A monk in Bhutan had a vision in 2016. He saw a period of great danger and hardship approaching for the world. Then His Holiness Tulku Jigme Choeda, the 70th Je Khenpo immediately advised his monasteries of over 20,000 monks and the entire 800,000 population of Bhutan to embark on a 21-day period of extraordinary prayer and chanting in an effort to neutralize the approaching evil. He went into his own personal silent retreat of chanting and blessings for three weeks to counteract the coming difficulties for people all over the world.
When the Covid-19 vaccines arrived and the King of Bhutan required that all the people be vaccinated, the Je Khempo immediately traveled to meet the shipment in Paro. He began another 21-day period of intense blessings and prayer to remove and cancel any negative effects of the shots. After 21-days, he allowed the shots to be distributed throughout Bhutan.
Everyone in the world owes a debt of gratitude to this great man. Although largely unknown in the West, perhaps it is due to his foresight and quick response that Covid has not decimated humanity. Perhaps due to his protective prayers, Bhutan had ZERO Covid deaths. Bhutan is having minimal adverse events or deaths from the vaccine, which sadly are being found in many other places across the world,
The United Nations and the W.H.O. hold Bhutan up as a shining example of following Covid guidelines and adhering to vaccine rules. This is true, as Bhutan deserves much praise. However, global leaders may be totally unaware of the deep spiritual mechanics happening behind the scenes in Bhutan. The goal of Bhutan Vajrayana Buddhism is to protect sentient beings from suffering and offer an opportunity for enlightenment to all. The ancient medicine Buddha prayer is no joke. It and other chants hold hidden power beyond the physical 3-D realm that few humans can understand.
During the Covid lockdown, to keep the citizens engaged, the Bhutan government introduced a series of online programs, TV shows, social media campaigns, and online school classes on national TV. This was a problem for remote villages with no TV. So, the government made free mobile SIM cards available to help reach those in remote areas. This is interesting, as my husband Lama D’s online teaching group Tharpi Sabuen happened during this precise period. Damchey Thinley (Lama D’s) group began with a maximum of 500 people on WeChat, and has since expanded to 15 groups totaling 7,500 students. After the lockdown ended, people continued with the daily lessons. The Je Khempo all along has offered his blessings for Lama D’s activities, which teach the traditional prayers in Dzongkha, the local language of common people.
The Medicine Buddha Chant:
Teyata Om Bekanze Bekanze
Radza Samudgate Soha.
Who is this man? His name is Tulku Jigme Choeda, the 70th Je Khenpo of Bhutan. The role of the Je Khenpo is quite powerful. In Bhutan’s two-branched government, the power is divided between 1) a religious branch, headed by the Je Khenpo, and 2) the administrative branch, now headed by the 5th King. The position of Je Khenpo is given by election to the most respected monk. So, the seat is always held by a seasoned monk, not by a child reincarnation. The Je Khenpo is responsible for all the many monasteries and important liturgical religious duties across the country, as well as for the spiritual well-being of Bhutan. Other than the King of Bhutan, only the Je Khenpo may wear a saffron kabney, or sacred shawl.
Trulku Jigme Choedra (HH), was born in 1955. His birth was accompanied by many auspicious signs. Since the tender age of four, HH could vividly recall his own former lives, and was then recognized by the Great Yogi Lama Sonam Zangpo (root teacher of His Holiness Nyizer Trulku 67th Jekhenpo of Bhutan) as the reincarnations of: Geshe Pema Tshering (the learned sage of Tharpaling Temple in Bumthang, the spiritual teacher of the late Jigme Wangchuck King of Bhutan), Kheuchung Lotsawa (disciple of Guru Padmasambhava), Drubthob Saraha (one of the 84 Mahasiddhas), and Maitreya Buddha (heart son of Buddha Shakyamuni).
At the age of six in 1961, His Holiness went to Kalimpong, India, to receive the entire teachings of the Rinchen Terzoed from His Holiness Dudjom Rimpoche Jigdrel Yeshey Dorje. In 1963, at eight years of age, His Holiness joined Druk Sangag Choling Monastery in Darjeeling and received his Getshul Dompa (basic ordination) from Drukpa Thugsey Rinpoche. He studied ritual practices, recitations, and religious texts from Khenpo Sonam Dargye and Khenpo Noryang.
At the age of ten, His Holiness received the Kangyur Lung (transmission of Buddha’s teachings), Dudjom Tersar (treasure teachings of His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche) and comprehensive blessings and empowerments of other important Buddhist texts from His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche in Kalimpong. Once again, at the holy place of Tsho Pema, India, His Holiness received the initiation and empowerment of the Rinchen Terzoed. In 1970, at the age of 15, His Holiness arrived at the Tango Monastery at the lotus feet of the late 68th Je Khenpo Jetsun Tenzin Dhoendup, and was ordained as a monk at the Pung-Thim Dratshang. Thereupon, besides Rigney and Zhungchen Chusum (Buddhist philosophy), he also mastered Mahamudra practices (Chagchen) and meditations of Naro Choedrug (six cycles of Yoga Ro-Nyom Kordrug), which were taught by their Holinesses the late 68th Jekhenpo Jetsun Tenzin Dhoendup and the late 69th Jekhenpo Geshe Gedun Rinchen.
In 1974, at the age of 20, His Holiness received teachings from Lopen Sangay Tenphel at Tango Choeying Phordang. Between the age twenty-one to thirty, His Holiness received full teachings and empowerment of the Drukpa Kagyu tradition and Dzogchen (highest realization). In addition, at the age of 24, he also received full teachings and empowerment of Terton Pema Lingpa from His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche. In 1983, at 28 years, under the patronage of Her Majesty Gyalyum Phuntsho Choden, His Holiness went to Darjeeling to undergo the intensive 3 years retreat. Having completed the retreat, His Holiness arrived back to Bhutan in 1986 to serve as the principal of Tango Shedra, Thimphu.
His Holiness has notably completed his three-years retreat (Losum Choksum) three times. During the ten-year retreat, he undertook sacred practices of Vajrayana which includes La-drup, Demchog, Tandin, Dorji Phagmo, Sengdongma, Mithrugpa, Chenrezig and Dzogchen meditations. After a year, at 32 years old, on the auspicious 17th day of the Fire Rabbit year 1987, he was appointed as the Drabi Lopen (now Tshogki Lopen – Buddha Acharya) of the Zhung Dratshang. At the age of forty, he was promoted as the Dorji Lopen of the Central Monk Body (Zhung Dratshang) by His Majesty the 4th King Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck. During his tenure as His Eminence Dorji Lopen, he elucidated the Kanjur and taught the thirteen texts of Terton Sangye Lingpa. He also delivered teachings of Nyondro (preliminary practice), Nyingthig, and Kuenzang Lami Zhelung (Nyingmapa teachings) in several Dzongkhags. He constructed temples such as the Kheng Tali Zangto Pelri Lhakhang, using his own contribution and offerings made by devotees.
His majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Queen Jetsun Pema after their marriage ceremony October 13, 2011 in Bhutan. The 5th King devotes himself to overseeing all aspects of Bhutan’s economy, health, education, and trade, according to the pillars of GNH, Gross National Happiness. The success of Bhutan’s challenge in the Covid period is due to close cooperation between the King and the Je Khenpo, the dual sides of the government. (Photo by Triston Yeo/Getty Images)