The Buddhism of Bhutan
Although all the Buddha’s teachings form one unified body, they may be separated into different layers of the same entity. Buddhists refer to these layers as “vehicles,” which may be defined as systems of practice by which one progresses to a higher spiritual state.
Not everyone has the same emotional, intellectual, or spiritual capacities. We are the product of our pasts thoughts & actions, or Karma, & since our varies, so do our inherent abilities. It is with these differences in mind that the Buddha propagated his various teachings. That is, he did not teach everyone in the same way. To some he taught simple truths, to others more complex ones, & even the simple & the complex had their own gradations. Rather, they graduated from simplicity to complex city, even while dealing with the same subject.
Bhutanese Buddhists believe that the three main vehicles of Buddhism can be arranged in their increasing order or complexity & advancement as follows:
Hinayana or the lesser vehicle, which is dedicated to the propositions that each person has work out his own salvation through monastic self- discipline. Hinayana has been compared to his slow but fruitful walk towards a state of liberation from cyclic existence, which, however, falls short of Buddha hood.
Mahayana or the Great vehicle, which proposes salvation for the entire universe through the intervention of Bodhisattvas- potentially divine Buddha’s who, out of compassion, refuse to enter Nirvana until an sentient beings have been saved. Mahayana has been compared to traveling in a car, where progress is quicker but, at the same time, an accident can be more serious.
Tantrayana, or Vajrayana, or the secret mantra vehicle, which may be said to be a higher expression of Mahayana, & is both esoteric in nature & the quickest path to enlightenment, affording precise techniques to advanced & initiated pupils for attaining the supreme spiritual goal in a single lifetime. Tantrayana has been compared to taking a trip on a supersonic plane – an intoxicating experience granting that no accident occurs, which may very well prove fatal!
Buddhist scholar-saints have brought out the interdependence of the three “yana” in the following observation:
Outward conduct is practiced in accordance with vinaya (Hinayana).
Inwardly, mental activity is practiced with bodhimind (Mahayana).
Practiced in secrecy, Tantra (Vajrayana).
The state religion of Bhutan is Buddhism of the Mahayana tradition, including vajrayana. In the light of what has been said above, it may be added that, from the Mahayana point of view, it is erroneous to talk, as many non practicing scholars do, in such terms as “original Buddhism” & “later developments of Buddhism,” since all the various tradition of Buddhism have coexisted since the time of Buddha & from different str&s of the stream.
It may also be noted that Buddhists do not normally speak of their own religion as “Buddhism” but usually refer to it as the “dharma” a Sanskrit word that in this context, means “to hold one back from impending disaster”.