Bhutan’s State Religion

The founding father of Drukpa lineage was Tshangpa Gyare Yeshe Dorje, the First Gyalwang Drukpa.

Over 800 years ago, when Tsangpa Gyare Yeshi Dorji (1161 – 1211) reached Nam-gyi Phu near Lhasa in search of a site to build the monastery as prophesized by his guru, Lingchen Repa (1128 – 1188), nine dragons, said to be the manifestations of the 80 great Indian Mahasiddhas, reared up from the earth and soared into the sky with loud thunderous roars. Taking these as an auspicious sign, Tsangpa Gyare named his lineage the followers of Drukpa. Tsangpa Gyare established a monastery at Nam- gyi Phu and names it Druk Sewa Jangchub Ling monastery, but it popularly became known as Nam Druk. Tsangpa Gyare also founded Ralung and Longdol monasteries. Namdruk and Ralung remained the main seats of the Drukpa lineage till the 4th Gyalwang Drukpa Pema Karpo (1527 – 1692) founded Druk Sangag Choling and made it its main seat.

Tshangpa Gyare’s disciple Gyalwa Gotshangpa spread the Drukpa lineage in western Tibet and his followers came to be called adherents of the Upper Drukpa lineage, while followers of Gyalwa Lorepa (1187- 1250) branched to form the Lower Drukpa lineage. Onray Dharma Sengye started the Central Drukpa lineage and, from Pariwa, originated the Great Spiritual Sons lineage within the Central Drukpa one.

Drukpa lineage became famous for the simplicity, asceticism and comprehension of it adherents and the profundity of its spiritual teachings. A Tibetan proverb affirmed this renown with a saying:

Half of the people are Drukpas, Half of the Drukpas are mendicants, and half of the begging mendicants are Siddhas.

It indicates a profusion of disciples and the influence of its practice that time. As prophesied by Tsangpa Gyare, Onray Dharma Sengye sent Phajo Drukgom Shigpo to Bhutan and he established spiritual and temporal influence of the Drukpa lineage in Bhutan. In around 1300 AD Gyalwa Lorepa visited Bumthang and founded Chodrak Gonpa in Bumthang and spread the teachings of the Drukpa. Later, on the invitation of the descendants of Phajo Grukgom, Jamyang Kuenga Sengye, Thrulshik Namkhai Naljor, Gywalwang Je, Nawang Chogyel and his son, Drukpa Kuenleg, Mipham Chogyel and Mipham Tenpai Nima visited Bhutan from Ralung and further spread the teachings of Drukpa lineage. As per his own prediction, Kunhkhyen Pema Karpo, the fourth Gyalwang Drukpa, had two reincarnations: Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and Paksam Wangpo.

Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyel left Ralung for Bhutan in 1616 and by 1651 he had unified Bhutan and established himself as the spiritual and temporal ruler of Bhutan. He renamed the country Druk and the people Drukpa to indicate the supremacy of the lineage. Ever since Zhabdrung appointed Peker Jungne as the 1st Je khenpo, the spiritual head of all monasteries in Bhutan, successive Je Khenpos have acted to date as spiritual regents of Bhutan. Drukpa lineage continues to thrive and flourish and benefit all sentient beings. It is supported by the state and given unconditional effort by all involved, from the lowest rung to the highest level. So this is commonly called as Drukpa Kyaju sect, one of the four sects of Mahayana Buddhism and practiced as a state religion in Bhutan at the moment. And this is fully guided under the principles of Central Monk Body (Spiritual part) which is headed by the successive Je Khenpos.