As the sun sets in Kanglung, more than 100 people from different walks of life enter the Kanglung Zangtopelri gate and gather at Zangtopelri to earn spiritual merit.
Devotees from different parts of Trashigang and other dzongkhags are making food offerings during the 45- day retreat (Yarney) which started on July 27 while students from Sherubtse College have been volunteering at the event since day one.
A total of 170 monks are taking part in the retreat in Kanglung.
Truelku Sonam Dhendup said that Buddha started the Yarney practice mainly in response to non-believers. “The first Buddhist monks did not build monasteries and temples; they were mostly homeless and begged for sustenance.”
“Non-believers criticized the Buddha’s practice of alms begging, reasoning that especially during the summer walking around for begging killed several animals and insects, from then the Buddha initiated three months’ retreat during the summer,” he said, “Monks would stay in a single location and practice the teachings while laymen would come to the location with offerings.”
Pema Dorji, 62, from Khangma has been attending the Yarney since the start. “The merit that you accumulate during the Yarney and other occasions is different,” he said. “If you do something good during Yarney, the merit you accumulate will be comparatively higher.”
Seventy-year-old Sonam Dema from Kanglung said that she could only offer simple chocolates to the monks. “Unlike other people, I could not offer food to the monks but we reap equal merits from the act of giving.”
Apart from the food offerings and others made by the community during the Yarney, the social service unit and the members of scouts of Sherubtse College had been volunteering at the event.
Scout Coordinator Rinchen Choden said apart from the club’s mandate to serve the community, this is one of the best opportunities for the members to earn merit.
“We had read about Yarney in books and seen in the movies but I actually witnessed it firsthand after reaching Kanglung as a first year student in Sherubtse College,” she said. “Yarney is a new idea for most of the students.”
Meanwhile, Truelku Sonam Dhendup said that during the last day of the summer retreat, monks will carry alms bowls and walk around 5km along the roadside. “Public including students from nearby schools and college will line at the roadside to make ceremonial offeringslike containers of chocolates, chewing gum, sewing needles, matchbox and soaps among others.”
“The alms-seeking round performed by the monks at the end of the Yarney also symbolizes the return of the monks to their respective villages after the retreat,” he added.
Kanglung Thukten Choekorling Shedra adopted the practice in 2011 in order to continue to keep the teachings of the Buddha alive.
The Yarney will conclude on September 9.
Jigme Wangchen from Kanglung, T/gang