Voluntary religious group helps humble families conduct rituals for departed souls

Death is inevitable. So is conducting rituals and reciting prayers for the departed souls, in the Buddhist tradition. An average Bhutanese family conducts religious rituals for at least 21 days when someone dies. They believe doing so will ensure the swift rebirth of the lost soul. However, some families struggle to meet the expenses for such spiritual and religious rituals. To help those who are unable to afford hosting such rituals, a religious group comprising people from all sections of society goes around reciting prayers at the crematorium and other places upon request.

Coinciding with the end of the auspicious first month of the Bhutanese calendar, about fifty members of the Public Nangchhoe Group gathered to recite prayers yesterday in Thimphu.

The Public Nangchoe Group was established in 2014 under the guidance of Leytshog Lopon Sangay Dorji of the Zhung Dratshang. Since then the members have continued to grow. There are around six thousand members in Thimphu alone.

People, from all walks of life, interested in following a spiritual path have joined the group. The members consist of laymen and women such as those working in the business sector, office-goers, and farmers among others. The members gather mostly on auspicious days and sometimes on weekends to recite prayers.

On other days, every time they get a call about someone having passed away, they go to the crematorium to recite moenlam for the deceased and the family as zhabtog. This happens about five to six times a month.

“For people who have passed away, especially from humble households with only one surviving family member left to conduct rituals, our group either go to their house or the crematorium to recite moenlam for them as zhabtog by driving our cars and for free. We have been doing this since 2017,” said Kinley Penjor, one of the members of the group.

“We are very happy and proud that we can go to the crematoriums and make prayers for the departed souls. This way we can accumulate merit for ourselves.  Our group’s service is of great benefit even for ourselves if we pass away or for the sick people as well,” said Tenzin Choden, another member.

“Rich people can afford to request renowned lams and loboes. However, after the Leytshog Lopon initiated such programmes, even at the crematorium when someone has passed away and called us, we immediately go to recite prayers,” said Kinley Pem, another member.

The group intends to continue the voluntary service so long as it benefits the people.

Kinzang Lhadon

Edited by Phub Gyem

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