Of faithful’s voluntary service

Chhimi Dema

The choeten at Lungtenzampa in Thimphu, where according to Buddhist lore Phajo Drukgom Zhipo and Khando Sonam Pelden met for the first time, is clean and serene. A little way down from the choeten the Wangchhu roils with boisterous summer force.

Sonam Drukpa

Sonam Drukpa at Lungtenzampa choeten

Here, right beside the busy highway, come the faithful, from early dawn until late in the evening. Many believe that the sacred meeting and union of Phajo and Khandro was so auspicious that deities built the choeten. Some say, saying prayers at the choeten brings luck and fulfils one’s wishes.

Sonam Drukpa, 68, from Punakha, has been taking care of the choeten and its surrounding for the last 10 years.

“I volunteered to do this,” he said. “Because it is a sacred site.”

Sonam wakes up early and does the cleaning and make offering on the altar. He spends most afternoons preparing butter lamps. After that, he does some more cleaning so that the choeten’s surrounding is spotlessly clean.

Sonam was a machine operator with the Construction Development Corporation before he decided to take up caretakership at the choeten. He has lived in Thimphu for more than 25 years.

“The first time I came to Thimphu, it was a village. There weren’t many houses and roads,” said Sonam, who repainted the choeten’s roof with the help of a few friends. After seeking an approval from the thromde, he constructed two additional rooms at the choeten—an altar and a room for offering butter lamps.

Sonam Drukpa said that the number of people visiting the choeten had grown over the years.

“I am very happy with what I’m doing,” he said. “Besides, I also get to pray for the well-being of all sentient being.”

The job doesn’t pay him. But he is fine with it.

Sonam said that the cases of vandalism were increasing these days. “What is prompting them to commit such sacrilegious acts, I cannot figure out.”

Recently, someone had tried breaking into one of the rooms.

What would happen and who would take care of the choeten when you’re gone?

Sonam said he would continue as long as his two feet can hold him up. “I am sure someone will come to take care of this sacred place when I am gone.”

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