Almost a month after the Trashigang dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) formally wrote to the home ministry and culture department, seeking intervention to authenticate the legitimacy of two individuals, who claim to be reincarnated spiritual leaders (truelkus), the home minister Dawa Gyaltshen acknowledged the receipt of the letter.

Lyonpo Dawa Gyaltshen said they are looking into the issue and will follow due processes in place to address such issues. “We have to look into it, as the DT wrote to us.”

Trashigang DT, on August 23, forwarded the case involving two individuals of Druk karzay tshethar tshogpa, Karsang and Yeshi Dorji, who is popularly known as Jadrel Yeshi Dorji, of forming a group on a social media platform, WeChat, and conducting deceitful practices.

Local leaders accused the two of allegedly performing religious ceremonies and even blessing people.

While it is only the Trashigang DT that sought the home ministry and culture department’s intervention to authenticate truelkus, the issue is not new.

About five months ago, an anonymous person sought clarification on Facebook about the authenticity of a truelku (reincarnate), who according to the writer claimed to be recognised by a high-profile lam.

A government official, who do not want to be named claiming it is a controversial issue, said most truelku in Bhutan are not recognised as per the 2005 National Assembly resolution that mandates truelkues to be recognised by the truelku ngedzin (recognition) tshogpa.

It was learnt that the truelku ngedzin tshogpa was reconstituted with new members six months ago.

A corporate employee, who is a former monk, said that while truelkus are usually recognised by renowned lams, it has become a necessity for the truelku ngedzin tshogpa to play a proactive role, as everyone has become a truelku. “Most of my friends have become truelkus now.”

Another corporate employee, however, said that as long as a person spreads Buddha dharma and helps all sentient beings, they could be called a truelku. “What matters is the person and not the recognition.”

While the debate on the importance of authentication of truelku can vary, the commission for religious organisation, Choedhey Lhentshog, has a stand to refer to a religious person as a lam or truelku only if their census records and an acknowledgement letter from the truelku ngedzin tshogpa support it.

The chief program officer for Choedhey Lhentshog, Leki Tshering, said they receive many forms in which religious figures refer themselves as truelkus and lams. “We entertain the title only when the census records state they are truelku or lam and when it is backed by a letter from truelku ngedzin tshogpa.”

He said it also applies to pundits, who refer themselves as a swami. “We follow the same procedure with them.”

The 83rd session of the National Assembly in June 2005 resolved that the truelku ngedzin tshogpa should be established to formalise the recognition of trulkus and lams.

A high-level committee was established in August 2005.  The committee drew 14-point rules of procedure for the recognition of truelkus and lams in September 2005, which includes the traditional practice of recognition by the truelku of the biographical sketch and details of his past life.

The director general of culture department refused to comment.

Tashi Dema and Tshering Palden