’s illness. After losing his only son in a battle, the King, in a fit of anger desecrated the local shrine and the feared deity Shelging Karpo (from Bonism) stole his life force.
The Guru tricks the deity by performing a dance and vanquishes him when he is caught unawares. The king immediately recovers from the illness and converts himself and all his subjects to Buddhism.
Although Buddhism had existed in small ways before the arrival of Guru, most people were nature worshipers. Fierce deities were worshiped out of fear and offerings were made everyday to please the deities and prevent them from harming human beings. Guru Padmasambhava vanquished most of these fierce deities converting them to protectors of Buddhism and releasing people from fear and harm.
Some of the places that Guru Padmasambhava had meditated in Bhutan have today become important and sacred pilgrimage sites, such as Paro Taktshang monastery and the Kurjey and Jambay Lhakhang in Bumthang, central Bhutan.
Bhutan’s state religion is the Drukpa Kagyud school of Buddhism, a branch of Tibetan Buddhism, which was founded in the 12th century by Tsangpa Gyarey. The Je Khenpo is the spiritual leader of Bhutan, who is also the chief abbot and heads the central monastic body.
Today, Buddhism is the principle religion in Bhutan while around 20 percent of the population, especially in southern Bhutan practice Hinduism. Most Buddhist believe in the concept of karma and reincarnation, which determines the quality of our next life based on the thoughts and actions of our current lives.