Special prayers


The Zhung Dratshang, our central monastic body, concluded the “Druk-lo Doe-choed” prayers yesterday. The prayers are performed once every 12 years to usher in the year of the dragon, and to secure peace and prosperity for the people and all sentient beings.

The banner features some of the 300-or-so monks involved in the 5-day prayers at Punakha’s Puna Dewachen Phodrang.


Zaedja Pagsam Thishing

Captivating stories

Yesterday, I had the opportunity of visiting Rigsum Goenpa in Bomdiling, Trashiyangtse. The monastery is famous for its history, sacred artifacts and, most of all, its murals.

If you visit Trashiyangtse, make sure to do the 2-3 hour trek to Rigsum Goenpa. The trail is broad, and the views of and from the monastery are spectacular.

And once you get there, make sure to visit Lhakhang Wogma, the lower monastery. That’s where you’ll see the rare and exquisite murals of the Zaedja Pagsam Thishing, which is an account of the Buddha’s 108 previous incarnations. These include the popular “Thuenpa Puenzhi” in which the bird was the Buddha’s previous incarnation. And the story of a man, another of the Buddha’s earlier incarnations, who allowed a starving tigress to feed on him so that her cubs would survive.

I couldn’t find the depiction of these two stories. But I did find some others that I recognized. Like the story, pictured here, about the gigantic snake that encircles a group of merchants, and prepares to devour them. Just then a lion and an elephant (the previous incarnations of the Buddha and Shariputra, his foremost disciple, respectively) attack the snake and rescue the merchants. But both lion and elephant are fatally wounded by the snake, and die shortly thereafter. The grateful merchants erect a chorten in memory of their saviors.

Searching for stories in the extensive Zaedja Pagsam Thishing murals is difficult. But it is enjoyable too, especially if done with family and friends.

And here’s the best part: you don’t need to travel all the way to Trashiyangtse to enjoy these murals. The same ones adorn the walls of the Druk Wangyal Lhakhang in Dochula.

Droelma Jig Chompa

The Central Monk Body offered three days of continuous prayers throughout the country for the people of Japan. Yesterday, the officiating prime minister, speaker, chairperson, cabinet ministers, MPs, civil servants, and other well wishers joined Japan’s new ambassador to Bhutan, the resident coordinator of JICA, and Japanese experts and volunteers at the Kuenrey in Tashichhoe Dzong to participate in the concluding day of the prayers.

Lopen Gembo explained the prayers and delivered the following statement on behalf of the Dratshang:

May I take this opportunity to welcome all to Tashichhoe Dzong to take part in this very special ceremony of propitiation and chanting of the Mantra of Drolma Jigchobma – the Wisdom Mother Tara, the great protector. For kind information, the ceremony was initiated by the Royal Government and started on 18th March and is performed in all Monk Bodies and institutions in all 20 districts. Please allow me to give a brief description of the service.

In our Bhutanese belief, Tara is regarded as a Buddha of compassion and action. She is the female aspect of Avalokitesvara (Chenrezig) and in some origin stories she comes from his tears and became the most compassionate Tara, emanation of the activities of all Buddhas.

In terms of grace and achievement, all Buddhas are same. But due to their aspirations and prayers made during their path to enlightenment, they differ in their powers of blessings. Arya Tara generated Bodhichitta and took the vow to benefit all sentient beings and safeguard them from all unseen threats in presence of Buddha Amogasidhi. Since then, Arya Tara tok successive incarnations. She continuously performed enlightened activity for the benefit of sentient beings. She emanated into twenty-one forms of Tara, and through these emanations dispelled various sufferings of countless sentient beings.

In the absolute state of enlightenment or Buddhahood, everyone is one and equal. However, we are relative beings living in a relative condition. Therefore, we sometimes need different things at different times, different remedies for different causes. Because of this, apart from the 21 Tara, she had manifested in innumerable different forms to help our relative problems.

Not only is supplicating Arya Tara beneficial for clearing away the four major obstacles of anger, pride, attachment and ignorance embodied as fire, poisonous substances, ocean and demons. It also heps to clear away all hindrances and disasters caused by the four elements. Therefore, Arya Tara is referred to as the undisputed protector from the eight great fears. Using the power of Tara’s mantra, visualization, creation of the Mandala and generation of immense positive energies, we hope to divert all negative energies and various unseen hindrances. Thus we presume this religious ceremony will restore peace and harmony in the affected region.

The Monk Body of Bhutan humbly acknowledges the continuous assistance provided for decades by the people and government of Japan. We are very thankful for that and hope this small gesture and ritual service will uplift the spirits of Japanese people and create favorable conditions to overcome the disaster. At the same time, please accept our sincere prayers and condolence for those effected and lost lives. We do share your concerns and hopes and will continue praying for strengthening our good relations.

Thank you all once again for taking time to join us in this special ceremony.

Happy Dashain!

Invoking Ma Durga

Yesterday, I joined Thimphu’s Hindu community to mark the conclusion of the nine-day Durga Puja. During the puja, the Goddess Durga’s blessings were invoked for the long lives of Their Majesty the Kings, and the peace, prosperity and happiness of the people.

The sacred ceremony, which has been organized annually since 1981, is still conducted in a make-shift temple in the PWD Colony. So I’m happy to hear that the government has allotted land in Thimphu to build a proper mandhir.

Today, I wish my fellow Bhutanese who observe Dassera, a very happy Dashain! I’m off to celebrate this auspicious day with my relatives.

Prophesy fulfilled

Eyes of compassion

Many years ago, while resting in Mesina, Je Geshe Gedun Rinchen, surveyed the horizons, and predicted that, one day, a monastery would be built on the high hill that stood before him.

Yesterday, that prophesy was fulfilled. In a sacred ceremony, His Holiness the Je Khenpo consecrated Bhutan’s newest monastery, the Sangchhen Dorji Lhendup Lhakhang. The monastery, built in traditional Bhutanese style, stands on the prophesized site, a prominent ridge overlooking almost all of Punakha, Wangduephodrang and Toebasa.

The monument was painstakingly built by Yab Ugyen Dorji over the last two years, and is a showpiece of traditional art and craft. The stone masonry is precise, the wood carvings are intricate, the murals are exquisite, and the gigantic bronze statue of Chenrigzig Chagtong Chentong – crafted completely in Bhutan – is simply awesome.

The monastery also demonstrates that our spiritual heritage continues to flourish – it was presented to His Majesty the King and the people of Bhutan, and has already become a seat for higher education and meditation for nuns.

Sangchhen Dorji Lhendup Lhakhang and its accompanying stupa now occupy the high ridge that once returned Je Geshe Gedun’s benign gaze. There’s no doubt that the perspicacious Geshe could already see that the countless travelers passing through Mesina would admire the monastery – featured in our banner – and offer quiet prayers for all sentient beings.

Today, at Kuensel Phodrang

Summer residence

His Holiness the Je Khenpo and the central monastic body took up their summer residence in Tashichhodzong last Saturday.

This week’s banner celebrates this centuries-old tradition. The gallery has a few more photos of the soelthap arriving at the Tashichhodzong.

Praying for help

Lam Sangay

Yesterday, at the opening ceremony of ECB’s annual conference, I sat near Lam Sangay Dawa and his student-monks from Semtokha shedra. They were there, beside the choesham, microphone in hand, ready to preside over the sacred marchang ceremony.

The marchang, which was composed and popularized by Zhabdung Ngawang Namgyal, is an offering of wine – an oblation – to the lama, yidam, pawo, khandrum, choechong sungma, neydag and zhidag to secure their blessings for the removal of obstacles, and for the successful outcome of the endeavour being inaugurated.

Naturally, the sacred ceremony is important. And Lam Sangay and his monks were at hand, happy to provide the spiritual and psychological support needed to ensure the success of the new endeavour.

And what was the endeavour? It was the Election Commission of Bhutan’s Second Annual Conference. But Lam Sangay Dawa, who would lead the prayers, did not know it. He hadn’t been told.

So after exchanging a few pleasantries, he turned to me and asked, “What are we inaugurating today?” He explained that he needed to visualize the purpose of the marchang ceremony. And that he wished to offer his own prayers for the successful outcome of whatever it was that we were launching.

We had asked Lam Sangay and his monks for their help. And they had obliged. But somehow, we had forgotten to explain why we needed their help – why we wished to invoke our guardian deities.

And it’s not just the ECB. Lam Sangay Dawa, who is 56 years old and has already spent 46 of those years in the monk body, confided that he’s hardly ever told why he’s asked to perform the sacred marchang ceremony.

Born again

Our last poll says that almost half of us go to our villages at least once a year. And that 83% of us go to our villages a minimum of once every five years. That is good. As increasingly more of us abandon our villages in favour of city life, it becomes that much more important to stay in touch with our roots. And to support our relatives back home.

Our next poll is a continuation of the previous one that asked if women face discrimination. Think about it carefully.

Traditional fertility treatment

Fertile grounds

Fertile grounds

I read, with interest, Kuensel’s story about Tibetan traditional infertility treatment that is said to be effective in treating 70% of women who are unable to conceive. The same article quotes the National Institute for Traditional Medicine as confirming that serkhaps (golden needle acupuncture) and traditional medicine can successfully treat infertility.

But, in addition to traditional medicine, we, in Bhutan, also seek fertility from a wide range of local deities, monasteries, and festivals. Chimi Lhakhang, for example, has granted offspring to countless struggling couples, including international tourists.

There are many interesting stories about Chime Lhakhang. If you know any, please share them here.

The photograph of Chime Lhakhang is from Bhutan-360.com