Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche’s address
to the Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative Launch
At the Chokyi Gyatso Institute for Buddhist Studies, Deothang, 18 Dec, 2010.
Translated from Tshangla-Lo by Tshewang Dendup
Compared to talking face to face with you, it is much more difficult to talk on camera. It is also difficult to remember all the things I want to say. Even so, on the occasion of the launch of the Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative, I would like to convey my deepest gratitude to you for being here this weekend.
I have been thinking about an initiative like this for some time. But it was only the last time when I visited Deothang in March this year that I really got to talk about it with our friends and the people of Deothang.
In general in Bhutan, lots of changes and progress are taking place. Some of these could be good changes, but it is difficult to comment on them because it is hard to distinguish if the changes are good or bad. What we think is a good change this year could be a bad one next year.
Following the wishes of our monarchs to establish democracy, we now have democracy in place, and in line with these developments, it is important for the people to shoulder our responsibilities and start fulfilling our responsibilities and activities properly. Based on that, the idea was to start a project like the Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative and see what it can bring forth, even though the project is not on a big scale.
However, I want to make one thing very clear. There are those who understand this clearly and very well. But on the other hand, those who don’t might embark on this venture with pomposity and a lot of hullabaloo as if they were setting up a new association, organisation, or party. Some people like to go around saying that they are members of a special organisation and they exude an excitement similar to those belonging to an archery or cricket team. Sometimes, these people also display a sense of exclusivity, as if to say “I am better than them.” I want to make it very clear and stress that the Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative isn’t in any way like that at all.
Although religion is deeply woven into our lives in Bhutan, I also want to make it very clear that the Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative is not a religious entity at all, and it will not have any religious trappings like tshechus and holy days and stuff like that. Needless to say, I also want to emphasize the apolitical nature of the Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative..
So what then is the Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative?
Bhutan has seen good progress which is due to the collective merit of the people of Bhutan, the blessings of the Three Jewels, and on top of that, the far-sighted vision of our Kings who have guarded the well being of Bhutanese people for generations.
While Bhutan continues to embrace the offerings of the modern world and learns the ways of the modern world, it has done so without losing the essence of our unique culture, our unique thinking and mentality, even the way we sit and eat. All these have not diminished, and the credit for this goes to our monarchs.
Our country Bhutan is now in a new set up. Bhutan is a democracy now. So far things have gone well. So why then are we forming the Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative?
The Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative is being formed mainly because our people and the Bhutanese citizens have a responsibility. The English word “initiative” is hard to translate but its meaning includes carrying or shouldering responsibility.
It is carrying our responsibility without someone else having to tell us. It is US fulfilling our responsibilities without the prodding of a cowherd. It is for us and it is for our children, and it is for the future well being. Taking such an initiative and to be concerned in this manner, that is the main aim of the Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative.
As I said before, establishing clubs and creating teams and stuff like hosting parties, picnics, gathering people for enjoyment, distributing leaflets, hoisting flags and blowing horns that is not our intention and thinking. Please keep this in mind. This is very, very important.
The government has looked after us like a mother after a child. The government has looked after us even beyond the stage that it should, even after the child is now able to ingest solid foods. The government has taken care of us thus far. We are now like 15 and 16 year old teenagers. With democracy in place, Bhutan and her culture, education, environmental preservation and protection, our unique philosophy and psyche, our thinking the caretaker and the custodian of these should not be just the government and the work of a department alone.
Once a child grows up, it should not expect its parents to take care of it further. When the child reaches the age of 15 or 16 or 20 and still expects the parents to look after it, then that is not good. Likewise, the people of Bhutan should now work sincerely in tandem to fulfil the aims of the government and the vision of our King. In doing so, we have to think not only of the present but of the generations to come in the future.
Coming to Gross National Happiness, we should not only engage in talk but also translate it into action to “walk the talk.” And in doing so, we should not wait for others. Rather, all of us, each one of us, on our own, being concerned, should shoulder the responsibilities, and we should start working in line with the philosophy of the government.
The government is doing its job and in the future also, the hope is that it will continue to do so. But we have to do our bit and not just leave it to the government. After all, it is for us that these actions are being done. We have also become dependent on aid like some other countries. A mentality like that means that we can never mature and grow up.
So being self reliant and realizing our potential I think these issues will come up in discussions in the upcoming meetings, but I am mentioning this here just to highlight its importance.
In our villages, even though we have enough to feed our children, the trend has set in where our youth want to go to Thimphu and to the urban areas. These days you can no longer say things like “you cannot go” and “you should not go.” Why are our young ones wanting to go to the urban areas? Once they reach the urban areas, if they have no problems living a decent life, it is not a problem at all. But often they end up having no jobs, or if they get jobs, those jobs are not up to their expectations, and then they get exasperated and land up in a situation where they feel ashamed to go back to their homes and end up abusing drugs or drinking alcohol.
How can we stem this flow of our youth to the urban areas? We cannot use force and threat. Within Samdrup Jongkhar and Deothang, what are the things that we can do to create the enabling environment and conditions that will keep our young men and women here?
As I say these words, I am reminded of this way of thinking that many of us have a tendency amongst us to think: “We cannot do this. This is un-doable.” We should do away with such thinking and abandon such thoughts.
Even if something does not work this year, next year, or in five or six years, if we start our project now, we will have a long term plan, because we have to think long term. We have to think long term. If we start now, if we begin our activities now and start now, then even if we are not able to accomplish our aims during our lifetimes, it is not a problem. If we start this plan and establish it now, then it will bear fruit in our children’s lifetime. If we don’t do this now, it will be too late later.
In Bhutan, when we build a house, we face labour shortages. We cannot get labourers. There is a lack of skilled workers. Even if we get labourers, we have to contend with the shame factor because such vocations are looked down in our society with the common aspiration to land a white collar job. How can we change this attitude, this thinking?
Deothang and Samdrup Jongkhar are fertile areas and receive abundant rainfall. Yet we get our food and vegetables from outside. How can we be self sufficient and feed ourselves? How to inculcate such thinking? How do we make our people think in those terms and in terms of environmental conservation and ecological awareness and prevention? Education is the key.
With the Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative, the thinking is to go beyond the common and established view, the prevalent view that chanting mantras and counting malas constitutes practice and instead take it beyond those rituals and really integrate spiritual practice. So the Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative will look at how to integrate religious practice and go beyond the chanting and counting of malas. And with this kind of initiative, we will work with all of us united in such thoughts.
Many people, including civil servants and business folk, have worked and helped in launching the Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative, and I want to thank them. From my side, the Samdrup Jongkhar Initiative has been started with good intention and we should all rejoice. And if this goes well, this initiative could be replicated in other districts.
Please keep this in mind and thank you all.
For more information go to http://www.sji.bt/
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche taking care in Deothang 2010 photo Pawo Choyning Dorji