06.10.2003 – 15.10.2003, Bhutan

His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa visits Bhutan

Travel, Visit

In order to pay his respects to Her Majesty, the late Ashi Phuntso Choden Wangchuck, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, Trinley Thaye Dorje, paid a visit to the Kingdom of Bhutan from October 6th to October 15th.

On August 24th, 2003, the Grand Queen Mother, Her Majesty Ashi Phuntsho Choden Wangchuck,  passed away at her retreat place Dechenchholing Gonpa close to Bhutan’s capital Thimphu. Her remains, the Kudung, were kept there for a period of 49 days and rituals were performed. Shortly after her demise, H. H. Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche had visited Bhutan for a few days to pay his respects and to join in the rituals.

H. H. the Gyalwa Karmapa cancelled his other programs and travelled to Bhutan for the same reason. He arrived at Paro airport on October 6th and was received in the ceremonial lounge by Dasho Sangye Wangchuck, the Secretary for Cultural and Religious affairs, the Governor of Paro and his deputy, and the Ven. Lam Neten, that is to say the District Head Lama of Paro representing His Holiness the Je Khenpo. While monks played the ritual instruments as a sign of welcome, the airport stood still, as everyone including the staff rushed to receive H. H. the Gyalwa Karmapa’s blessing. After this welcome, His Holiness proceeded by car to Thimphu with a police escort. The journey took much longer than expected as the road was lined with devotees asking for H. H. the Gyalwa Karmapa’s blessing.

Upon the invitation of Her Royal Highness Ashi Choki Wangmo Wangchuck, His Holiness stayed in Lhundrup Ling, her residence in Thimphu.

On October 7th , H. H. the Gyalwa Karmapa made prayers in front of the Kudung at the Royal retreat place Dechenchholing Gonpa. In the evening of the same day, he was invited for dinner by Her Majesty the Queen Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck.

On October 8th , His Holiness continued with his prayers at the Royal retreat place Dechenchholing Gonpa in the morning. In the afternoon, he met with His Holiness the Je Khenpo in the Trashichhodzong Palace in Thimphu, where they presented mandala offerings to each other.

On October 9th, His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa had an audience with His Majesty the King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, which lasted for almost an hour.
In the afternoon, upon the invitation of Her Majesty The Queen Mother Ashi Kesang Choeden Wangchuck, His Holiness went to the Paro valley and meet with her at the Kyichu Lhakhang, one of the two oldest temples in Bhutan. There he also met H. E. Rabjam Rinpoche, H.E. Chogling Rinpoche, the Yangsi of H. H. the late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, and Pewar Tulku.

On October 10th in the morning, His Holiness met with the Prime Minister, His Excellency Lyonpo Jigmi Y. Thinley. After the meeting, H. H. the Gyalwa Karmapa returned to the Royal retreat place Dechenchholing, where he again met with His Majesty the King as well as most of the other members of the royal family. This was the 49th day after the demise of the Royal Grand Mother and the last prayers where held at her retreat place.

In the afternoon of the same day, H. H. the Gyalwa Karmapa visited the Memorial Stupa in Thimphu built in 1974 by Her Majesty, the late Ashi Phuntsho Choden Wangchuck, in commemoration of His Majesty the third king, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. His Holiness was welcomed there by Dasho Sangye Wangchuck, the Secretary for Cultural and Religious affairs, made prayers and offered 1000 butter lamps. Even though his visit had not been announced, a crowd of several hundred people had gathered and lined up in order to receive the Gyalwa Karmapa’s blessing which took several hours.

On October 11th, H. H. the Gyalwa Karmapa was invited by His Royal Highness Prince Namgyal Wangchuck to visit Punakha Dzong, the second oldest of Bhutan’s palaces. His Holiness was welcomed there by the Governor of Punakha, his deputy, and the Ven. Lam Neten, that is to say the District Head Lama of Punakha representing His Holiness the Je Khenpo. His Royal Highness Prince Namgyal Wangchuck himself showed H. H. the Gyalwa Karmapa around. He visited the temples and made prayers there.

On his way back to Thimphu, the Governor of Thimphu and his deputy were awaiting him at the mountain pass Dochula, the highest pass in Thimphu-District. They offered refreshments to him and again, many Bhutanese came to receive His Holiness’s blessing.

On October 12th, H. H. the Gyalwa Karmapa gave a long-life empowerment to Her Royal Highness Ashi Choki Wangmo Wangchuck, and the next day, he performed certain Mahakala-rituals at her home.

On October 14th, H. H. the Gyalwa Karmapa left Thimphu by car to Phuntsholing. The streets of Thimphu were full of people requesting his blessing, and again the journey took much longer than usual as the road was lined with devotees.

After spending the night in Phuntsholing upon the invitation of Ashi Deki Choden, His Holiness proceeded to Kalimpong on Oct. 15th. When crossing the border between Phuntsholing and Jalgaon, the devotees lining up caused a complete standstill of the traffic. Both Bhutanese as well as Indians rushed to the Gyalwa Karmapa to receive his blessing.