WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO For our five senses called wangpo nga, there are five physical objects called doen nga. To feel happiness, joy and pleasure, we have to feel pleasant. Sentient beings like to have pleasant objects of senses and so it’s good to offer “pleasant sense feels” to the enlightened beings such as the Buddha, Bodhisattvas and lamas.
Offering of the five pleasant sense feels is called as doe bi yoenten nga. It comprise of beautiful pleasant form offered for the eye; pleasant sense feels offered to the auditory organ through sound; pleasant sense feels offered to the olfactory sense through smell; pleasant sense feels offered to the gustatory through taste and pleasant sense feels offered to tactile organ through touch.
Why do we offer?
We offer fragrance or incense because it is a very pleasant object for the sense of smell. It is an offering made to the gustatory organs of the Buddha and the Bodhisattvas. Besides the incense that we lit called dugg poi, we also offered it in the form of scent or perfume and ointments.
History of sang
The offering of smell in sang is elaborated. We have the offering of smell coming from India, from the Buddhist heritage. When Buddhism reached Tibet, Buddhism came with local practice of Bon religion where there was a practice of making big billows of smoke. During the sang ritual one is not only making an offering of smell to the olfactory sense but also making a process of fumigation and purification. The Bhutanese word ‘sang’ means to clean and purify.
In the Bon religion practice, there was a ritual of purifying and fumigating through smoke, quite like modern practice of fumigation done to keep away insects.
When Buddhism reached Tibet, it encountered this practice of sang that already existed in the pre-Buddhist Bon religion. Instead of getting rid of the existing practices, it was made a Buddhist practice, a combination of offering of pleasant smell and performing fumigation and purification.
What should one think of while offering?
When one offers sang, the person would have a lot of mental visualisations to do. For instance, when one starts the sang one would often chant mantras, the most common being om ah hum.
With om the person can visualise everything to be a pure empty space, with ah one can visualise in that pure state of emptiness to have all the fantastic offerings that comes in the form of smoke. With hung one can think that the entire offering has been taken to all the Buddha and Bodhisattvas and given to them.
In sang ritual, a practitioner should take refuge in the Buddha, dharma and sangha, generate a very altruistic positive intention and visualise this from the state of emptiness. It arises a cloud of offering and one could visualise the huge cloud of smoke as an offering sent to all directions for the enlightened beings and recipients.
Among the recipients, there are four; the precious enlightened being, the protectors (deities and spirits), the sentient beings of six realms who are objects of one’s compassion and lastly the sentient beings whom we have karmic debt (the ones who are able to harm us after our death.)
The gift of making offering through sang produces smoke, which is a smoke in appearance but in reality it has offering of nectar, food and incense. It is a practice of giving and at the same time by doing so one will also be purified from all the negativities such as stinginess, mental defilements and pay karmic debt.
Therefore, the practice is a combination of offering and process of purification.
Dr Karma Phuntsho, founding director of Loden Foundation and author of The History of Bhutan in conversation with Thinley Zangmo
But I accept this responsibility because I represent a small nation - the
The title for my talk today is ‘Changing World and Timeless Values’ – the reason for such a title is that I had always wanted to think more deeply about how one might find an enduring place for simple human values in a world that is becoming unrecognizable from one generation to the next. And how, sadly, while the need for values is stronger and more urgent than ever, the climate in which they would flourish grows more and more unfriendly. Alas, I am neither an academic, spiritual leader nor philosopher and I can only bring to this important topic my own personal thoughts.
Many years ago, I told a group of students at a convocation ceremony in
In fact, it may be these very values that could guide us, through the great problems, even those of environmental degradation, terrorism and world poverty. Perhaps the first of these values is the sense of a shared planet. This is a world that is shared – not between governments and nations but among us, the people. It may sound idealistic – but this is a natural and practical way of approaching things that seem intractable and inflexible – no matter how big the problem. The image of a shared planet must always be present in our minds – and especially in the minds of those who are in positions of leadership.
I don’t claim to be an expert on global issues but it can only help in the search for a solution if we remember that this planet must be passed on to our future generations and to other living beings. Isn’t it natural that every individual will seek to enhance his inheritance and pass it on to his own children? Shouldn’t it be even more natural, then to assume that our generation … every generation that inherits this earth must pass it on stronger and more secure to the next? Without this simple guiding value, that our world is shared among us and our future generations, we will continue robbing our planet and our children.
Is it wrong to assume that a huge step to finding solutions to global problems, and averting future crises, will be taken if we can think in the spirit of community and fraternity, not as individual entities? When we accept that this is a world of people all alike, of families all alike, of communities all alike - of countries facing the same challenges – of human beings ultimately seeking the same thing – then we will truly be in a position to foster well being, security and happiness.
In this interconnected world no nation stands alone. How could it? Disease, poverty, strife – these afflictions do not understand national boundaries – the internet age and the free and fast flow of information shows us daily, the incongruity, injustice and inhumanity of a world of vast inequality.
“Individual or even national success is a ship that cannot carry everyone together to the same place at the same time”. Rich nations must stop to be mindful of the poorer ones left behind. Successful people must stop to remember those who didn’t make it. No nation today can stand alone in achievement. Time is slowly telling us that there can be no lasting individual success without success as a community and there cannot be lasting national progress and success if it does not fit into a future of global peace, harmony and equality. The world must progress together or fail together.
I believe that any real and lasting solution to global issues can only come through a universal wave of human empathy, desire and passion for the common good. Global problems are problems that face mankind and our planet. Governments might mediate problems at the global level, but its effects are felt by people, like you and me. While we know it is an accepted process that governments and large institutions debate the issues, negotiate and bargain on the concessions to be made we tend to forget that in protecting our own constituencies, we jeopardize the world and thus ourselves and our own future generations. Global problems cannot be solved by protecting local self-interest.
As I said before, I risk sounding idealistic – but the fact is that I believe it is only when we are willing to bear the embarrassment of being a little innocent that we will be able to say – ‘Let us place the interest of humanity, not national populations and constituencies, above all else. Let us take political risks and strong decisions in addressing the needs of humanity. The answer to global problems will come closer at hand when we grasp that universal simplicity – that sense of a shared planet and a shared fate for those who walk on it. We need shared human endeavour not just negotiated change.
I have been inspired in the way I look at things by
Thus, for my nation, today GNH is the bridge between the fundamental values of Kindness, Equality and Humanity and the necessary pursuit of economic growth. GNH acts as our National Conscience guiding us towards making wise decisions for a better future. It ensures that no matter what our nation may seek to achieve, the human dimension, the individual’s place in the nation, is never forgotten. It is a constant reminder that we must strive for a caring leadership so that as the world and country changes, as our nation’s goals change, our foremost priority will always remain the happiness and wellbeing of our people – including the generations to come after us.
I am confident that the noble goal of Gross National Happiness will be key to
Another factor that has always played a central role in our success – without which we would certainly not be where we are today – is
But I feel that the true wisdom lies in the fact that we sought and continue to seek true friendship with
It is said that a man’s most important relationships are formed in the early years of life. I have always said that this saying holds so true for
Finally, let me say something about the role Values play in my life as an individual – and as someone called upon to assume a position of leadership.
As a young person, I thought a great deal about the future awaiting me. I thought about the question of how good Kings and great leaders come about – what factors bring them into being. We see that world history speaks of leaders with great foresight and vision – leaders for troubled times – leaders for young nations and ancient empires. Leaders in different fields. All kinds of leaders – religious, economic, political.
After many years of observing my father, working with government, touring the country, living in the villages and meeting the people , I learned that you don’t just become a leader for a prescribed and planned situation – you have to offer leadership whatever the circumstances. Now, having assumed the duties of Kingship of this small Himalayan nation in the midst of a globalizing world that changes in an instant, it is even more clear that there is no way to foresee the circumstances and plan for leadership in such a world.
So my guiding principle has been born and nurtured on the simple instinct that in order to do the job I have been given as best as I can – first and foremost, I must strive to be a good human being. So while the wider vision is crucial to me – it is more important for me as a King whose aspirations are lodged within those of my country and people – to be able to crystallize that vision – to fulfill the ultimate aspirations of the people – in the form of simple daily acts carried out from moment to moment.
I take each day as it comes. If someone in a village has something to tell me, I stop and listen. If an old man’s house must be rebuilt after a natural disaster, I try and stay there to see it through. It may take an extra few minutes or months but it must be done. Not only is it the duty of a good human being, but each moment, each action is to me, a building block that will one day take shape in the wider vision. Besides, its all very well to have a vision that stretches to the top of the peaks, but unless you re walking a little up the hill everyday, you will never get there.
That is why today, I do not have my eyes on the rewards or legacy that accrue to the work of leadership. I prefer to focus on the immediate, most pressing needs of people – not just in
I cannot imagine living in a world where one’s duty is only to oneself or to one’s family or country. We must build from these true and intimate relationships outwards and upwards to the nobler duty to the greater world and to peace, prosperity and happiness that is global.
In conclusion, after this long speech, all I have said is that there is only one starting point to resolve any problem – big or small – that is one’s self. Each one of us must embark upon our personal journey towards the timeless goal of living a good life – being a good human being - even as we tackle the world’s largest problems.
Thank you for being here to listen to me today.