Anniversary: In a befitting tribute to Guru Padmasambhava, a giant 110-foot thongdrol of the saint that was displayed at Changlingmethang during the occasion of the Royal Wedding, was unfurled before the public, scholars and spiritual leaders of the South Asian region, yesterday.

Addressing the gathering, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said the common and ancient spiritual heritage stemming from Guru Rinpoche is a vibrant strand of unity in the region.

“Scholars, media and spiritual leaders from South Asia need to strengthen scholastic understanding on the importance of Guru Rinpoche through greater research and archeology,” Lyonchoen Tshering Tobgay said.

The birth anniversary, he said, is an opportunity for the region to come together by recognising and enhancing the shared cultural processes centred on Guru Rinpoche.

Back at the conference, the advisor to the central monastic body, Lopen Gembo Dorji validated that Guru Rinpoche travelled the length and breadth of the country verifying that Bhutan is indeed a Baeyul or the sacred land practicing the teachings of the sacred Mantrayana or Vajrayana tradition.

According to the Bhutanese calendar, he said, Guru Rinpoche first visited Bhutan in 810AD, the year of the Iron Tiger at the invitation of king Sindhu Raja of Bumthang.

The local deity, Shelgin Karpo, snatched the king’s life-soul making the king  ill. Guru Rinpoche came from Nepal and entered Bhutan via Nabji Korphug in Zhemgang.

He came to Bumthang, subdued the local deity, and the king recovered.

During Guru Rinpoche’s first visit, Lopen Gembo Dorji said he visited and founded Kurje Drak, Kunzang Drak, Mebar Tsho and many other sacred sites in central Bhutan.

Guru Rinpoche visited Tibet in 822AD to build Samey monastery. On his way back, he said Guru Rinpoche visited Bhutan for the second time with Khandro Yeshey Tshogyel.

He visited 10 sacred places in Trashiyangtse, Mongar and Lhuntse. From Singye Dzong, Guru Rinpoche and Khadro Yeshey Tshogyel flew to Taktshang (Tiger’s Nest) in Paro. He continued to visit Dragkarpo, Dzongdrak, Ragoed, Chimphu, Beyul Rinchenshong and went further  southwest till Sangbekha in Haa. From there, Guru Rinpoche and Khandro Yeshey Tshogyel returned to Jomolhari and then flew back to Tibet.

The third visit, Lopen Gembo Dorji said, was thought to be during Guru Rinpoche’s final journey to the south-west land of the Rakshas (demons) in 876AD of the Fire Monkey Year.

Guru Rinpoche, this time visited 21 sacred places in Thimphu, Punakha and Wangdue, after which he proceeded south via Dagana visiting Thanamkha Dzong and Beyul Gomdrak.

Finally he visited Tumdrak Tshangtshig Ney, one of the 24 sacred sites of Chakrasambhara in Pasakha and proceeded towards the land of Rakshas.

Lopen Gembo Dorji said the Pure Land, Dewachen is also in Bhutan where many practitioners had achieved enlightenment. He said the sacred sites in Bhutan are not only historically significant but are also places of hidden blessings. “Bhutan is like a giant dialysis machine where one can avail free treatment and purification,” he said.

Pointing out differences in the chronological dates on Guru, he said it is difficult to merge history.

The Bhutanese calendar, he said, shows that Buddha was born 3,152 years ago corresponding to the Iron Monkey Year, about three cycles earlier to that of the Tibetan astrology book that shows 2,976 years.

Guru was born 3,060 years ago in the Fire Monkey Year, 12 years after Buddha attained parnirvana in accordance with Buddha’s prophesy.

Although there might be differences in calculations and dates, he said it was necessary to study the life and teachings of Guru Padmasambhava and appreciate his wisdom.

Tshering Dorji | Paro