As the dawn breaks in Kanglung, thick fog engulfs the gewog. Monks clad in saffron robes carrying alms bowls emerge from the Zhangdopelri gate.
These are the monks from Kanglung Thukten Choekorling Shedra on their annual alms-seeking round. The event marks the end of the 45-day summer retreat (Yarney) for the monks at the Zhangdopelri.
As the monks leave the gate, public including students from the nearby schools and college line up at the roadside to make ceremonial offerings.
Kids holding containers of chocolates await their turn to make the offerings. As the monks pass by, everyone drops a chocolate into the bowl. The devotees then follow the monks and accompany the queue throughout the round.
Over the blacktopped highway into the sparse jungle and back to the highway, the long queue covers some 5km during the round. The whole process takes almost three hours.
Devotees from as far as Wamrong have come to make their offerings at the concluding event of the summer retreat on September 19.
Kanglung Thukten Choekorling Shedra adopted the practise in 2011 in line with Buddha’s teachings.
The first Buddhist monks did not build monasteries and temples and they were mostly homeless mendicants who begged for sustenance. Their only possessions were their robes and the begging bowl.
Lopen Tashi Norbu said that the non-believers of the Buddha’s teaching criticised the practise of alms begging, especially during summer reasoning that walking around seeking for alms killed several insects and animals.
“Buddha started the Yarney practise mainly in response to those non-believers,” said lopen Tashi Norbu. “It was from then that the Buddha initiated three months of retreat during summer.”
He said that monks would stay in one single location and practise the teachings. Layman would come to the location with offerings. “It is a practise we are continuing to keep the teachings of the Buddha alive.”
However, today the retreat is practised for 45 days. The alms-seeking round performed by the monks at the end of the Yarney also symbolises the return of the monks to their respective villages after the retreat.
Apart from the food offerings made by the community during the 45-day retreat, the Social Service Unit (SSU) Club of Sherubtse College had been volunteering at the event since day one.
SSU coordinator, Lama Norbu, said that the club has a mandate to serve the community and this is one of the best opportunities for the club members to earn some merit while catering to the need of the community.
“Yarney was a new idea for most of the students when they first came to the college,” said that final year student. “Concepts that we had only read in books and seen in movies were practically brought to life during these 45 days.”
Lama Norbu said that when the monks walked in line with the alms bowl, he felt as if he saw the Buddha. “There is a different kind of satisfaction you get from being a part of such event.”
Seventy-two-year-old Sangay Dorji from Pangthang has been attending the Yarney for the past five years. “If you do something good during Yarney, the merit you accumulate is comparatively higher than on any other occasions,” he said. “Although it’s just a simple chocolate we offer to the monks, we reap equal merits from the act of giving.”
The final day of the summer retreat also saw the business community in Kanglung reap benefits. Containers of chocolates, chewing gum, sewing needles, matchboxes and soaps among others were sold more than on other days.
One of the shopkeepers, Sonam Choden, said that she made around Nu 20,000 the night before the final day from selling chocolates and chewing gums. “All of my stocks were cleared last night.”
Younten Tshedup | Trashiyangtse