Pilgrim’s progress

COVER STORY: Here, at Druk Amitabha Mountain in Nepal, there are thousands of Bhutanese; the place looks like a little Bhutan abroad.  Many are farmers from Trashiyangtse.  They have come here to attend the 6th annual Drukpa council (ADC), and to receive blessings from rinpoches and khenpos of the 800-year-old Drukpa Kagyu lineage.

Druk Amitabha Mountain is located on a hilltop that overlooks the entire Kathmandu valley.  It takes around 20 minutes drive, up from the great Swayambhunath stupa in Kathmandu.  Here is a large nunnery of the Drukpa nuns, Druk Gawa Khilwa.  Winter here is cold, very cold.

The nunnery is spread across more than 50 acres of land.  The nunnery has a gigantic assembly hall, modern and traditional clinics, and well equipped guest rooms.  This is the third time the nunnery has hosted ADC.  This year, more than 30 Drukpa masters, trulkus and khenpos, and thousands of monks and nuns, gathered at Druk Amitabha mountain. Devotees from Bhutan, Ladakh, Nepal, Tibet and India numbered in their thousands.

In 1206 Drogon Tsangpa Garey, the founder of Drukpa Kagyu, saw nine dragons at place called Namphu in Ralung.  He was on his way to establish a monastery.  Considering it an auspicious omen, he decided to call his monastery Druk Sewa Jangchubling and named his lineage Drukpa.

Phurpa Wangdi, 67, is from Bumdeling in Trashiyangtse.  He is happy that he could come to attend the ADC.  He considers this his biggest achievement.

“After having met and listened to the teachings of more than 20 great masters, I feel vastly blessed,” said Phurpa, who became a vegetarian after receiving oral transmission and Avalokiteshvara (Chenrizi) empowerment.

His Holiness the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa who runs the nunnery presided over the Avalokiteshvara empowerment and blessing to more than a thousand Bhutanese devotees, and emphasised the health and spiritual benefits of being a vegetarian.  His Holiness also frequently organises environment conservation activities, such as mass tree plantation and cleaning campaigns.  His Holiness sponsors cataract surgery for elderly citizens and the underprivileged, and saves animals from the sword.

His Holiness said that, if people can generate positive attitude in their daily lives, that actually is true meditation.

Bhutanese pilgrims preparing emadhatsi

“Those, who can’t develop positive attitude, go to the mountains in search of peace and calm environment,” said His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa.

Ladhaki students perform during at the ADC in Kathmandu

Students from Bhutan’s Lungtenzampa middle secondary school, Ladakh’s Druk Pema Karpo school and schools from Nepal presented traditional cultural programmes.

Masters and khenpos taught classical Buddhist teachings, the modern way of practicsing Buddhism, and shared with devotees tips to develop positive attitude, which is the basis of all good deeds in Buddhism.

At the nunnery, Bhutanese devotees got free health check-up by personal physician of His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa, Dr Dolkar.  During the break, Bhutanese devotees lined up at Druk Pema Karpo clinic, where traditional as well as modern medical services were available.

Monks from the Tango University of Buddhist Studies, and monks from India and Nepal held a debate to demonstrate the ways of understanding the essence of Buddhism.  At the same time, in the main temple, more than 100 monks conducted long life prayer for His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo, His Holiness the Je Khenpo, members of the royal family and the people of Bhutan.  His Holiness Gylawang Drukpa initiated the long life prayer.

Nuns enthrall the audience with a kungfu demonstration

Druk Gawa Khilwa’s nuns were an inspiration for the visitor, for their ability to do spiritual and physical activities with amazing calm and skill.  The nuns cook, sweep, perform rituals, assist medical staff, dance drum dance, dragon dance, play kungfu, and take care of finance and canteen operation, among others.

Bhutanese volunteers offer candle light during the closing ceremony of ADC

Like the nuns, Bhutanese volunteers take care of guest management, crowd control, finance, transport, web design and many more at every ADC.  These young and energetic volunteers are the backbone of the ADC.  There were 30 students from Sherubtse College in Trashigang.

Towards the end of ADC, the devotees from Trashiyangtse organised a mass cleaning programme at Swyambhunath.  Before departure, they visited more than a dozen sites in Nepal, including Draphu Maratika and Lumbini, where Buddha Shakyamuni was born.

 

Drukpa in Bhutan

In 1161, Naropa, one of the 84 Mahasidhas, was born as Drogoen Tsangpa Gyarey Yeshe Dorje, who was also the direct emanation of Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of compassion.

As prophesied by Tsangpa Gyarey, his nephew Onrey Dharma Sengey sent Phajo Drukgom Zhigpo to Bhutan to establish Drukpa order.

In the 13th century, Gyalwa Lorepa, one of the two disciples of Tsangpa Gyarey, visited Bumthang and founded Choedrak goenpa.  His followers came to be known as the Lower Drukpa that spread like sand on the ground.

In the 16th century, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal came to Bhutan, following the prophecy of Guru Rinpoche:

 

༉ རི་བོ་གླང་ཆེན་འགྱིང་འདྲའི་སྣ་སྟེང་ན།།

སྐྱེ་བུ་རྣམ་རྒྱལ་བཞེས་བྱའི་མཚན་ཅན་འབྱོན།།

 

“A person, name of Namgyal, will come 

To the place that looks like the trunk of a sleeping elephant.”

 

The elephant nose is the Jiligang hill above Punakha Dzong.

Zhabdrung unified Bhutan in 1651 and established himself as spiritual and temporal ruler of Bhutan.  He re-named the country Druk and people the Drukpa.

 

Drukpa in Ladakh

Taktsang Repa, the disciple of 5th Gyalwang Drukpa Paksam Wangpo, went to Ladakh in 1624 on the invitation of King Singye Namgyel and established the Drukpa order in Ladakh.  His successive reincarnations became spiritual advisors to the Ladakhi kings.

In the 16th century, Chojey Jamyang Pelkar of Bhutan visited Ladakh on the invitation of Ladhaki king Jamyang Namgyel and established Stanak monastery with four branch monasteries.

In 1706, Jamgon Ngawang Gyeltshen went to Ladakh from Bhutan on the invitation of King Nima Namgyel.  Thus, the Drukpa lineage between Bhutan and Ladakh became stronger.

 

Drukpa in Nepal

On the invitation of Gurkha King Shah, the 3rd Druk Desi Chogyal Mingur Tempa sent the 4th Je Khenpo Damchoe Peker to Nepal.  He was invited to perform rituals as the queen did not bear a child.  After the ritual, a prince was born to the king and the queen.  Thereafter, the king appointed Je Damchoe Peker as the spiritual advisor to the King and Chila (representative of Bhutan).

Je Damchoe Peker established many Drukpa monasteries.  Lhakhang Nyingpo in Swambhunath was the first.  The later monasteries are at Rasujila, Langdra, Kalang and Hajo.  Later, Je Damchoe Peker appointed Gashey Sherub Dorji from Themnangbi in Mongar as his successor.  Geshey Sherub Droji established Goeden Nga – five monastic centres.

Gashey Sherub Dorji appointed his own nephew, Kuzhu Tsechu, as his successor.  He became the close friend of late King Birendra, and was able to promote religious and official relationship between Bhutan and Nepal.  Kuzhu Tsechu established Drukgoen Sangay Choling monastery in Kathmandu.

Today all 15 monks of the monastery have completed Buddhist philosophy and literature from Tango Buddhist College, and completed the three-year retreat from Chari gonpa.

By Tenzin Namgyel, Kathmandu

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