A shortage of monks in Tsirang dratshang is making it challenging for the institution to organise religious functions for several years.

The dratshang is looking for at least 100 additional monks to function comfortably. The minimum number of monks required in a dratshang is 115, which the dratshang has but the number isn’t enough to meet the public demand for monks to conduct rituals.

Tsirang Namgyal Choling Rabdey dratshang’s secretary, Lhab Tshering said according to their plan, at least 80 monks are to be kept at the Dratshang on a regular basis while they have to send at least seven monks each and a main monk in the 12 gewogs.  But today, because the dratshang has only novices, they are unable to send them to the gewogs. A lone monk works at the gewog lhakhangs.

Monks leaving the monastic life is one of the main reasons for the shortage. “There are more people leaving than joining,” the secretary said. Every year at least 20 monks join the dratshang but more than 20 leave to become lay monks (gaytae).

The monks study until the eighth standard at the dratshang, after which they choose to either continue their studies in a Shedra or do something else. The secretary said they emphasise on the need to have monks in gewogs so that even if they retire, they will remain in the village to help in times of need.

While the Dratshang was established in 1985 with 25 monks, the requirement of having 115 monks was made in 2008. He said that its time people and local leaders considered strengthening the religious body by increasing the number of people joining the monk body.

Lam Neten Tenzin Namgay said that while the dratshang is already facing an acute shortage of monks, those enrolled in the dratshang are novices. Having a limited number of adult monks hampers the dratshang’s daily activities.

In any given day, at least two or three religious functions are conducted in villages, for which monks are mobilised from the Dratshang because there are none in village lhakhangs. Functions are also held simultaneously in the Dratshang. “That is when we get confused on whether to send them out or keep monks here,” the Lam Neten said. “We’ll be comfortable with an additional 100 monks.”

Lam Neten also added that local leaders have a bigger role to play in encouraging people to join the monk body. “There are several parents who may not be able to send their children to schools. Those parents could be consulted and guided in sending their children to become monks,” he said.

The Lam Neten is planning to visit gewogs to create awareness on the same. “It is the need of the people to benefit people and local leaders have a bigger hand in helping us resolve this issue,” he said.

He was the former Lam Neten of Dagana and he said that the situation is similar in Dagana Dratshang. For the 14 gewogs there are only 207 monks. Dagana would require at least 50 additional monks to function comfortably.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang