Chimi Lhakhang is a very popular and revered temple that lies on the periphery of the fertile valley of Lobesa, where the borders of Thimphu, Punakha and wangduephodrang districts meet. Being dedicated to Lama Drukpa Kuenley, the Divine Madman, the temple is popularly considered to be a temple of fertility.
Chimi Lhakhang – The Temple of Fertility
A brisk 15-minute walk through the village of Sosokha will lead a visitor straight to the temple.
A sense and feeling of fertility and contentment is indeed in the air as one passes through the rich alluvial paddy fields. All crops grow and thrive well here. Farmers of this region are in fact among the most well-to-do in Bhutan. They attribute this to the blessings of Lam Drukpa Kuenley.
The Divine Madman
Lama Drukpa Kuenley lived in Bhutan around the 1500s. He was a highly accomplished buddhist master. As a buddhist master, Drukpa Kuenley is placed among the highest levels of sainthood. But he is remembered more vividly for the outrageous nature of his teachings, which were administered in the most unexpected ways, often with a strong sexual overtones and inclinations. It was because of his peculiar styles that he is remembered with much fondness to this day by buddhists in the Himalayas as an eccentric saint.
In Bhutan, he is also a cultural icon around whom countless yarns of facts and fiction, and stories and legends have been spun. The mention of Drukpa Kuenley will, invariably, draw a mischievous smile on the face of most Bhutanese men and a red tinge in the face of many Bhutanese maidens. It will also bring to mind the unorthodox antics which the master used to clean the society of the many ills brought about by man and the evils, which lurked within society itself.
Dressed in rags, stinking of alcohol, the foulmouthed figure of the Lam roamed the valleys of the Himalayas. His apparent disregard for social norms began in his early years to the frustration of his own mother who did not understand the unusual saintly-hood of her own son.
To all Buddhists, his single-minded purpose of seducing women only conveyed a spirituality of great depth. The spirituality of Lam Drukpa Kuenley was such that, according to namthar (religious autobiography) he could take his dirty rags off his body and hang them on the rays of the sun
Under the guise of uncontrolled lust and apparently thoughtless womanizing, one of Drukpa Kuenley’s greatest gifts to countless beneficiaries was: children. Through children, the gift was life itself.
Chimi Lhakhang is today one of the most revered and visited temples in Bhutan. People from all corners of the country visit the Lhakhang to seek blessings from Drukpa Kuenley.
It is widely known today that most of the people who visit the temple do so to pray for children – either to ask for children by those who are childless or to seek protection for children by those who already have them. There are many people in Bhutan, and indeed in other parts of the world, who will vouch on the success of their prayers.
Nobody knows exactly how and when the tradition of seeking fertility blessing started in Chimi Lhakhang. There are no written records and even oral sources provide scant information on this.
The Chief Monk of Chimi Lhakhang puts forth a plausible theory. According to him, “Drukpa Kuenley has always been associated with giving life and liberation to people. He is the potent source and symbol of all-fulfilling power and a saint and Bodhisattva of the highest order” says the Lam. “Actually he is like a paksam joenshing (a mythical wish-fulfilling tree). He will not deny anyone who comes to seek his kindness and munificence. And there is also the physical side of his character too. A childless couple could have sought his blessing in any point in time and the tradition could have carried on. If it’s not Chimi Lhakhang, it could have been somewhere else. But this is the only temple in Bhutan dedicated to him, where he actually set foot and prophesied that the temple would one day be built. All this is pre-ordained with his power and divinity”.
Couples who visit the Lhakhang are blessed by a replication of the iron bow and arrows of Drukpa Kuenley, his scriptures and the phallus, which is the symbolic representation of fertility. It is said that during his life, the saint often used his phallus as a tool to impart his teachings.
As part of the blessing a monk on duty will also select a name for the unborn child randomly from the list of names maintained at the temple. If it is a female name, couples can expect a girl: and if the name drawn is that of a male, then a boy.
Get Blessed – Its OK
Most young people seems to have second thoughts about visiting the temple. Its completely safe to visit the temple to pray for other things besides children, if you are not trying to become parents. You wont be a parent just by visiting the temple.
The Puffed Rice Roasters of Sosokha
The 15 minute hike to the temple form the road will take you through the village of Sosokha. Most of the time, it you wander away from the trail, you will find the women folks roasting puffed rice. Puffed rice called Zaw, is a very popular snack.