Kingdom of Royal Bhutan becomes serene with the Theravada Buddhist ceremonies

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The religious ceremony performing the traditional Buddhist rites to the sacred Bodhi offered from Anuradhapura Mahaviharaya to the Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan was held on the 27th July 2016 at the royal temple at the palace compound in Thimphu, Bhutan. This very rarely occurred sacred Bodhi from the esteemed Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi of Anuradhapura was a gift from the government of Sri Lanka on commemoration of the 60th birthday of His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the 4th king of Bhutan. This sacred Bodhi has been planted with great reverence at the Takila Temple in the Lhuntse District of eastern Bhutan, the ancestral home of the Wangchuck family.

Completing the traditional ceremonies performed when offering a sacred Bodhi of the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi to a foreign country, this sacred Bodhi was received from Most Ven. Dr. Pallegama Siriniwasa Atamasthanadhipathi Nayaka Thero by the Prime Minister of Bhutan HE Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay on 11th April 2015 at the Anuradhapura Mahaviharaya. Ceremonially taken to the Kingdom of Bhutan, this sacred Bodhi was planted at Takila on 5th February 2016, on the happy occasion of the birth of His Royal Highness Prince Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck, son of the reigning King His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck.

An official delegation from Anuradhapura Mahaviharaya visited the Kingdom of Bhutan to offer an awareness of the traditional Buddhist rites and ceremonies performed for the sacred Bodhi by the Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhists to the people of Royal Bhutan, the only Vajrayana Buddhist country of the world, enabling them to perform religious ceremonies accordingly.

Anuradhapura Mahavihara delegation representing Most Ven. Dr. Pallegama Siriniwasa Atamasthanadhipathi Nayaka Thero including the incumbent of Abhayagiriya Mahaviharaya Ven. Dr. Kallanchiye Rathanasiri Nayaka Thero, Ven. Kirinde Gnanadarshana Thero of Bomaluwa Temple, Hony. Secretary of Anuradhapura Mahavihara Foundation Dr. K.M.I.Swarnasinghe, Mr. Leel Wickramasinghe and Mr. Ranjith Fonseka participated in this important religious and diplomatic meritorious event. With them, Senior Asst. Secretary of the Ministry of Buddhasasana Mr. B.K. Premasinghe and Asst. Director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mr. A.M.K.S. Bandara also participated representing the government of Sri Lanka.

The official delegation of Anuradhapura Mahaviharaya was warmly received at the Thimphu airport by Secretary to the Central Monastic Body of Bhutan Ven. Khenpo Ugyen Namgyel, Deputy Chief of Protocol Ms. Ugen Chosom and Protocol Officer Mr. Sherub Phuntsho. The delegation was escorted from the airport to the Terma Linca Resort. There, the delegation was treated with great hospitality and were taken on short sight seeing trips to see places such as the largest seated bronze Buddha statue, the oldest temple of Thimphu built in the 15th century and other places of worship.

On 25th July, alms for the venerable Bhikkhus and lunch for the lay guests were organized by the Tendrel Initiative Committee of the Royal Birth of HRH Gyalsey at the Hotel Druk in Thimphu. This special occasion was participated by the Second Chief Priest of Bhutan Dorji Lopon, Foreign Minister of Bhutan and other VIPs.

According to the programme, the official ceremony of performing Poojas to the sacred Bodhi was scheduled to be held on 26th July. The road from the capital Thimphu to Takila  where the sacred Bodhi is planted is a very difficult one, winding through the sub Himalayan mountain ranges which takes 2 days to reach Takila. Therefore, the Bhutan authorities had made arrangements to take the delegation to Takila and back by helicopters. However, the mountains were covered with the mist due to the bad weather with heavy rain prevailed in Bhutan. It had become dangerous as well as risky to travel to Takila either by air or by road. Taking these conditions in to consideration, the Bhutan officials and the Mahavihara delegation decided after a discussion to hold the ceremony at the Kuenray Temple at the Thimphu Tashichodzong fortress premises.

Accordingly, this very special religious event was held on 27th July at 2.00 pm at the Kuenray Temple at the Tashichodzong as a simple yet noble ceremony. The Mahavihara delegation headed by the venerable Bhikkhus arrived at the temple were received respectfully. Venerable Bhikkhus of Bhutan headed by the Second Chief Priest of Bhutan Dorji Lopon chanted Pirith to bless the group. Then, a large scale photograph of the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi of Anuradhapura was placed on a special podium in front of the Buddha statue of the temple. Two large Buddhist flags were displayed on either side of it. Ven. Kirinde Gnanadarshana Thero of the Bomaluwa Temple placed the gathering on the five precepts.

After the initial ceremonies, Venerable Khempo Ugyen Namgyel Thero conducted the programme. Hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs Lyonpo Damcho Dorji delivered the welcome speech on behalf of the royal government of Bhutan. Explaining the importance of this rare occasion, he immensely thanked Anuradhapura Mahaviharaya and the government of Sri Lanka for offering this esteemed Bodhi occurred from Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi to the people of Bhutan.

Afterwards, the special message of Most Ven. Dr. Pallegama Siriniwasa Atamasthanadhipathi Nayaka Thero was read by Ven. Dr. Kallanchiye Rathanasiri Nayaka Thero. The message began by offering condolences of Most Ven. Atamasthanadhipathi Nayaka Thero and Anuradhapura Mahaviharaya to the people of Bhutan who were affected by the recent devastating floods due to the heavy rain. It elaborated on the history of Buddhism in Bhutan and the Vajrayana Buddhism as well as the Theravada Buddhism practiced in Sri Lanka led by Anuradhapura Mahaviharaya. Especially it was pointed out that, whatever path taken, the final goal would be to end the suffering of living beings in the samsara and achieve the supreme bliss of nirvana. Finally, most venerable thero wished, may this Bodhi be a beacon for the people of Bhutan to show the path to nirvana. Afterwards, the special declaration authenticating the Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi sapling offered to the Kingdom of Bhutan signed by Most Ven. Atamasthanadhipathi Nayaka Thero was read and handed over to the Ven. Second Chief Priest of Bhutan by Ven. Dr. Kallanchiye Rathanasiri Nayaka Thero.

Thereafter, a special Buddha Pooja complete with Gilanpasa, betel, flowers, oil lamps and incense, was conducted by Ven. Kirinde Gnanadarshana Thero according to the Theravada Buddhist traditions of Sri Lanka. It was a specialty that, all utensils and materials required for offering Gilanpasa Pooja including oil lamps, coconut oil, betel and incense were taken from Sri Lanka. At the end of this Gilanpasa Buddha Pooja, venerable Mahavihara Theros chanted Pirith to bless the gathering. These Buddhist rituals and ceremonies performed according to the Theravada tradition were novel to the people of Bhutan and they observed them closely.

A large photograph of Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, a set of utensils for offering Buddha Pooja together with a book and a DVD containing the information on Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi for the Takila Temple were offered to the Ven. Second Chief Priest of Bhutan by Ven. Dr. Kallanchiye Rathanasiri Nayaka Thero. Two more such photographs were gifted to His Majesty the King of Bhutan and the Bhutan Prime Minister and they were accepted by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. After the speech of thanks delivered by Ven. Khempo Ugyen Namgyel, the noble ceremony of performing Buddha Pooja was concluded.

A special folk dance and song recital was performed at the Royal Academy of Performing Arts at Thimphu for the Sri Lankan delegation. This beautiful performance helped the Sri Lankan delegation to understand the culture of Bhutan.

Thus completing the mission of performing religious rites to the sacred Bodhi, the Sri Lankan group with the Mahavihara delegation left for Sri Lanka from the Paro International Airport among great honor and hospitality.