Honouring Guru Rinpoche And His Lasting Legacy In Bhutan On His Birthday
The birth anniversary of Guru Rinpoche falls on 11 July 2019 in Bhutan.
By Karma Phuntsho | Kuensel
Karma Phuntsho is a social thinker and worker, President of the Loden Foundation and the author of many books and articles including The History of Bhutan.
In Bhutan, Preu Chod (offering or Chodpa མཆོད་པ་ of the Monkey month) and Trelda Tshechu (Monkey Month སྤྲེལ་ཟླ་ Festival) are occasions for devotees to celebrate the birthday anniversary of Guru Rinpoche.
In the Bhutanese calendar, the twelve months are associated with twelve animal signs and Guru Rinpoche was born on the 10th day of the Monkey month.
The importance of Guru Rinpoche in Bhutan
To the Bhutanese, Guru Rinpoche is not just ‘a precious teacher' and a historical figure who brought Buddhism to Bhutan in the 8th century, he is also the quintessential divinity - the foremost spiritual master who is regarded as the patron saint of Bhutan.
Source: Hindustan Times
Regarded as the ‘Second Buddha’, Guru Rinpoche is said to possess miraculous powers, including the ability to subdue demons and evil spirits. His birth was predicted by Sakyamuni and he is also known as Padmasambhava. Padma is Sanskrit for 'lotus flower' and sambhava means 'born from'.
Legend has it that Padmasambhava turned his wife into a flying tiger, then flew on her back all the way to Bhutan. Once there, he is said to have spent three years in intense meditation inside a cave.
Today the Paro Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest) Monastery, which is a very popular tourist attraction, was built on the site of that particular cave.
The iconic Paro Taktsang (Tiger’s Nest Monastery).
Photo: David Lazar
Much revered in Bhutan, Guru Rinpoche’s statue can be found in many homes and monasteries. From the first prayers toddlers mumble to grand state festivals, from fleeting dreams of hermits to formidable public monuments, Guru Rinpoche forms the focus of Bhutanese spirituality and religious culture.
Bhutanese pray to him for health, wealth, long life, safety, happy rebirths, success in business, exams and virtually in all affairs of their lives.
Above all, he is considered to be the unsurpassed guide to enlightenment for the people of Bhutan - the epitome of Bhutan's religious ideals
Preparations done to grace Guru Rinpoche’s visit on his birthday
Bhutanese society is imbued with Guru Rinpoche's presence and blessings. On the day of Preu Chod, Guru Rinpoche is believed to visit all shrines and homes.
Photo: Hindustan Times
In the districts of Bumthang, Kurtoe and Kheng, people clean their houses in preparation for Guru Rinpoche’s visit.
Men go to the forest to pick flowers which blooms around this time as offerings to Guru Rinpoche while the women sweep every nook and cranny of their houses and prepare offerings of food.
It is believed that Guru Rinpoche, with this miraculous power, has the power to manifest himself and enter homes through any openings. This is why people clean, fumigate and fill the entrances and crevices of their houses with incense and flowers.
Guru Rinpoche is believed to arrive by riding the rays of the morning sun, thus offerings of food and drinks are laid out in the morning. People make all kinds of local cookies and offer them with vegetables and fruits.
In some places, special dishes are made and songs are sung. The Preu Chod and Trelda festivals are special occasions to be in the awareness of Guru Rinpoche. It also serves as an occasion to remember the inner values of non-violence, compassion, wisdom and enlightenment which Guru Rinpoche so thoroughly embodies.
This article first appeared in Kuensel and has been edited for Daily Bhutan.