Bhutanese have adapted technology to our culture and social practices, according to a PhD student of Macau University, Dorji Wangchuk.

He said that in the context of how Bhutanese use social media app, especially WeChat, to practice Buddhism.

Sharing a part of his study on ‘WeChat Spirituality: Buddhism and Social Media in Bhutan’ at the Vajrayana conference on March 30, Dorji Wangchuk said his study is an attempt to answer how the existing culture and spiritual practices are adapting and adopting the technology.

“We already have lots of lamas using WeChat to send mantras and teachings from other side of the globe and from different parts of Bhutan and India,” he said.

More than 50 percent of Bhutanese population use WeChat.

Dorji Wangchuk said there are people, who get Tara empowerment via WeChat from their Lama based in Sikkim, a WeChat group of about 200 members conduct a collective Jamyang Seldep prayer and report to the coordinator in the Wechat where they have recited over 13 million chants and there are Khenpos that bless people and recite mantras through the WeChat.

“I myself had to resort to astrological services from an astrologer who is based in Trashiyangste from Macau after I saw a bad dream of me swept by the river,” he said. “Then he blessed me on the WeChat after conducting Barchay Lamsay and I sent the evidence of the service.”

Dorji Wangchuk said Bhutanese living abroad resort to WeChat while trying to appease the local deities like tsans and gyaps, who become wrathful if regular rituals are not performed.

“WeChat helps us to come to terms with our spiritual and tradition demand besides keeping us connected with our family.”

He said WeChat is also used for social mobilisation in terms of promoting vegetarianism and animal rights, which are aligned with the practice of Mahayana compassion.

“The study also saw that there is a lot of pragmatism in the way we practice now and it is not like before where people accepted and practised Buddhism blindly,’ he said.

Dorji Wangchuk also said technology is a reality and cannot neglect and if there is one thing that is the biggest threat that is technology, which is no more neutral.

“Our spiritual tradition is still alive but strong cultural needs to be instituted in our people. If we want technology to keep reappearing in the use of our spiritual practices then these have to be supplemented with strong cultural foundation.”

He added Vajrayana teaching is timeless and they are not at all diluted in any form, but the medium has kept changing.

Dorji Wangchuk is currently pursuing PhD specialising in socio-linguistics and Buddhist communication.

Yangchen C Rinzin