Gods and Sacred Mountains | Animated Nature | The Gods in Everyday Life
A Demon Zoom

The Gods in Everyday Life

In contrast to the gods of the »religion of the gods« (lha chö, here meaning Buddhism), the gods of the »religion of man« (mi chö) play a decisive role in the organisation of everyday life. They not only regulate man's relationship to one another, but also the relationship between man and the world which they inhabit and make use of. Let us examine, by several examples, how the gods intervene in daily matters.

The Gods and the Community

One condition for the benevolence of the gods is, next to the regular offerings of sacrifices, the adherance to ethical and social norms. This applies to both to people's interactions, as well as to individual behavior.

So a young man from the Bhutanese village Jakar, out of greed for money, took a valuable religious scripture from a monastery and sold it. Thereby, the community lost an integral part of its spiritual possessions, because this text was considered to be the collection of the words of Buddha; this is observed by those deities who are obligated to protect Buddhism.

If an ethical or social rule is broken, the god withdraws his protection. By this, the door opens for all the malevolent Numen, that lie in wait behind every corner ready to harm man.



So the transgression of an individual can have a disasterous effect on the entire region - the livestock becomes ill, drought dries out the soil or hail destroys the fields. For this reason, the individual is under great pressure by the community to frame his actions within the social rules.

However, in the aforementioned case, things turned out differently: the sanctions of the gods were limited to the family of the wrongdoer. The thief was discovered by the police and taken into custody. But while still in custody the local god, by a noise, lured the father of the thief onto the roof of the house and let him fall to his death. As the son was still in jail, he had not been able to ask for forgiveness for his deed by performing a ritual.


Stolen Souls

In case somebody, who is not a member of the community, provokes a conflict with the local Yül lha*, the revenge of the gods is thus limited to affecting this person alone.

So the mountain god Ödöpa once stole the soul of an Indian soldier who had disrespectfully commented on the worship of the Yül* lha and on the compliance with their demands. Shortly after this soldier had made these derisive remarks, a black dog brushed past him several times. On the next day he fell ill and died. The black dog was the servant of the mountain god and was sent forth to capture the soul of the mocker.

In general, a Yül lha* can capture the soul of every deceased and keep it with him. The mountain god takes it along when he roams through his region, until he too is finally released from his existence, with all its earthly ties.

Therefore, the ceremony of death has to be performed by a very experienced Lama. Only he can snatch back from the Yül lha the souls of the deceased and lead them to a place that lies out of reach of the earthly gods - either to the »pure land of the Buddha to the east« or to the »pure land of the great salvation« of Buddha Amithaba.

The history of Bhutan
Bhutans religion
Gods and Sacred ..
.  Guru Rinpoche
.  Animated Nature
.  .  Divine Landscape
.  .  Holy Men, Animated ..
.  .  The Gods in Everyday ..
.  .  .  The use of Nature
.  .  .  The Construction of ..
.  .  .  In the Mountains
.  .  The Worship of the ..

Top |  Home |  Sitemap |  Glossary |  The Objects |  Tour |  Help

Mural in a monastery, recently painted
Kebu Lungtsen is – as is customary for gods of his kind – portrayed iconographically as a mythological warrior. The wrathful and belligerent expression signals both his willingness to stand by mankind, helping when in danger, as well as to punish their transgressions.
Photograph by Christian Schicklgruber

Mural on cloth; 19th century; 245 x 121 centimeters; on loan from the Völkerkundemuseum der Universität Zürich (detail)
In various episodes, narrative Thangkas teach about the encounter of holy Buddhist men with entities of the pre-Buddhistic religion.

Thangka; 125 x 77 centimeters; on loan from Josette Schulmann (detail)
There are still a large number of demons who have rarely come into contact with Buddhism and therefore remain very dangerous to mankind.