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.