Today we learned the benefit of asking a Buddhist monk a complex question. For background- We had the opportunity to visit Changangkha Lakhang, a Buddhist temple in Thimphu, where Dr. Karma Phuntsho gave us a brief history of Buddhism in Bhutan; it was a very substantive and informative presentation. Dr. Phuntsho, who has both a doctorate from Oxford and the training of a Buddhist abbot, divides Bhutanese religious history into three phases- in the first, people worshipped nature spirits which lived in the trees and mountains; in the second, Buddhism was the driving force in Bhutan, characterized by figures like the Zhabdrung, the One at Whose Feet We Bow; the third is the current day, the time of layering secular themes upon ancient themes. I really should look into buying his book.
The temple itself was dedicated to a Buddhist god of compassion. A worshipper explained to me that this god sacrifices his own enlightenment to save other souls, but every time he saves all the souls in hell, he rests, and every time he rests, souls go back to hell, and the cycle repeats again. Not a life I envy.
Tomorrow we're hiking to another Buddhist site, the Tango Monastery. I look forward to visiting the monastery and I am assuming the hike there won't kill me!