Bhutans religion | Buddhism | The image of the Buddha | The lama
Thangtong Gyalpo Zoom

The lama

»It is a greater merit to venerate a single hair of the teacher than all Buddhas of the three ages. « That is at least what a dakini supposedly said to the great cleric Gampopa (1079-1153).

Many secretive teachings are not recorded in writing, but are only handed on orally by the spiritual master, the lama. The lama guides his disciples step-by-step up a ladder of spiritual exercises with increasing difficulty and thus prevents them from coming into contact with ideas and practices for which they are not mature enough yet.


The guidance of a lama is an absolute necessity for the learning and performance of a ritual.

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Bronze, fire-gilding; measurements: 30 cm x 20 cm x 15 cm; loan from a private collection
Thangtong Gyalpo (1385-1464) taught in monasteries of all of Tibetan schools. He has been venerated for his anti-sectarian attitude. A lot of what he handed on to his numerous disciples, he had learned from deities in visions. Thangtong Gyalpo is seen as saintly builder of the iron-chain bridges in Bhutan, which is indicated by a few chain links in his left hand.

Several disciples are allocated to a teacher who guides them on their spiritual path.
Photo by Robert Dompnier