We are poorer by a scholar

August 18, 2020

Drowned by the noise of the pandemic, impermanence has quietly taken away a gem of Bhutanese scholarship, Dasho Sangay Dorji, popularly known as Drungchen Sangay Dorji. 

While offering my condolence to his family, I take the honour to join many fellow scholars and students in paying a humble tribute to this humblest of men. I will spare all the accolades and his achievements. They are all in public domain. Let me just narrate my first of the few encounters, scholarly speaking, which I had with him.

I was researching on a particular aspect of Bhutanese culture and was hunting high and low for its roots in our spiritual traditions or religious texts. Being trained in western social science and engineering, these are not my playground. For weeks I was casting my net everywhere enquiring with just everyone I knew or was listed in in my phone contacts. And everyone told me, “May be you should approach Drungchen Sangay Dorji.” Finally, I managed to reach out to him and ask for help. 

As soon as I uttered my question, he instantly replied, ཀུན་བཟང་བླ་མའི་ཞལ་ལུང་, (Words of my Perfect Teacher by Patrul Rimpoche). He went on to tell me the page number where it appears and also gave me the full context and explanations. I was like, “Wow! No wonder many producers in BBS, where I previously worked, depended on him for any doubts or queries on Bhutanese history or religious studies.”

He was one scholar I truly admired. His book on Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel was my field manual when I made the documentary on the same subject, in 2016. And in the few subsequent interactions I had, he was always gentle, kind, humble and restrained – a sign of true greatness. Never did he show off or imply his multiple State decorations nor his immense repertoire of knowledge.

Our country is poorer by a scholar from today. I guess, the divinities wanted him too, and not just us.

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