Buddhism was introduced in Bhutan in the 7th century by Guru Padma Sambhava. Bhutan was home to many sages and saints including the great saints-scholars like Longchen Ramjam, also known as Kuenkhen Longchen Raamjam, (1308 - 1363). Various schools of Buddhism in Bhutan assimilated other earlier practices and beliefs. The aspirations towards enlightenment and the belief in the widely shared among Buddhists and majority of the innate goodness of human beings are Bhutanese are Buddhists. Hinduism is another religion, practised particularly in Southern Bhutan. The Hindu religion as practised by Southern Bhutanese has many common saints and divinities with Vajrayana, the school of Buddhism prevalent in Bhutan. Buddhism has a significant influence on the values of the Bhutanese and has shaped the institutions, organizations, arts, drama, architecture, literature and social structure. Bhutan's culture, as in other societies, is continually adapting itself in the face of development.
The importance of religious institutions continues in present day Bhutan, as signified by the strength of the monk body who number about 5000 in Dratshangs or Rabdeys supported by the state. This figure takes into account only those monks who are part of the formal monastic structure supported by the state and excludes those who are not part of the state sponsored Dratshangs. The Rabdeys are based mainly in dzongs. Each Rabdey is healed by a Lam Neten who is appointed by His Holiness the Je Kherpo (Heal Abbot), the elected Head of the Central Monk Body. The present je Kherpo is the 70th incumbent. His Holiness the Je Kherpo is the chairman of the nine member Dratshang Lhentshog. Monks continue to play an important role in the daily lives of the people in performing religious ceremonies, and in promoting and preserving traditional scholarship. They are also actively involved in the process of development while constantly renewing their relevance to society in times of change.
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