Rivalry among the Sects

Bhutan Table of Contents

By the tenth century, Bhutan's political development was heavily influenced by its religious history. Following a period in which Buddhism was in decline in Tibet in the eleventh century, contention among a number of subsects emerged. The Mongol overlords of Tibet and Bhutan patronized a sequence of subsects until their own political decline in the fourteenth century. By that time, the Gelugpa or Yellow Hat school had, after a period of anarchy in Tibet, become a powerful force resulting in the flight to Bhutan of numerous monks of various minor opposing sects. Among these monks was the founder of the Lhapa subsect of the Kargyupa school, to whom is attributed the introduction of strategically built dzong (fortified monasteries). Although the Lhapa subsect had been successfully challenged in the twelfth century by another Kargyupa subsect--the Drukpa--led by Tibetan monk Phajo Drugom Shigpo, it continued to proselytize until the seventeenth century. The Drukpa subsect, an unreformed Nyingmapa group in Tibet, spread throughout Bhutan and eventually became a dominant form of religious practice. Between the twelfth century and the seventeenth century, the two Kargyupa subsects vied with one another from their respective dzong as the older form of Nyingmapa Buddhism was eclipsed.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress