Big butter lamp

Buttering lamp

Buttering lamp?

I enjoyed reading your answers to the last Big Picture. And knowing that we’d get a few more interesting answers, I was tempted to keep the question open. But I visited the National Memorial Chorten today, and decided to announce the answer.

The big picture was, indeed, a big butter lamp in the National Memorial Chorten. Dinesh Pradhan answered first. He didn’t mention “butter lamp”, but it’s obvious he knew what the picture was and where it was taken. Dinesh, please contact me, by email, to claim your prize: lunch at the Musk.

The gigantic butter lamp, a tshen barma, is at the National Memorial Chorten. Like most of the other butter lamps there, it was donated by a devotee. This particular lamp holds five and half tins – that’s 88 kgs – of vanaspati, and can give continuous light for three months. That’s a lot closer, literally, to the ideal butter lamp espoused in the original “Marmi Moenlam”. Its composer, Songtsen Goenpo, compares the oil in the perfect butter lamp to a vast ocean, and the wick to an upright cypress tree.

I went to the National Memorial Chorten today to observe the Moenlam Chenmo and Bazaguru Dungdrup that is currently being conducted by the Central Monastic Body. The week-long prayers for the well-being of our country are being led by His Holiness the Je Khenpo.

I’ve posted some pictures of the Memorial Chorten in our gallery.

Guru’s birthday

Monks celebrating Guru

Monks celebrating Guru

Today, the 10th day of the 5th month, the Zhung Dratshang, our central monastic order, performed Tsho-khor for Trel-da Tshechu to commemorate Guru Rimpoche’s birth anniversary, and to offer prayers for the welfare of our country.

The Trel-da Tshechu­­ was first performed, on the 10th day of the 5th month, by Guru Rimpoche to mark the completion of Samye Monastery, Tibet’s first and oldest monastery. The monastery was built by King Trisong Detsen in the 8th century.

This week’s photo banner features monks performing the Tsho-khor for Trel-da Tshechu at the kuenra – the main assembly hall – ­of the Tashichho Dzong.

Eye of the Buddha

Sacred body parts

Sacred body parts

I’m impressed at the response to the “What in our world” challenge I posted yesterday. Your answers were interesting and varied. They ranged from the imaginative (Tshewang Nidup: “…this is the symbol of the sun and the moon”) to the wishful (Phub Dorji Wang: “Eye of our Fouth Druk Gyalpo, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck”). One used the opportunity to express frustration (Sonam Tshering: “Megatron, the evil leader of deception”), while another was filled with adulation (Postman: “Genghis Khan”).

Most of you got the answer: the iconographic eye of Lord Buddha. But, only two knew that it belonged to the world’s tallest statue of the Buddha being built in Kuensel Phodrang, above Thimphu, by Lam Tshering Wangdi.

So we have joint winners: P. Chhetri and Romeo. Please send me your addresses so that I can mail you your prize, “Portrait of a Leader”. For everyone else, the book, a compilation of His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo’s decrees, can be downloaded for the Centre for Bhutan Studies’ website!

The picture, by the way, was taken several months ago. These parts of the Buddha are currently being assembled.

Moenlam chenpo

circumambulating the prayer hall 2Yesterday I attended the moenlam chenpo in Haa and, with my extended family, offered lunch to the devotees. The prayers for universal peace and harmony have been conducted in Haa annually since its inception in 2001. And His Holiness the Je Khenpo has personally led the prayers there every year.

People from every village in Haa, some having walked for several days, are participating in the moenlam chenpo, which is being conducted in the compounds of the Lhakhang Karpo. Devotees from neighboring Paro and Thimphu are also attending the sacred event.

The photograph shows the faithful circumambulating the main prayer hall. You’ll find a few more pictures from the moenlam chenpo in the photo gallery.

Moenlam chenpo in Haa



I’ve posted another set of photographs. They were taken earlier today while accompanying His Holiness the Je Khenpo’s entourage to Haa. His Holiness is in Haa to lead the moenlam chenpo prayers for world peace and harmony.

The moenlam choenpo was started in 2001 by three cousins – Dasho Nob Tshering (a civil servant), Desang Dorji (a businessman) and Nob Gyeltshen (a retired RBG officer). That year, the three of them sponsored the prayers and contributed Nu 100,000 each towards the moenlam chenpo fund. Other devotees quickly joined them and, before the end of the week-long prayers, the fund reached Nu 2,300,000.

The income from the fund (consisting mainly of interest accrued) was to be used to finance future moenlam chenpos, but every year sponsors have volunteered to bear the full cost of the prayers. So the fund has grown steadily, and, by last year, had reached more than Nu 8 million. Part of the money has been spent building a brand new moenlan tshokhag, a prayer hall that can house all the devotees during the annual prayers.

Since introducing the moenlam chenpo in Haa, His Holiness the Je Khenpo has traveled there every year to personally lead the weak-long prayers. This year’s prayers begin tomorrow. And they are sponsored by the residents of Samar gewog, almost all of whom are farmers.

Tashichodzong: summer residence

Blessed Bhutan

Coming to Thimphu

In keeping with tradition that goes back many centuries, His Holiness the Je Khenpo took up his summer residence at the Tashichodzong today, the first day of the fourth month of our calendar.

And, in keeping with tradition, residents of Thimphu rushed to receive blessings from His Holiness the Je Khenpo and the Nangtens (sacred relics) of the Zhung Dratshang, the central monastic order.  Despite the rain, people of all walks lined the streets to welcome His Holiness back to Thimphu. It took the entourage almost seven hours to travel the short distance from Semtokha to Tashichodzong.

This week’s photo features Thimphu residents, some with their entire families, receiving blessing from His Holiness.

Education for all

Consider this: Education will get Nu 9,489.130 million for capital investments during the 10th plan. That is almost Nu 9.5 billion to develop the general education system. That works out to almost 13% of the 10th plan’s entire capital budget. That also works out to more than Nu 60,000 for each of the 157,112 students currently in the education system.

I’m happy that the government is investing heavily in education. Education has been drawing a lot of flak lately – standards are perceived to be falling, schools deteriorating, and school enrolment increasing at the expense of quality. So I’m glad that we are set to change our ways. After all, “the future of our country lies in the hands of our youth”.

Now consider this: The Dratshang, our central monk body, will get Nu 23.041 million for capital investments during the 10th plan to improve its education system. That works out to roughly Nu 7,680 for each of the 3000-odd students currently in the monk body. The money is just enough to build the one monastic school, in Mongar, during the 10th plan. And it looks like no other capital work – school repair and expansion, teacher training, curriculum development or the establishment of libraries – is planned for the next five years.

Monastic education has received little attention in the past. And the next five years threatens to be no different. We should reconsider. There are many more students in our monastic schools than we think. And literally all of them come from the poorest of the poor families.

We should also be concerned. If religious schools are sidelined, their students can easily feel left out and become disaffected radicals. This has happened throughout the world, regardless of religion. Let’s learn from their mistakes. Let us develop our monastic schools along with our general schools.

Quality education is important. And it is equally important for young monks. The future of our country lies in their hands too.

Ap Gyengye and Bhutan

Yesterday, His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo and members of the Royal Family took part in the consecration ceremony at the completion of major rehabilitation carried out at Dechenphug. The rehabilitation was commanded by His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the greatest Dharma King in the world.

I was barely 5 years old when my mother introduced me to Ap Gyengye in Dechenphug Monastery. Since then I’ve visited Dechenphug several times a year to honour Him and to offer prayers for His support. And during the last four decades I’ve seen increasing numbers of people make the pilgrimage to Dechenphug.

Ap Gyengye has served our King, our country, and our people exceptionally well. And our sacred relationship continues to flourish. Gyengye Jagpa Milen Kheno!