Saturday, 13 June 2009

Bhutan : Celebration’ barred from Memorial Chorten

12 June, 2009 - Members of the Druk Nangpei Zhoennu, a voluntary association of young Buddhists, expressed their disappointment at not being allowed to start their June 7 programme from the national memorial chorten.

On June 7, Lord Buddha’s Parinivana, the group were barred from entering the memorial chorten by the caretaker, when they came with six of them dressed like Buddha and his first five disciples. They said that the lack of support had led to some of the youth losing interest from become a membership. The group said that the caretaker was informed about the programme a day before the Lord Buddha’s Parinivana and already knew about it.

“I was disheartened,” said a member, Kinley Dorji. “The caretaker, instead of supporting us, discouraged our initiative to promote Buddhism,” he said.

Another member, Tshering, said that the programme was neither a political campaign nor a civil strike. “It was a message on the importance of Buddha’s birthday to every Bhutanese,” he said. “The programme was the first of its kind in Bhutan and we wanted to start from the memorial chorten in memory of the Late His Majesty, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck, but couldn’t.”

Kezang 24, said he waited at the chorten early in the morning to offer a khaddar but when the caretaker did not allowed the group to enter, he could not offer a khaddar. Like Kezang, over 100 people waited at the chorten premises to offer khaddar.

However, the caretaker, Tshering Dorji, said that the group did not have written permission from the ministry of home and cultural affairs to enter the chorten premises. He said that the group, dressed up in robes and singing gurma (a religious song), surprised him. “Except for monks and nuns, laypersons can’t wear robes and sing gurma.”

The home minister, Lyonpo Minjur Dorji, said that the ministry approved the group’s celebration of the Buddha’s birthday but had no idea that it wanted to start from the chorten. He said that the chorten was public property and every Bhutanese had the right to go and cir*****ambulate it. Lyonpo Minjur also said that the group was trying to dissuade youth who were into alcohol and substance abuse by celebrating Buddhism in a modern way. “They aimed at propagating Buddhism among young Bhutanese in a modern way. stopping them was a dicouragement.”

By Tenzin Namgyel

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