In keeping with the tradition of Bhutanese astrology the Female Wood Horse Year had been bid adieu on 20th December,2014. And the Female Wood Sheep Year dawned on 21st December,2014. This year of Sheep is considered a pivotal year especially for those who celebrate their 61st Birth Year. His Holiness is 61 years old by Bhutanese calculation and 60 years by western method. In due deference to this pivotal period in life, His Holiness had decided to go into Retreat to spent time in meditation.
His Holiness had already appointed the Venerable Dorji Lopen as his Representative to preside over the Zhung Dratsang. In fact the holy role of Dorji Lopen had commenced on the auspicious day of 21st January, 2015 coinciding with the Bhutanese 1st Day of the 12th month. The Bhutanese Public at large may associate the Day with Chhunipai Losar which is celebrated as a national holiday since several years back. However, the Day has a very different significance to the calendar of Zhung Dratsang.
On this day all monks of Central Monastic Body who have the Punakha Dzong as their official residence are required to be present. It is on this Day that the new calendar year of Dratsang activities begin with the appointments to the all important Kudrung ( Prefect ) Posts by the Je Khenpo and Dhars offered by all monks to the new Kudrongs. This year the Khudrungs were appointed by Dorji Lopen. I therefore assume that the Venerable Dorji Lopen will be presiding on behalf of His Holiness Je Khenpo till 30th Day of the eleventh Bhutanese month.
Presently His Holiness himself is at Autso Kurtey and will be conducting the Moenlam Chhenmo Prayers from 26th February to 5th March, 2015 coinciding with the 8th to 15th days of Bhutanese first month of the year. According to unofficial sources this may be the last religious deed in public before entering the Kuentsam (meditation). Many faithfuls would be heading towards Autsho destination to receive Blessings as well as to get a last glimpse of His Holiness and of course to pray for reunion a year hence.
In his almost 2 decades on the Dharma Throne, His Holiness has transformed Zhung Dratsang and the national religious sentiment, awakened almost every Bhutanese to the call of Wang,Lung and Thri and promoted Buddhist Learning and Practising centres all over the Country. Today many of us feel enlightened in our own religious and cultural ways because His Holiness devoted so much of his time to share with us his immense knowledge and methods.
It is not necessary to be a Buddhist to appreciate the superior qualities of this incredible enlightened personality. His sense of duty, discipline and time management with on the dot kind of punctuality is a class of its own. His enthusiasm, stamina and understanding nature with holy patience superimposed by his energising aura and motionless stillness of a Buddha gracing the Kikhor is a wonder that is felt but impossible to explain. From dawn to dusk, His Holiness lights up the congregations like the rays of the sun as he recites the scriptures and explains in layman term the essence of Dharma. There are even intervals of light moments of laughter as His Holiness touches real life incongruities of social and community happenings as examples to illustrate the inter winding of normal life and Dharma.
On a more personal note, I am convinced that till date His Holiness is the only Spiritual Leader who offered a substantive explanation about the inter connection between the complexities of Buddhist Scriptures and the discoveries made by scientists. That was during the one day Ngondro initiation conducted by His Holiness at the Thimphu Tashichhodzong Tendrel Thang. The discourse was to do with chastity but it was not about oath of celibacy. A happily married man like me do not believe in celibacy unless nature takes over and dictates. It was about seeking refuge, purification and general meaning of life and its relation with the world around.
I really came to know the holy person of His Holiness through Haa Moenlam Chhenmo that His Holiness graced all these past years. And very possibly His Holiness came to know me through my writeup that was adopted by Haa Moenlam Chhenmo General Meeting as the fundamentals for proper management of Moenlam Chhenmo Fund. I was told that His Holiness had even advised few other Moenlam Chhenmo Committees to adopt similar principles.
Although one gets opportunities to hear Dharma teachings and blessings from His Holiness yet one to one audience that may include exchange of opinion is very rare for layman of my position. But a day did come some ten or more years back. His Holiness had granted a date for audience to representatives of Haa Moenlam Chhenmo Committee. We wanted to request His Holiness to grace the Moenlam Chhenmo of the year and to seek convenient time. Dasho( Dr.) Gado Tshering and PJ who are well known to Chapjey and the Lams at the Gokha had initiated the audience process. I happened to be the Chairman of Haa Moenlam Chhenmo. That was how I was among the privileged in the audience at Punakha. In addition to the main topic ' Moenlam Chhenmo' His Holiness graciously indulged my two personal submissions.
One was seeking the thoughts of His Holiness on the famous Jho statue at Lhasa. And the other was that of my pray for His Holiness to continue his ongoing efforts to propagate the Dharma in the many different ways that His Holiness had embarked upon since enthronement on the Dharma Throne.
I submitted that Zhung Dratsang has to be proactive to combat the increasing encroachment of other Faiths. My contention was that if there is lack of propagation or difficulty in practising due to scarcity of monks or costly in terms of finance , our age old religion that has been the historic bond of the nation would dwindle with passing years. In the past most Je Khenpos though learned were aged and travel conditions difficult and poor economic status and gruelling lifestyle worked against Dharma propagation which required for people to have the time to listen and reflect. Now Times and economic situation had changed and motor roads connected all Dzongkhags. And in His Holiness the Kingdom now had a very learned Trulku who is in prime health with immense enthusiasm and stature. I hoped and prayed for a kind of religious renaissance.
More than a decade later today I stand in respectful admiration for the super human deeds of His Holiness in propagating the Dharma through Wang Lung Thri ; through establishment of many Drubdeys, Sheydra and Lobdras, Moenlam Chhenmo in various Dzongkhags, free funeral ritual services by the Monk Body through out the Country and the construction of Mitruk Lhakhang with the assistance of Veteran businessman Ap Shey Marb Rinchen near Thimphu Crematorium complex to cater for after death 21 days rituals. The Mitruk Lhakhang is now in service with outer residences built by the Government.
There are so many achievements by His Holiness and the Zhung Dratsang during the last 19 years. The one outstanding would be Dechog Khorlo Wang at Punakha in terms of pure religious empowerment and in terms of enhancing political sovereignty of the Kingdom, it has to be the act of evoking the full force of the Palden Drukpai Chhochang to lead the nation under the brave and wise Supreme General His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck to rid the nation of insurgent forces who had infested the dense jungles of Southern Bhutan.
I am told that the first Je Khenpo His Holiness Pekar Juney was on the Dharma Throne for 21 years and died whilst still reigning. The beautiful imposing Chorten in front of Thimphu Dzongkhag was built as a Memorial to His Holiness I am told. Learned historians would be in actual position to authenticate the historical facts. I know for sure that His Holiness Nizer Trulku was on the Dharma Throne for 17 years and the present Je Khenpo His Holiness Trulku Jigme Choedra would be nearing 20 years.
In deep gratitude, admiration and respect for the Soul of Dharma, I share my feelings on the eve of the Retreat that His Holiness would be soon undertaking. I pray to Lord Buddha, Guru Pema Juney, Goen Tsebarme and Risum Goenpos for successful Retreat and for the opportunity to see His Holiness in good cheerful health after the year long Meditation.
Thank you most Holy Tsawai Lam. I learnt much and owe so much. I have a clear conscience but my heart is heavy for future is never certain. In your Blessings I have found my spiritual refuge.
May Your Holiness return to continue the Dharma task you have begun so profoundly. With deep Respects and Prayers for your sound health. Sangey of Haa Wangcha .