for it is in the minds of men and women that the defences of peace and the conditions for sustainable development must be built. ~UNESCO

Monday, September 12, 2011


The Shedra
The 9/11 date is so well known around the world and especially to the Americans. This was the day in 2001 when the mighty twin towers were destroyed, the day when thousands of lives perished, a red-letter day in the history of America.
Today, 9/11 but 2011, and after the death of the mastermind behind the 9/11 terror,  I am at Khotokha Rinchenling Shedra (Monastery) to offer tea and Lunch to the 250 monks there. I went up on the 9th and we were four in the group. One member in the group was Mr. Carson, who works as a contract teacher at our school. We reached Tashi la by Rope way at 4PM. Then we got a ride on a Tripper truck where the truck rocked us from one end of the trunk to the other. It became dark when we reached Khotokha valley. The monks received us with hot tea and dinner.
Then we were led to the guest room. The guest room was elaborate with an attached toilet and electric geyser too.  The guide monk told that we have to be up by three in the morning and was a very odd time for me as I am usually a late riser.The monks there are always up by 3 AM and take very early dinner, at 5PM.
I dedicated these lamps to the unfortunate souls of 9/11
At 3 AM, a monk came to wake us and we woke up with much struggle. After our washing and pouring, we went to the retreat hall. The monks were on the summer retreat (yaer-ney) for one and half months. The retreat hall was mainly used for the discourse, presentations, and debates. In the morning, the programme was scheduled for taking the vows for the day and some recitations. The morning programme lasted until 7 AM. Then, we went to light butter lamps and I dedicated the offerings to the departed souls of 9/11/2001 and all sentient beings. We had our breakfast after that and we were free till 11 AM.
The Library
I had nothing in mind than to rush back to the guest room and take a sound nap. But, my nap lasted for a very short time. I was up by 9.30 AM.  Then, we went for a campus tour. The monastery does have a beautiful environment. Flowers were plenty with different butterflies and bees hovering around. The lawn was also maintained well with fresh and well-trimmed grasses.  I began to click at anything I saw.
Monks entering the retreat hall in the Main Lhakang
At 1O AM, we had tea which was sponsored by our group (our group includes most staff from Samtengang MSS). After that, it was again campus tour. This time, we found the Monastery shop. Monks ran it and the rates were subsidized rates and I found the practice an exemplary one.
After the blessing programmee
We were then called to gather in the retreat hall at 11 AM. It was the time for religious discourse by the Principal of the Shedra. We were fortunate to receive the teachings of the Buddha and also the presence of two truelkus (Reincarnation of revered lamas) added more air. One was the reincarnation of the 69th Je Khenpo (head abbot of the monk body) and the other was Rechung truelku. We received blessings. As of the discourse, it was on how we should ask pardon (shag pa) for our sins. If put simply, the Lama spoke on the following- We commit sins as we live our lives but we should beg for pardon; and it is very important to do so.  We should, with full dedication, offer our pledge and ask for forgiveness. The lama touched on how human beings commit different crimes. He even narrated related stories. One particular story I liked was that of King Asoka. According to the story, Asoka was not a Buddhist initially and was always committing sins. In one case, he was told to kill 1000 people to attain enlightenment. So, Asoka build a temple for the purpose and appointed a man to lure visitors into the temple and kill them. The murderer, appointed by Asoka, was successful and the number he killed reached 500. When he reached the above number, a Buddhist monk accidentally reached Asoka’s temple. He begged for a week’s time when the man in-charge tried to kill him. The monk was so afraid that he meditated very strictly for the week. At the end of the agreed week, he was rewarded with supernatural power. Then he went to the man who he was to kill him and asked him to kill him. The man started a big fire, put a big frying pan over it, and heated the pan till it turned red hot. The man then lifted the monk and threw him into the burning pan.  But, the monk flew out every time the man threw him into the pan. The man was shocked and reported to Asoka. Asoka talked to the monk on how he did the miraculous thing. Upon some answers, Asoka knew that the monk was a Buddhist monk. Then, Asoka stopped his killing spree and converted himself and his subjects to Buddhism. This is how Asoka became a great Buddhist king.The discourse lasted for an hour.

It was blessings time after the discourse. All the sponsors (Jin-das in Dzongkha) were called in and blessed by the words of the revered ones. We were also awarded scarves (khaddar). It was some clicks with the scarf and then off to lunch.  The lunch was a vegetarian one but it was very scrumptious. It is believed that food at monasteries are blessed and are always delicious. I began to agree with this belief.
After lunch, we made ourselves ready for the return journey. A tractor was there to reach us to Tashi La. The ride on the tractor was fun, especially to Mr. Carson who was travelling in a tractor for the first time. The bumps nearly made us pour out our delicious lunch. It took us an hour to reach Tashi la.
Then it was again a cable ride. My friends were more confident as it was their second one. The most interesting thing that happened on the return flight was when we could see the scenery below at the highest point of the ropeway’s trail. The area was full of mist or cloud when we were going up. Carson was amazed to see the height though he has climbed skyscrapers taller than this. The ropeway takes 30 minutes to cover the area. We were tired and satisfied when we started our engine and began the rough road to Samtengang. 



Rinchenling shedra is a government monastic school with 250 plus monks. The monastery is about 12 years old. The place Rinchenling is one of the 8 'Lings' in Bhutan. 'Lings' are associated with the great scholar Kuenkhen Longche Rabjam who spread the teachings of Buddha on a great scale in Bhutan. He founded eight places and each place he founded and blessed has the 'Ling' added to at the end of the place's name. Some 'Lings in Bhutan are Tharpaling in Bumthang, Kuenzangling in Wangdue and 6 more including the shedra.
The shedra is built in the typical Bhutanese style of monastery but it is equipped with all modern fecilities like electricity, geysers, phones etc. The place is a heaven on earth with surroundings full of flowers and without any litters seen around. The lawn is of international standard and is a treat to the eyes. The buildings are grand with beautiful Bhutanese paintings. There is one main building which acts as hostel  for the monks and quarters for the lopens aka teachers. The main lhakang/temple is three storied. The ground floor acts as retreat hall, debate hall, discourse hall etc. There are three main statues in the ground floor- we can be fortunate to view and get blessed by the Buddha statue in the center, zhabdrung and Guru on the two sides.  The temple of the founding lama is on the second floor. Below the lhakang, we see the beautil one storied library. There is also a small cottage where the reincarnation of the 69th Je Khenpo reside. The monks enjoy themselves with volleyball and movie shows in the dinning room, during off hours.One would enjoy to visit such a place for pilgrimage as you can feel the air of sacredness when you are in the area. And, it is obviously a great place for monks to learn and practice.  Visit yourself and be blessed. The valley is also an enchanting one to get a break from your everyday lives.

The retreat is locally known as Yaer ney  which means summer hermitage. Monks do this retreat for a month and half where they do intensive studies. They are not allowed to travel outside the fences during the same. Monks also sacrifice dinner during the retreat. Senior monks do presentations and debate everyday. I found out that the retreat is a practice passed down since the time of Buddha.
I am sorry as I don't have the capacity to explain further.


The other box traveling on its path
I don't really know for how long the cable has been there but I know that it was initially installed to serve logging purpose. It looks very scary when one views people travel in it but you would enjoy if you get in to ride the only passenger carrying ropeway. The aerial views of the changing vegetation, yonder valleys, paddy fields, animals, water falls, cliffs, farm houses, people and other views are views of a life time.  The ropeway is situated at Chuzomsa, 9KM from Wangdue town. You have to pay Nu.150 to get a ride and will take half hour to cover the distance, which is abot 6KM long. The cable car carries passengers at 8 AM in the morning and 4 PM in the evening. When it is not passenger time, it serves to transport logs from Khtokha coup and also transports potatoes and other loads for the villagers. Everybody fears that one might fall into an accident when you travel by the ropeway but it is quite safe to travel. There is no history of human casuality in the history of the machine. There were some cases when passengers got stranded for some time (a woman stayed stranded for a night and to my knowledge, she holds the record of staying stranded). If you visit the Shedra in winter, you can drive up the 20 plus farm road but you have no other choice in summer, unless you love to hike uphill for 4 hours.

taking a tour

Me too

Paddy fields as viewed from the ropeway

In the box and on air...

The cables disappear in the thick mist

Clicking all the way

The road, the river, the paddy fields from the cable

On the highest point- nothing but the sound of the pulleys and fog/mist/cloud, god knows

Nothing... and nothing...

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1 comment:

  1. Ngelung Drechagling in Phobjikha→ one of the eight Lings established by Kunkhyen Longchen Rbajam. To read please click the link below.