Religion: In front of the largest Buddha statue that overlooks Thimphu valley is His Holiness the Je Khenpo.
Sitting still in the meditation posture, HH the Je Khenpo recites the Zangchoed Moenlam or “The King of Aspiration Prayers”, which is for liberation through supplication of the Buddha’s teachings that began from yesterday.
More than one thousand monks from various monastic institutions, shedras and lobdras, and devotees from the western region are sitting in front HH the Je Khenpo and reciting the Moenlam in a single tone under the sun. They will continue until November 8.
This is HH the Je Khenpo’s 17th Moenlam Chhenmo, the King of Aspiration Prayers, which is considered as the most profound aspiration.
In the two decades that he has served as the 70th Je Khenpo of Bhutan, His Holiness has so far presided over 17 Moenlam Chhenmos in the country.
One of the monks in attendance said HH the Je Khenpo has only three more dzongkhags left to cover: Bumthang, Punakha and Gasa.
What is the Moenlam Chhenmo?
The Moenlam Chhenmo is Buddha’s teachings, which is basically praises to the 22,000 Buddhas of the past, present and future. The Buddha Sakyamuni himself composed these praises to honour the deeds of the 22,000 Buddhas in the form of aspirations.
The Buddha in the King of Aspiration says: “Through the true and boundless merit, attained by dedicating this ‘aspiration to good actions’ may all those now drowning in the ocean of suffering, reach the supreme realms of Amitabha.”
The Zhung Dratsang’s Letshog Lopen, Sangay Dorji, said that the King of Aspiration is Buddha’s teachings based on the sutra. “It is the aspiration of all Bodhisattavas, which is why it is called the King of Aspirations.”
Benefit of Moenlam Chhenmo
The King of Aspiration says: “For as many aeons in those realms, whoever truly makes this aspiration of good actions, will be never again be born in the lower realms.
Further it also says that all negative acts, even the five immediate retributions, whatever they have committed in the grip of ignorance, will soon be completely purified and if they recite this aspiration to good action they will possess perfect wisdom, beauty and excellent signs, be reborn in a good family, and with a radiant appearance.
The ultimate benefit of reciting Moenlam Chhenmo is taking rebirth in the land of Buddha Amitabha. The King of Aspiration says: “May the Buddha Amitabha himself grant me the prophet foretelling my enlightenment.”
HH the Je Khenpo initiates this aspiration prayers to give an opportunity to all the citizens to inculcate good merit and prevent them from taking birth in the lower realms said Lopen Sangay Dorji.
During Moenlam Chhenmo the clergy headed by HH the Je Khenpo also recite prayers of Neten Chudrug (the sixteen Arhats), who are considered the representatives of Buddha Sakyamuni. The Buddha’s texts say that the sixteen Arhats appeared after the parinirvana of Buddha Sakyamuni to fulfil his wishes and aspirations.
Among the major spiritual tasks that HH the Je Khenpo initiated is Kachoed or teachings on Preliminary practice of Drukpa Kagyu tradition. Except Thimphu and Gasa, His Holiness gave Kachoed to all the dzongkhags since his enthronement as the 70th Je Khenpo in 1996.
HH the Je Khenpo also abolished the practice of cash offering during the funeral rites. When it was widely in practice, people especially from financially disadvantaged groups faced difficulties in collecting the required money when their family members and relatives died.
Following the abolishment of this system, the people from all walks of life irrespective of rich or poor are able to do their funeral rites at the crematorium.
HH the Je Khenpo also encouraged vegetarianism in the country. The monks of the central monastic body are no longer allowed to use meat food items during any religious activities.
The people of western Bhutan who were using meat during the annual puja (Lochoed) could also minimise use of meat after HH the Je Khenpo discouraged it through teachings and spiritual advices.
Every year, His Holiness the Je Khenpo gives ordination to monks of the country as well as the monks from other Himalayan countries such as Ladakh, Sikkim, Darjeeling, and Himachal Pradesh in India.
The ordination, which is an advanced vow in the Hinayana tradition of Buddhism, is recognition of a full-fledged monk.
This kind of ordination is given to a monk who has observed certain vows for over a period of time and has been qualified to receive the advance vows.
HH the Je Khenpo in 2012 also gave Pel Dechhog Khorlo Dompai Wang, which is the most profound and secret empowerment in Kagyu Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.
Pel Dechhog Khorlo Dompai Wang or Chakrasamvara in Sanskrit is one of the principal deities in Drukpa Kagyu lineage.
It is believed that Chakrasamvara appeared as a yidam (Tutelary deity), from the perspective of emptiness, which is the embodiment of self-realised ultimate truth of Cheku Dorji Chang (Vajvadhara).
It is illustrated through a mandala, where the central deity, Heruka, a male, is depicted in a divine embrace with Dorji Phangmo (Vajaravahi). Heruka is shown with a blue body, four faces and 12 arms.
The devotees from all over Bhutan gathered in Punakha to receive the teachings, which is rarely empowered in public.