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Prayers for His Majesty

Historians documenting the progress of human civilization have found a subject that will find a prominent place in all books – the story of COVID 19 and the scars it has left behind. And future generations reading these stories will encounter personalities who shone like a light in the dark, assisting, leading and inspiring people. One amongst them has been His Majesty, our beloved King, who has singularly secured Bhutan from the destructions and devastations other unfortunate nations have had to see and bear. Leading from the start at the frontlines, blending altruism, empathy, compassion and wisdom, His Majesty has given leadership a new meaning. We can boldly and justifiably say that no leader has handled the COVID 19 pandemic successfully like our King has done. And even at this very juncture, His Majesty is in the south, monitoring the porous borders we share with our neighbor. Portraits of our King walking for days at a stretch, in the tropical torrents and heat, to far flung areas inaccessible by road remain heavily in the hearts of all Bhutanese. The question; what can we do for our King rings in the heads of all Bhutanese. It did with CPA, too! After days of contemplation, CPA decided to undertake and observe an event entirely dedicated to His Majesty. The idea of prostration (Changcha) floated amongst members and ultimately, it was decided that residents of the Happiness and Wellness Center, together with CPA staff would embark on doing some¬thing that had never been done in the country – a mass Changcha, on the eve of His Majesty’s birthday. As 2021 also marks the 41st birth anniversary of His Majesty, the proposed event justified almost everything. Prostration is a practice of showing reverence to the presence of the Triple Gem. The Triple Gem is a term used to refer to Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. The Buddha means the fully enlightened one; The Dharma means the teachings expounded by the Buddha; The Sangha means the monastic order of Buddhism that practice Dharmas. For us, as to all Bhutanese, His Majesty is the Manifestation of the Triple Gem. The practice of prostration is deeply rooted in Buddhist teachings. According to Buddhist teaching, prostration manifests the spiritual growth or faith of a person and has itsorigins from the time of Buddha himself. The practice is as ancient as Buddhism itself, and in Buddhism, was performed in front of the Living Bud¬dha in deference to his teachings, and to show reverence to the Triple Gem of Buddha, his teachings, and the spiritual community. When it was decided that the Changcha would be a three day event, starting from the 29th of February to the 23rd, members were excited. For most, it would be the noblest deed they would be performing in their life span. The nobility was reinforced as it was a dedication to His Majesty, where all participants would be praying for their King’s good health, prosperity and long life. This was an opportunity of a life time. And the prostration would begin from the Kuenrey of Tashichhodzong till the historic Tango Monastery. Two weeks prior to the event, participants received Ngondro teachings from venerable Leytshog Lopon of the Central Monk Body. During the teachings, the master also provided instructions on the ways to offer prayers. On the morning of February 10, 2021, 27 recovering individuals and CPA members entered the gates of Tashichhodzong. The time was 0630 hours. It was a combination of the old and young; the youngest was a 17-year-old recovering addict and the oldest 54. All were raring to go, for a cause that transcended the individual’s wishes and aspirations. The act and the cause were both noble. Day One (February 20, 2021) At the Kuenrey of Trashichhodzongat, His Eminence the Laytshog Lopon of the Zhung Dratshang briefed participants about the essence and manners of undertaking the Changc¬hag, its significance, the ocean of merit that could be accumulated and provided preliminary teachings. His Eminence added that a noble undertaking of such magnanimity could not have come at a better time. It was the perfect blend of time and action – the nation was celebrating the 41st birth anniversary of His Majesty the King and our King was engaged in the task of ensuring that His people were not affected by the pandemic. At such a time, we were undertaking the Changcha. At 0800 hours exactly, the prostration began from the Kuenrey. The destination for the day was Pangrizampa and we were to reach there by prostrating along the highway through Langjop¬hakha and Taba. It was a Saturday morning and we did not expect much traffic along the way. But it is a day when people go shopping, especially to the centenary farmers’ market. Thus, a series of vehicles of all types, with various kinds of passengers greeted with a “what’s going on” kind of looks. Some smiled; others waved, while there were also the nonchalant ones. All of us knew that the Changcha would not be an easy one. We were prepared, physically and mentally. But we must acknowledge and put on record here that when one is involved in such a noble cause, there is that stream of energy which comes from deep within which inspires and strengthens. There are those invisible, yet invincible forces that come to your assistance. And this kept us going. Further, people from different walks of life participated in their own ways. Some offered us water and other forms of refreshment. The Bhutanese spirit greeted us along the way and by 1330 hours we reached Taba, where we had lunch. During the break, we checked if all of us were fine and fit to move ahead. We waited for sometime after lunch so that our bodies would complete its digestive and assimilation processes. Revitalized, the journey towards Pangrizampa began. Compared to the first half of the day, traffic was less. We had always underlined that the program could be successfully completed by adopting the tortoise’s mode and not the hare’s. Thus, we moved on, slowly but steadily. Just as the light of the day began to wane, we reached Pangzizampa. Within the premises of the lhakhang, we offered dedication prayers and lit butterlamps. This was followed by dinner and the much deserved rest – sleep – “life’s chief nourisher.” Day Two (February 21, 2021) This was the most important day as it was His Majesty’s 41st birth anniversary. We could have decided to remain at Pangzizampa for the day and engage in reciting prayers for His Majesty’s good health, happiness and long life. But we had decided that Changcha on that day was the most significant one. Prayers and the offering of butterlamps would be undertaken by everyone across the country. But prostration to the embodiment of the Triple Gem would be singular. After a healthy breakfast, the Changcha continued. Our destination for the day was Tago Dorden Tashithang Buddhist Uni¬versity. Unlike the first day, traffic was light. Along the way people offered us water and other refreshments. We could also see and feel that the first day had taken a toll on our body. Different parts of the body ached in various ways. But the spirit is the force behind everything. An indomitable spirit conveys a simple message to all the muscles and bones that complain – you can do it! And they listen. Thus, without any problems, we reached Begana, our lunch spot for the day. The journey after lunch was a unique one. There were hardly any vehicles or people. It was prostration along Nature’s beautiful bounties – lush green trees and music jointly orchestrated by the river and the birds. Such serenity is the best conditions for prayers. And as we moved on, we invoked divinity and prayed for His Majesty’s good health, joy and long life. At around 1600 hours, we reached our destination for the day. The University’s Principal received us with Tashi Khada. We offered butter lamps and rested. Day Three (February 22, 2021) This was the last day of the program and as we woke up, everyone was excited. Though we had a challenging stretch to cover, the last two days’ success was sufficient to generate the excitement. And after an early morning prayer, we proceeded towards the Tago Institute for Advanced Vajrayana Studies. Just as the second day was different from the first, the last leg was an entirely different experience. For most part of the final leg, we had to prostrate on rough foot paths. Theluxury of a modern road was absent. And after seven hours, we reached the Tago Institute for Advanced Vajrayana Studies. His Eminence Gyalsay Choktrul Rinpoche welcomed us and granted Tashi Khadhar. Participants were also blessed with teach¬ings and guidance on living meaningful lives, including the harmful impacts of drugs and alcohol. The sense of achievement that all the participants shared cannot be described. We had participated in a sacred and noble undertaking. It was a moment of intense joy and sublimity. In more than one way, it was a divine moment. And the divinity, sacredness and virtue associated with the program was augmented as Their Majesties The King and Gyaltsuen arrived at the institute. For most of the participants, it was the first time that they were so close to Their Majesties and the first time they were hearing the golden words of His Majesty in person. As it was the last day of the program, staff from CPA who had not participated in the Changcha, but assisted in different ways also joined the participants. Tshogkhor was conducted in honour of His Majesty’s birthday and for the wellbeing of the people of Bhutan and all sentient beings. In the evening, participants returned to the Centre. In the calendars of every individual, institute and countries, there are special and significant moments and days, associated with activities, achievements and other measures of success. For CPA, the 41st birth anniversary of His Majesty our King stands out as the moment of joy and achievement. There is simply no way to justifiably thank and express our gratitude to His Majesty. The best we can do is to pray for His Majesty’s good health, prosperity and long life. The Changcha was one such medium. But it will not become history, buried and forgotten. We have decided that on the occasion of His Majesty’s birth anniversary every year, Changcha will be undertaken. We will also provide all Bhutanese the opportunity to participate and join CPA in this noble and sacred program.

Beyond Thimphu

The essence, significance and nobility of the Changcha Program at Thimphu inspired all participants to engage in more programs of the kind. Participants came with proposals to CPA’s management expressing their wish for another round of Changcha during the 1st month of the Lunar Calendar as it is a very auspicious month. The destination this time was Paro Taktshang. Thus, on the 5th day of the 1st lunar month, corresponding to February 27, 2020, 27 participants from CPA began prostration from the base of Taktshang. Before this, prayers were recited and butter lamps offered. The prostration was done following the trekking route to the Tiger’s Nest. At 1430 hours, participants reached Taktshang. Butter lamps were offered and special prayers recited.

Karma Tshering, 28, is from Lobesa, Punakha. He is a counsellor with CPA. He has been three years clean now. He picked up drinking habit early on. Soon he realised that he had become a hardcore addict. “I really felt that I should stop drinking. My addiction has hurt many people. I let them down. This is my one chance to say to my King, country and the people that I regret the way I spent my life,” says Karma. One of the guys in the group has parents living in Khasadrapchu. As he throws his wooden hand guards on the hard tarmac, making a clacking sound, his parents don’t come to meet him. But people do come along the way to greet the group. Some contribute money, others stuff to eat. Sometimes people sponsor lunch for the group. The group has received financial and other supports from Ugen Tsechup Dorji and KS Dhendup. From the monetary contributions, the group wants to construct a statue to mark their success. These good rogues have a dream. Sonam Rinzin, 33, is from Shermuhung, Mongar. He has been an alcoholic for nearly 20 years. “ We’re all feeling really good. It’s tiring but a very fulfilling experience. This shows the power of determination. All things work if one is determined.” Nima from Wangdue is the group’s oldest. He is 60. He’s got bloody marks on his mask and something ominously red is oozing from his mouth. It’s the betel juice. Nima doesn’t drink regularly but when he does he goes on with it heavily for weeks without meal. His loving and worried daughter encouraged him to join rehabilitation centre in Paro. There he met his friends who are on the road with him today, doing changcha and pulling on. Says Nima: “I can’t handle too much stress. I didn’t even know that an organisation like CPA exists. I come from a different era, you see. But now we are like real good brothers. I am happy that we are making really determined effort.” It’s a new day. Sun is back and the rogues are on their feet. In a week’s time, on March 3, the groups will reach Tashichhodzong, their final destination. There, their friends, well-wishers and family members will be waiting to greet them. It will be an emotional moment for most of them. Slowly but surely, the good rogues are coming.

Kuensel-February 27, 2016 | Jigme Wangchuk

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