Yarney: The 150 monks of Paro Sangchoekhor shedra (monastic school) have started their annual 45-day yarney (summer retreat), where they essentially remain within the shedra, focus on religious practice and skip supper.
The retreat, which lasts for six weeks, began from the 15th day of the 6th month of the Bhutanese calendar and concludes on the 29th day of the 7th month.
“During the yarney, monks observe special vows and strict monastic discipline,” Jigme Phuntsho, a teacher at the shedra, said. During free time, the monks whitewash the lhakhang and clean the lhakhang surroundings.
“They wake up early in the morning and perform prayers and practices and, after 12 noon, monks aren’t allowed to consume any solid food,” Jigme Phuntsho said.
Yarney is considered a significant practice in accumulating merit, and lay people also take part by making a special offering of food to the monks.
The money offered by the people during the 45-day yarney is kept with the lhakhang in-charge and later divided amongst the monks after the retreat is over.
During the weekends, four to five groups of people offer tea and food to the monks. On other days, at least two groups make food offerings.
Monk Sonam said that, at the start of the yarney, he had a difficult time adjusting without dinner.
The origin of yarney can be traced to the time of Buddha Shakyamuni, 2,500 years ago, when it was customary for the ordained community to remain indoors during the rainy season, so that they would avoid inadvertently stepping on insects that flourish on the ground.
In Sangchoekhor, Je Khenpo Gyuenden Rinchen introduced yarney in 1993 with 25 monks.
Tharpaling in Bumthang, Tango and Chari monasteries and Thegchen Dhodhaydra in Thimphu, Shar Khothang Rinchenling in Wangdue, Kidheykhar in Mongar and Sang choekor in Paro follow the practice of yarney.
Sangchoekhor has 150 monks and seven teachers and classes up to sixth grade. From there they either go to Tango monastery for further studies or to India.
“The monks study English as the core subject taught by the monks, who studied English when they were in the school,” said Jigme Phuntsho. “Sometimes, teachers of Drukgyel higher secondary school in Paro come as volunteer tutors.”
This is the 20th yarney at Paro Sangchoekhor shedra.
By Yeshey Dema, Paro