The state religion is the Drukpa Kagyu branch of Mahayana Buddhism, which was institutionalized in Bhutan by Zhabdrung Nawang Namgyel in the 17th century. Besides Drukpa Kagyu, other branches of Mahayana Buddhism, as well as Hinduism are also widely practiced. Religion plays a very important role in the Bhutanese way of life, which has several implications for government policy. Amongst others, the Bhutanese Government’s strong dedication towards conservation of natural resources is rooted in the Buddhist philosophy, where the respect of nature and life are central issues.
Several important Buddhist saints are associated with Bhutan, among them Padmasambhava (Guru Rimpoche), Milarepa, Pema Lingpa, Drukpa Kinley, whose memory is vividly alive.