The Exhibition in Leiden | The house altar

The house altar

The area is concerned with the syncretism of Buddhism and pre-Buddhist natural religion, which manifests itself highly impressively in the rituals to mountain deities which are performed according to Buddhist principles.

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The Exhibition in Leiden
.  Bhutan, Land of the ..
.  Leiden, Room 2
.  The fortresses - monks ..
.  The altar
.  The teachings of Buddha
.  The house altar
.  The monarchy, part 1
.  The monarchy, part 2
.  The ethnic groups of ..
.  The throne room
The Preparations for ..
The Exhibition in Vienna
The Exhibition in ..

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The cosmology divides the world into three levels : heaven, earth and the underworld. The enlightened Buddhas and saints are beyond the world, and beyond these three spheres of transmigration. The gods reign in heaven, while nature spirits rule the underworld and share the earth with man. Like celestial gods, they are believed to have supernatural powers to influence the life of man and his living environment. Many have been tamed by Guru Padmasambhava, who turned them into the tutelary deities of the community. They had been worshipped by the people during the pre-Buddhist times, and were thus integrated into Buddhism , to continue to serve the people’s need for some superhuman support. The religious needs of the lay population cannot be satisfied by striving for enlightenment alone. These people must make their living under difficult environmental conditions. To that end they need the support of divine powers. The Bhutanese live in immediate vicinity of their deities. Every appearance of nature, such as mountains, lakes, rivers but also every piece of arable land is ascribed to a supranatural being. Because they are so powerful, the world actually belongs to them. Some gods grant fertility, others curb evil demons or give strength in war. The most important tutelary deities are embodied in the Holy Mountains. They protect the people who were born and who live in their sphere of influence. In return they expect regular veneration and oblations. But the mountain also exacts harmonious relations from the people of his territory. If only one individual should break a social norm the mountain can withdraw its protection from the entire group. Thus the individual is under strong pressure to perform her/his actions within the framework of the social rules. The holy places must be kept clean. Should the gods be disturbed or their sites defiled they might take revenge upon the humans.