Tshering Palden 

Religious ceremonies and rituals are indispensable to the lives of the common citizens but many aspects need to change especially given the Covid-19 situation, His Holiness the Je Khenpo said in an address to the public on March 29.

At the heart of His Holiness’ address was the message to maintain social and physical distancing and comply with the instructions on precaution for Covid-19 from the government.

“If it were most indispensable to the lives of the laity, then the members of the clergy will have to fulfil their needs even at the risk of their lives,” His Holiness said.

While people are obligated to perform funeral rites, there is no need to rush to Thimphu or Punakha to conduct them. There are cremation grounds, monastic bodies, and a lam in every dzongkhag, which would more than amply fulfil what is necessary.

His Holiness said that for the deceased, it is immaterial how many vehicles follow it to the cremation ground, the size of the crowd, or the number of food items placed before it.

“There is no need to assemble a crowd at the cremation ground or during the rites later,” His Holiness said, adding that given the situation such behaviour is unadvisable.

What is important is that those who miss the funeral need not worry about others’ bad-mouthing and the relatives too should not expect others to gather. Condolences could be conveyed through telephone.

The health ministry has prohibited any form of gathering. “We have to abide by that and if we don’t then we risk not just our lives but endanger the entire country,” His Holiness said.

“The best one can do is recite the mantra of Chenreyzig and dedicate it to the deceased.

The old practice was that even during important religious ceremonies there were no large gatherings.

Conducting prayers for the living or annual family religious activities, a monk alone would suffice.

“Or you could call the monasteries or monastic schools and deposit the offering in terms of cash in the bank accounts of monasteries,” His Holiness said.

His Holiness said that authorities were taking every necessary precaution and if Bhutanese could abide by the government’s orders. “Today, since the disease is well contained, it is easy to control. If we fail to act now, things could get out of our hands.”

Besides many prayers and rituals that are underway, His Holiness urged those in retreats, monasteries, and the public to recite the mantra of Avalokiteshvara. The 10 nunneries in the country are asked to conduct recitation