Mountains, Buddhism and History of Bhutan


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Mountains, Buddhism and History of Bhutan.

The religious interpretation of the landscape and its gods was such a basic experience that it survived under Buddhism and continues to play an important role in the daily life of the people.

Within a multi-level system of meanings, the mountain was able to retain its position as the most important spirirual reference of everyday social and economic life for those living beyond the bounds of moansteries. For the monks inside the monastery the mountain is proctector of the Buddhist doctrine and is included in the entourage of the great gods.

With the arrival of centralized power and of Buddhism, the ‘Land of the Sacred Mountains’ also received the sprit. The incorporation of sacred mountains into written texts brought about two developments which at first glance seem contradictory: on to one hand, popular cosmologies were subordinated to those defined by the new religious centers and the mountains gods took their place in the hierarchy as flowers from the effects of written word per se, in that their role was now securely recorded and thus claimed veracity.

Textual rituals concerning the mountain gods usually follow a basic pattern. The yulha and his entourage (wife, servants, relatives, etc) are invoked with an iconographic description. Once the group is thus installed, the most varied offering are presented. Then it can be asked for protection and fulfilment of every kind of wish, ranging from protection Buddhism to safeguarding the basics of Physical existence.

Once the worship of the yulha was incorporated in ritual texts, the mountain became embedded in a generally applicable and practicable religious context. Previously, worship of the mountains became had been the exclusive territory of the local religious specialist; the necessary knowledge had been transmitted orally. Now every body with the right to study the holy scriptures and perform the relevant rituals was able to communicate with the mountain. The local religious dignitaries were joined by lamas from the monasteries- relation with the holy guardians became delocalized. The localized power far away from the locality.

To gauge the consequences of this situation for political history we have to look beyond the borders of Bhutan, where no relevant source material exists, and propose a structural model based on the methods of comparative ethnology.

The spread of Buddhism in Tibet during the eighth and ninth century helped to consolidate the central power. Those members of old nobility who opposed the central ruler, were all adherents of the old pre- Buddhist belief. During the often violent conflicts between the nobility and the king, the ‘nine brothers’ reappeared as the ruler’s witnesses to the power of Buddhism. These pre- Buddhist mountain gods endorsed Buddhism, a religious increasingly embraced by those siding with the kind.