Coinciding with the welcome arrival today of the Dratsang to Thimphu from its winter residence in Punakha, I wish to share the salutation I had drafted in August, 2012 after attending the Thri-Lung-Wang in Haa Dzongkhag. His Holiness has many followers within and outside the Kingdom of Bhutan and in sharing my thoughts I hope to hear from other disciples their sentiments.
In the name of Dharma, propagation of faith in Buddha and promotion of peace and the well-being of Bhutan, I humbly offer salutation to the greatest of living Buddhist Saint, your Holiness Trulku Jigme Chhoeda.
1. Your Holiness has travelled the length and breadth of this Kingdom and have bestowed upon the multitudes of Bhutanese of all walks of life the opportunity to receive Thri-Lung-Wang Blessings.
2. In the history of Bhutan no Saint has been able to bring the Teaching of Lord Buddha to doors of so many households in such a short span of time. The people of 20 Dzongkhags are fortunate that such a Jhe Khenpo presides over the Institution of Buddhism in Bhutan.
3. Your Holiness has the unique knack of relating Buddhist Teaching to scientists and house wives, to everyday life happening and historical events, to both Buddhist and non Buddhists.
4. And your Holiness possesses the energy of the ocean. I just cannot comprehend how it is ever possible to impart teaching from dawn to dusk, everyday and in every Dzongkhag. Age 57 is well past those energetic 20’s and 30’s and yet the serene smile, the compassionate composure and social enthusiasm with the unique dharmic voice never diminishes.
5. Cremation was the most problematic task that faced bereaved families. Now thanks to benevolent rules introduced and implemented (yes implemented which is the most important part of a rule), cremation procedure is so simple if one is satisfied with simplicity. One needs fire wood, a match stick and the corpse for funeral. Everything else is done by the Drastang in the twenty Dzongkhags. But ofcourse if the bereaved family wishes to show case the funeral, then it involves more money to pitch colourful tents, arrange banquet for hundreds of guests who come with gifts, seek special Wongku Lopen and construct new impressive Thakur.
The Mitruk Lhakhang at the Thimphu cremation area is a wonderful refugee for all the disadvantaged families and the lost souls of their members that need direction to the next world through the period of void. I wish that the Royal Government is more forth coming in copying the exemplary venture that your Holiness has under taken with Mr. Shamab Rinchen, in other Dzongkhags.
At the national level, I wish to express my deep gratitude for the televised appearances that your Holiness made to console and provide moral and spiritual strength to the nation during last year earthquake and the Wangdue Dzong destruction by fire. It was thoughtfully gracious of your Holiness to share the public fears that such natural disasters inflict and attempt to fill the void that hearts cannot escape from experiencing.
I now have realized that the Drastang has a special role in the hearts of the people during such national crisis. When such fear and losses strike, the direct and allied victims feel haunted and hopeless. An honest approach to such calamity is the best condolence. At their weakest moment, people do not want to hear official interpretation and censored news. Your Holiness provided a much needed truth and consolation. I also wish to thank and express my appreciation to the Zhung Drastang Lopen who was heartbroken and publicly spoke the truth -“a lot of Nangtens could not be saved”.
Initially the official and BBS version was as if the fire of Wangdue Dzong was prearranged. The Dzong burnt away as if it was a temporary hut made of bamboo mats and yet the officials and news broadcast claimed all relics were saved. Why does victims need to be further victimized by more lies? There is something so rotten with some people’s way of addressing national grief.
Please your Holiness continue the way you and the Lopen had approached the calamity regardless of how bad the situation was and how much grief would be further caused by the truth. The people of Bhutan have the right to know the truth. How do people regain their faith and trust if they are deceived in their weakest moment by their own officials and news channels?
Now as a Haap, I wish to touch upon what seems to be a historical bond between Miriphensum, Ap Chhundu and Trulku Jigme Chhoeda. Haa just happened to be the first to receive Thri Lung Wang from the 70th Jhe Khenpo. And Haa I think just happened to be the first to be blessed with the 1st Moenlam Chhenmo by the 70th Jhe Khenpo. (May I thank your Holiness for enabling the built up of Haa Moenlam Chhenmo fund and for so graciously blessing the system I had set up for proper management of the fund). It seems Haa also just happened to be in the western most part of Bhutan and yet have so many devotees from other Dzongkhags come and sponsor events and offer Ku Sung Thue Mindrel during Moenlam Chhenmos and especially during this year’s Thri Lung Wang. Somehow religious events in Haa conducted and blessed by Trulku Jigme Chhoeda always had a flair of festivity, happiness, rainbow adorned sun, the orderly flow of the events and the pureness of mind and soul that forms an unbreakable chain link between the guru and the devotees.
How can we Haaps ever thank your Holiness for all the days of “enlightenment that Haaps experience” every year for that brief duration of your visit? If someone else told me about it, I would have taken it as a great fairy tale too good to be true. I feel most fortunate to be one of the many grateful Haaps to be so privileged.
Miracles I feel fortunate to be a part of during the Thri Lung Wang at Haa from 2nd to 18th July, 2012.
1. The recitation part was over for the day and explanation talk to help ordinary devotees to comprehend the teaching was about to begin. It was raining heavily and the sound of rain falling on the tin roof rather deafening. His Holiness says, “I will try to get through to you despite the sound of the rain”. Suddenly as if it was controlled like tap water, the thudding roof sound softened. I looked out, the shower had just turned to drizzle and within 5 or so minutes, it stopped completely.
2. In our village, household members don’t sleep at night. They are out patrolling the fields against wild animals. And yet invariably the next day someone’s field has been devastated. Then three days into the Thri Lung Wang, when I returned home at 7 pm, there was smile. The reason “the fields were untouched last night”. And so it continued even the next day. After the 5th day, I asked people from other villages and they too confirmed the sudden halt to marauding wild animals.
3. His Majesty the King visited Haa and came to see His Holiness. All devotees were seated in the arena of wang complex. What I noticed was a strong breeze out of nowhere as if to announce the presence of invisible deities and petered off gently as the two temporal and spiritual personalities sat in the antechamber next to the Kikhor. Later others tell me of double rainbow around the sun. A friend had even taken a photo to show around. Definitely a good omen for His Majesty, His Holiness and the Nation.
4. The religious programs start at 5:30 am and end at 6 pm. There were breaks for 25 minutes at 9:30 am and 3:30 pm. And lunch break from 12:30 pm to 2 pm. It did rain in Haa as it rained in other parts of the country but somehow as devotees travelled to attend the blessing in the early mornings or returned to place of residence late evenings, there was no rain to hinder. I never had to use an umbrella to take my breaks which is a rare convenience in the mist of monsoon.
Most devotees felt these were miracles performed by the Jhe Khenpo. I felt otherwise. I do not think His Holiness would want to interfere with the working of the nature. But someone was controlling the weather. That’s for sure. I think it was the Deities of Haa who were being exceptional host to their exceptional guest His Holiness Jhe Khenpo.
His Holiness shares close affinity with Haaps and their Deities. The Deities welcome and protects him and the people of Haa, a few years ago, even requested His Holiness to become a Haap and have census under the Haa Dzongkhag. I don’t think we Haaps should be so selfish. We have to share His Holiness with all others though it is our prayer and wish that the annual blessings in Haa be always an occasion to renew our love and reverence for His Holiness and receive blessings from him.
The Title of Jhe Khenpo in Bhutan
I remember reading some articles in the past where heads of other buddhist sects or high lamas and trulkus were referred to as ‘Jhe Khenpo’. This type of trend is both confusing and disturbing. In the Kingdom of Bhutan, there is only one holy person who has the right to hold this title, ‘Jhe Khenpo’ and that is the Head of the Central Monastic Body of Bhutan. I feel that the Ministry of Home & Cultural Affairs needs to put emphasis on this decorum which should be followed by all those residing or visiting Bhutan.
His Holiness was addressed as ‘Yishey Norbu’ by the Tibetan Drastang educated Khenpo Tandin Situ of Haa during his off the sermon very entertaining talks to the public in Haa. The salutation ‘Yishey Norbu’ is generally used by Tibetans for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I agree that Trulkus are in a way jewel of god but let ‘Yishey Norbu’ be the accepted reference for His Holiness the Dalai Lama and let us the Bhutanese preserve and protect the title of Jhe Khenpo for our Head of the Central Monastic Body. Let us not corrupt or dilute the unique references. I think the saying ‘to each his own’ is a good advice to follow. The other Trulkus in Bhutan, regardless of Buddhist sects, must acknowledge that there is only one Jhe Khenpo title in Bhutan and that is the official title for the Head of the Central Monastic Body of Bhutan just as the title of Druk Gyalpo is for the King of Bhutan.
Buddhism in Bhutan
As a citizen of Bhutan, I am very proud of our King, our Dratsang and our democratic government. I realize that the Dratsang is financially well endowed and well regarded by His Majesty the King and the Council of Ministers led by the Hon’ble Prime Minister. His Majesty the King and the Cabinet have diligently stood by the age old tradition of paying their homage to the Shabdrung instituted Dratsang every time the winter and summer change of residence takes place for the Kham Soum Singye and the Dratsang led by His Holiness the Jhe Khenpo.
Buddhism is an integral part of Bhutan and is the soul of sovereignty, culture and tradition. Its part and parcel of Bhutan and Bhutanese life as is the snow on the summit of Mount Jhomolhari throughout the seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter. Did any Bhutanese see Jhomolhari without its snow cap or for that matter does anyone want the snow cap to melt and suffer the consequences of eco-system collapse? The Constitution of Bhutan has taken away this soul of Bhutan. Buddhism has been relegated from its centuries old position as the State religion of Bhutan. It was Buddhism that nurtured and consolidated the Kingdom that we now cherish as our Home and Country. How can we disown the very architect of our unique existence? I have pleaded in vain against this act of monumental sacrilege and gross breach of Thadamtsi. However my voice is a cry in the wilderness and so never heard. And yet I continue to do so because I believe the echo in the wilderness can still be heard by Kuenchosoum if not by people. A good seed thrown into the wind will take root someday, somewhere to bear fruit. And a good thought if uttered in all goodness of tradition will someday make possible the crowning of lotus upon the ocean of Bhutanese polity.
I hope that in the foreseeable future, the leaders of Bhutan and the legislators will take unto their consideration the absolute necessity of reinstating Buddhism to its national status for the wellbeing of Bhutan and the Bhutanese people. I do not think that we need to chop our head to fit the new cap of constitutional monarchy.
Dratsang is not a political institution and monks are barred from political activities including voting. This I think, in a way, is in keeping with the tradition. The Dratsang has had no direct role post Shabdrung era as to which Penlop killed which Penlop and then occupied the national administrative seat of the Deb Raja. But all Deb Rajas still revered Buddhism as the State religion. I do not think any foreign nation or new religious groups that crop up in Bhutan has any spiritual or moral right let alone political right to demand otherwise. Buddhism as State Religion of Bhutan does not in any way hinder the practice and spread of other religions in the Kingdom.
May our Kingdom be always blessed with truly Holy Souls representing Lord Buddha like His Holiness Trulku Jigme Chhoeda.