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The use of Nature

In the Western World, nature and the entire cosmos are seen as the creation of one single god, who made it all available to us for our own use. In our tradition, the final division of the world into heaven and earth, above and below, divine and human is already established in the Old Testament. In the east, however, nature is seen as part of the highest cosmological truth and given tanscendental meaning; this not only in the religious folk beliefs, but also in Buddhist literature.

The gods from the immediate environs of man the rhythm of the seasons and they set the time and space coordinates for the cultivation and use of the land. The times for many agricultural activities are marked by certain rituals to the protective deities.


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Ritual Definition of Borders

Throughout the year, many inhabitants of central Bhutan travel with their herds. In the late spring, they wander from the pastures in the vicinity of the village to the high alpine pastures and only in the Fall do they return. Thereby they follow their Yül* lha who also, depending on the seasons, choose to settle down at various places.


A Sang ritual - with a cleansing incense offering - must be performed by the village community preceding every change of location. Fom this day on in Spring, there is a dividing line between the village with its surrounding fields and the place of residence of the Yül* lha. After the ritual, the Yül* lha leave the vicinity of the village and dwell in the area of the alpine pastures. If after this ritual a herdsman with his livestock comes near a village, the Yül* lha would be angry and could cause illnesses in the livestock herds.

Prior to the ritual the imaginary border is closed: no one can go to the high pastures before the melting of the snow until these can carry the herds. And in turn, it is ensured, that the herds do not endanger the fields before the harvest.

By rituals of this type conflicts are avoided, the harmony in the community remains, and nature is utilzed very carefully as the basis for the economy.

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In the village, Lamas of a nearby monastery perform a ritual for the protective deities in the presence of the village inhabitants. These festivals are adaptations of ancient local festivals of Buddhism, which has left its mark on them, but nonetheless keeps them alive.
Photograph by Anthony Aris

The yaks of the village inhabitants are only allowed to come in the vicinity of the village in late autumn, after the harvest.
Photograph by Christian Schicklgruber