Introduction / History
India is a complex mosaic of ethnic, linguistic, religious, and social groupings. Because of this diversity, it is very difficult to adequately describe any single people group.
India may be divided into four main regions: the Himalayas, the northern river-plains region, the Deccan Plateau, and the Eastern and Western Ghats Mountains. Because of its numerous geographical features, climatic conditions are very diverse on both a seasonal and regional basis, ranging from tropical to temperate extremes.
The Sikkimese Bhotia, who are part of this complex cultural milieu, are located mostly in the northern state of Sikkim along the southern slopes of the Himalayas. Their language, Denjonke, is part of the Sino-Tibetan language family.
What are their lives like?
The state of Sikkim is bordered by Tibet and Bhutan. The population is mainly Nepalese, but it includes the Lepchas (the largest minority group), and the Bhotia, a people of Tibetan origin.
Almost three-fourths of India's population lives in rural areas and is engaged in some form of agricultural activity. Sikkim follows this pattern, as agriculture forms the basis of its economy. Cardamom (an Indian spice), oranges, apples, and potatoes are grown for export; barley, wheat, corn, and rice are also important crops. Other economic activities include raising sheep and yak, and mining such minerals as coal, copper, iron ore, marble, and lead. Traditional handicrafts, tourism, and the development of new industry are also important to Sikkim's economy.
Indian culture is primarily Hindu-oriented. Many Hindu institutions, including the rigid caste (social class) system, have wide-ranging effects on secular Indian society. The word "caste" basically means breed, race, or kind. Indian society is divided into hierarchical castes that are usually endogamous (marriage only within the caste). Castes may be defined by occupation or by kinship and lineage, although there are some exceptions. Nevertheless, caste is so fundamental to the social organization of India that it prevails in all parts, except among some of the tribal populations.
Essentially all Buddhist groups in India today are groups who migrated from neighboring Buddhist countries (through choice or to avoid conflict), or who live along the borders with these countries. The basic lifestyle of Buddhist groups in India is not too different from the lifestyle of Hindus. The differences are only found in their religious practices.
What are their beliefs?
The majority of Sikkimese Bhotia are Tantrayana (Lamaistic) Buddhists. Buddhism teaches that right thinking, ritual sacrifices, and self-denial will enable the soul to reach nirvana (a state of eternal bliss) at death. They daily live in fear of their gods and constantly strive to appease them with religious chants, rituals, and sacrifices. Like Hindus, Buddhists believe that existence is a continuing cycle of death and rebirth (reincarnation). As long as a person remains within the cycle of death and rebirth, he can never be completely free from pain and suffering. The cycle can only be broken by achieving nirvana, and only those who follow the Buddhist principles of the "middle way" and the "noble eight-fold path" can achieve that state.
Lamaistic Buddhism was developed in Tibet and then spread among the Mongols and other minority groups in southwestern Asia. They follow the teachings of the Dalai Lama and believe that each person's well-being was determined by his behavior in previous lives.
What are their needs?
Intercession and increased missions efforts are needed. The small number of believers need discipleship materials to encourage and strengthen them in their Christian walk.
* Ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers to work among the Sikkimese Bhotia.
* Ask God to grant wisdom and favor to missions agencies focusing on the Sikkimese Bhotia.
* Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will break up the soil through worship and intercession.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to complete the work begun in the hearts of the small number of Sikkimese Bhotia believers through adequate discipleship.
* Ask the Lord to bring forth a strong and growing Sikkimese Bhotia church for the glory of His name!