Bhutans religion | Buddhism | The Buddhist ritual | Influencing the world

Ritual for influencing the world

Clerics who have mastered the ritual techniques, do not only perform them for their own redemption. Frequently, lay people ask them to carry out rituals with diverse aims, such as fertility, fending off of demons or a long life.

The tradition of Buddhism practised in Bhutan knows 424 diseases, 360 diverse spirits and demons (dön), who cause illnesses, and 80.000 evil beings (gegs) who put obstacles into people's way. The rituals are directed against these negative forces and against many more which we encounter in this world.



Every ritual, irrespective of what it is used for in the individual case, contains specific religious elements: prayers for the line of descendants of the gurus of the schools, for the Buddhas, for refuge in the Triple Gem (Buddha, his teaching and the community of believers) and for the creation of bodhicitta (compassion for all living beings); evoking the gods, offering Torma, singing of hymns of praise, reciting mantras* and meditating on the deities, asking for benevolence in the present and the future, offering of fare-well presents with hymns of praise; asking for forgiveness for all shortcomings of the ceremony or for incomplete or overly long reading or worship. At the end there is always a prayer of thanks.

Religious practices of this kind are carried out by monastic lamas, village priests (gomchen) or tantric masters (nagpa).

Whoever carries out the ritual, one core aspect of the ritualistics of Tibetan Buddhism is always present: in a certain sense a deity is »objectively« present and makes the rite effective.

One takes offerings to that deity and receives blessings; at the same time one can ask them for fulfillment of the request for which the ritual has been carried out – be it rain, the repulsion of demons, a prolonged life or something similar.

If the cleric who has carried out the ritual believes in the existence of gods, he will never attain enlightenment. For the lay person, however, these deities are real and active. Because of these religious insights and abilities, he cannot escape conventional wisdom; on the contrary, he must be able to live within it. For that he needs the support of religion as he understands it.

The history of Bhutan
Bhutans religion
.  Buddha Shakyamuni
.  Buddhism
.  .  The development of ..
.  .  The image of the ..
.  .  The Buddhist ritual
.  .  .  A path out of this ..
.  .  .  Influencing the world
.  .  .  .  The fire ceremony
.  .  .  The mandala
.  .  .  Musical instruments
.  .  .  Sacrifices
.  .  .  Ritual dough figures
.  .  .  The thread cross
Gods and Sacred ..

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Lay priests (gomchen) have not taken monastic vows. They often live as married men in the midst of village communities.
Photo by Christian Schicklgruber

Thangka; size: 101 cm x 66 cm; loan from Josette Schulmann
Representations of symbolic offerings (kangdzä) are either put up in monasteries or serve as bases for meditations. In the most inner cycle, offerings are given to the protective deities of Sumeru, the world's mountain. At the top of the mountain there is Indras, the palace of the gods. The offerings to the gods range from gifts in skull beakers, pleasing to the senses, to herds of black rams, horses and yaks.