Bhutanese people, around the country and beyond, are offering prayers as His Holiness Je Thrizur has “passed away” and entered Thugs Dam (pronounced Thudam) – a meditative state achieved only by enlightened masters.
In the time of social media, His Holiness’s physical passing away, on Thursday, was shared among devotees within hours. There was a nation-wide silence. Devotees, who included, not just Buddhist practitioners but the average Bhutanese citizen across the country, stopped to offer their prayers for a deeply revered figure. His Holiness always had an impact on people who would stand still with folded hands, feeling blessed, even when he passed them by on the highway.
The beloved Je Thrizur received the Order of the Druk Gyalpo from His Majesty the King for his leadership of the Dratshang (Central Monk Body) and dedication to the country. But he is better remembered for having devoted his life to the strengthening of the Buddha dharma in the country which is often described as the last bastion of Vajrayana Buddhism.
As Buddhists, we do not mourn the loss of a beloved spiritual master but we celebrate his transition beyond this life. This phenomenon is the beauty of Vajrayana and we Bhutanese are strengthened when we see this extraordinary proof of our deepest beliefs.
Nearly every generation of Bhutanese has been fortunate enough to have seen this numerous times as our enlightened Je Khenpos, often spiritual giants, display the unique prowess to live in vivid simplicity, guide the clergy as well as the lay population through sacred practices, and leave this world in a way that becomes a memorable teaching in the meaning of impermanence.
In 1997, His Holiness Je Geduen Rinchhen inspired devotees and baffled medical doctors when he remained in Thugs Dam for months.
In the age of amazing technology, our monks use smart phones to read the scriptures, to communicate within the sangha, and to reach out to the lay community. What we need now is that this amazing technology can be used to transmit the even more amazing spirituality to benefit, not just Bhutan, but the world, especially in these degenerated times.
His Holiness strengthened our age-old belief in the beauty of enlightenment even as Bhutanese society, along with the clergy, sees unprecedented change. Like the past masters who have protected Bhutan’s purity and led countless devotees towards the spiritual path and practice, His Holiness was a realised Drukpa Kagyu master whose spirit, we believe, will continue to watch over Bhutan and the Bhutanese people.
So we have not lost a spiritual guide but have gained stronger spiritual protection.