“Life is not a puzzle to be solved but a mystery to be lived,” writes a Buddhist scholar, drawing from the vast wisdom of Vajrayana, known to many Buddhist practitioners as “crazy wisdom”. For Bhutanese people, this is a wisdom that we may not be able to explain but it is an unmistakable sense within us.
The February 5 snowfall was a phenomenon we will not forget. When an entire population wakes up to extraordinary surroundings, including a snow-clad Punakha Dzong, it is tendrel. Our astrologers explain that this is no cosmological accident; it is divination. But, as ordinary beings, we ask, what is the sky telling us?
As the auspicious flakes showered Punakha Dzong His Holiness the Je Khenpo wrote that “the white snow descends from mountains to show its solidarity with a nation in lockdown”. His Holiness discerns this as a message from the three roots – Lama, Yidam and Khandro – to pacify the pandemic.
All this on the day we celebrate the birth anniversary of His Royal Highness Prince Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck, who was himself born in a year coinciding with the birth year of none other than Guru Rinpoche, 400 years of the coming of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel to Bhutan, and the fifth birth cycle of the Fourth Druk Gyalpo.
Yes, this is a difficult moment when we are suffering a lockdown. But we are not living in normal circumstances. We are being challenged to exercise discipline at a time when the entire world is battered by a crisis that has crippled societies, derailed economies, exacerbated international politics, and wrought illness and death in the millions.
For Bhutan, snow is auspicious. For our elders, it is the sign of a good year to come. For farmers, it means adequate water for agriculture. For development planners it means water to turn hydropower turbines. For environmentalists, it is a warning that we do not forget the importance of ecological balance.
We are reminded again that good tendrel does not just happen. It does not mean that we sit back and wait for pre-destined events to bless us. The benefits of good tendrel is earned. We perform our ceremonies to clear the obscurations and accumulate individual as well as collective merit (sonam). But we make the effort to achieve our goals, inspired by a celestial system in our favour.
“Our work lies ahead of us,” His Majesty The King has often told us. “The future is neither unseen nor unknown. It is what we make of it. What work we do with our two hands today will shape the future of our nation… Our children’s tomorrow has to be created by us today.”
Gyalsey Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck personifies the future. As we celebrate his birthday, nature reminds us to reflect on the legacy that we leave for our children, and our children’s children.