Updates from Rukha

SLOWLY and steadily the two temples – one in Rukha and the other one in Lawa Lamga are getting done. It’s been ten years since I initiated the first and almost five since the second got off the ground. The reason for taking such a long time is that I am not a wealthy guy and we don’t have any big sponsors either. Besides, both the villages are not financially strong and do not have many salaried people. The whole village of Lawa Lamga, actually, doesn’t even have a single person earning a regular salary. Rukha has few young people who have started working in the government and in the private sector. And that’s it. Hence, the works there resume when I have some money to spare – and work stops when I am broke. But there is no rush, or expectations. Some day we will get them done. In Rukha, for example, the people there have initiated several minor works to take the project forward – on their own. This is great because they are not depending entirely on me. A lama has been conducting annual mani dungdrup ceremony since 2015. 

On the other hand, both the communities are already happy that, at least, now there is a place for them to gather, a place for them to seek spiritual solaces and a place they now feel complete with. Earlier, the people of Rukha had to resort to shamanistic rituals that involved animal sacrifice. Lamgaps had to conduct their religious ceremonies under tarpaulin sheets and sometimes in battering rain. At least, they have managed to put all those practices behind them. 

Community temples in rural area are not just spiritual monuments.

Community temples in rural area are not spiritual monuments. They serve as a vital social space to bring the community together. Otherwise, in trying to survive in an increasingly competitive world, people get drifted apart. That’s what happens in an urban setting where even close family members rarely meet. Coming together and being together are important social activities that will bond a society and keep the nation together. As Bhutan gets more urbanised (56% now live in three cities of Thimphu, Paro and Phuntsholing), one challenge that the country will face is individualism – and subsequently increasing jealousy, greed, conflicts, materialism and superficiality. Hence, those of us who can, and still care, should support collectivism, community, sharing and togetherness – in any manner we can. We, Bhutanese, want to serve our country. But you cannot serve your country by neglecting the community around you, the communities in front of you. Unless we build strong communities, we cannot build a strong nation.  

Do not postpone good deeds

Now, every Bhutanese wants to be useful and wants to do something for others. It is in our genes. But we also procrastinate a lot. Why should I? Will I get the credits for that? Is he not taking all the fame? Should I do it later? Well, no. You do with faith. You do selflessly. And you start now. Mind you, what you do, or don’t, are all accounted for in the Grand Registry of life called ley dang moelam (karma).

Besides, there is no point waiting. Life is uncertain. So when your time comes, there is something you can take with you – the good karma – your soenam, your gewa and your moelam. So try accumulating as much when you are healthy, alive and kicking. For those interested in getting involved (and receive a share of good Karma, because I don’t intend to hog them all), there are still some balance remaining works there.

You don’t have to be, or wait to become,  wealthy either. Because you will never become one. Being rich is a mindset. It is a matter of perspective. I know people who have everything and think they have nothing. I also know those who have little and feel they have enough and are ready to share. Our desires have no limits.

Also when I was younger, I used to wish that when I grow rich, I will help others. I never became one and, to my horror, in no time I realised that I had turned 40. Waiting. Half of life was gone. You have to start moving your fingers now. Yes, I know we are all struggling to make our ends meet. But if you think you are in a bad shape economically, just know that there are fellow humans, fellow citizens who have nothing.

Rukha Pelden Lhamo Lhakhang

Rukha Lhakhang was consecrated on 25 December 2015 by His Eminence Tsugla Lopen Rimpoche of Zhung Dratshang. It was opened not because it was complete but because the community desperately wanted to the place to be operational. The main tehns (statues) are Rigsum Goenpo (Chana Dorji, Jetsun Jamyang and Chenrizig) and Buddha Sakymuni. The remaining works are:

  • Completion of a separate altar room for Protecting Deity, Pelden Lhamo. (The site is believed to be her abode. It is a powerful place)
  • Re-roofing for Serto (golden pinnacle) installation
  • Serto – golden pinnacle – donated by someone in Phobjikha
  • Mural paintings (Coming. Granted by Gangtey Trulku)
  • Altar painting

Items required:

  • CGI sheets (16 pieces, 12 feet long)
  • Cements (10 bags maximum)
  • Painting works of the main altar (finance and despatch one painter for few days)
  • Thri and chodrom for lama
  • Offering bowls, butter lamps, drum and cymbal for the goenkang

Lamga Community Tshokhang

The community hall and temple of Lamga is little behind. It was started in 2016. And so there is lot to be done. The main statues are Tshela Namsum (Tshepamay, Namgyelmo and Jetsun Droelma) and Buddha Sakyamuni.

The following are the works remain to be executed. What I do is I provide the imported materials while the community does the manual labour. So, any in-kind donations to the project from individuals and institutions are welcome. No money will be accepted. Money corrupts. Money brings disputes and suspicions.

The minor works are:

  • Flooring of the temple (being done)
  • Traditional painting of the altar
  • Purchase of water-offering bowls, and cymbals and doong.
  • Thri-chidrom for lama
  • Gyeltshen, tehnkheb and other decorations

Some of the major works are:

  • Mural paintings
  • Purchase and installation of serto (golden pinnacle)
  • Construction materials for community kitchen and for Lama’s living quarters

However, as I mentioned earlier, as it is the community is already very happy because earlier they had nothing. Just make-shift tarpaulin tents and in monsoon the experience was far from pleasant. Besides, since the temple was up and running there has been a decrease in animal sacrifices all over the valley. This will be another story for another time.

Satisfied? Well, we are extremely proud of what we have achieved. And honestly, it didnt drain me financially that much. This just goes to show how much we can achieve if we put our hearts together.

May our Supreme Protector deity Pelden Lhamo keep us all under her wings

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Rukha village – the home of the Oleps – the original inhabitants of Bhutan
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Rukha temple built on the site of an earlier ruins.
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Chamber allocated for the deity, Aum Pelden Lhamo. Needs to be done. 
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Rukha temple. Main altar room. Done.
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The mountain behind me is sacred to the Oleps
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Lamgaps resettled here in 2005, from Phobjikha, and built their homes after clearing this hilltop called Cheenading. They were doing their monthly rituals under make-shift tents for years.
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Altar of Lamga temple
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We met to finalise the next course of actions and works
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Heaven is a place in Lamga

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