Buddhism in Contemporary Bhutan

Document Type

Contribution to Book

Publication Date


Publication Title

The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Buddhism




Buddhism has been a consistent feature of Bhutanese politics and culture since the country’s founding by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel in the seventeenth century. A mixture of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism combined with indigenous customs and worldviews, Bhutanese Buddhism remains a fundamental aspect of contemporary Bhutanese identity. Today, Bhutan is the only sovereign nation with a dual Buddhist-temporal administration (chos srid). The government views the Buddhist faith of many of its citizens as a fundamental aspect of contemporary “Bhutanese” identity, and many Bhutanese revere the king as a bodhisattva. As the Himalayan country becomes more and more integrated into the global twenty-first century, the state continues to support and sponsor Buddhist monasteries, monuments, and festivals and looks to Buddhist values to establish and guide state policies, including Gross National Happiness.