Chimi Lhakhang – The Divine Fertility Temple
Today, childless couples make the lengthy trek through rice field after rice field to reach the monastery he founded, which sits atop a hill overlooking a beautiful valley. There, a monk will treat the couple to a fertility blessing.
Now, you’re probably thinking… “fertility blessing??” It’s quite simple, really. You get two phalluses (or lingams, in this case), one made of bone and the other made of wood, pressed up against your forehead along with an archery bow that belonged to the Divine Madman himself.
After the officiating monk mutters a prayer, the couple is given a stack of names to randomly draw from. The name on their chosen card dictates both the baby’s gender and name.
Hidden deep in the great himalayan mountains, Bhutan had remained in mystic isolation for centuries. This mythical land was visited by many Buddhist saints, ascetics, scholars and pilgrims from a great variety of Buddhist schools in Tibet. They brought the teachings of tantric Buddhism, and blessed the land and its people. Since then, Buddhism has become an integral part of everyday life of Bhutanese people.
One of the most unusual Buddhist saints who came to Bhutan in 15th century was Lam Drukpa Kunley, the “divine madman”. His outrageous nature of teachings often involved strong sexual connotations and used his phallus as the most important symbolic tool for all his teachings, and to destroy demons and evil spirits. Under the guise of thoughtless womanizing, one of the Lam’s greatest gift to countless beneficiaries was children.
Every year hundreds of people from all corners of the Bhutan make pilgrimages to Chhime Lhakhang, an ancient monastery near Punakha, dedicated to fertility and founded by Lam Drukpa Kuenley, to pray for children. They get blessed by a symbolic phallus which represents the sign of fertility and other relegious objects of the Lam. It will take only few stories of the Lam to understand why everyone in this magical kingdom believes that the Lam’s blessings will help a woman concieve.
The ceremony of fertility blessing is central to the annual Jambay Lhakhang Drub, the most popular relegious festival in Bumthang. It takes place every year, in October or November, at Jambay Lhakhang, one of the oldest and most sacred Buddhist temples in Bhutan. Infertile women who wish to conceive come from different parts of the country to get blessed at the ceremony. The main monk or lama at the ceremony, wearing an interesting mask, prays to the fertility gods and deities, and blesses the women with a symbolic wooden phallus to make them fruitful in the coming year.
Bhutan is a chaste society in which bare legs and shoulders are never seen, affection is never displayed in public, and simplicity and dignified shyness are cherished. On the other hand, all over the country, Bhutanese houses are decorated with most elaborate paintings and sculptures of flying phallus, which is believed to promote fertility and ward off evil spirits. In Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism (the way of Vajra), the erect male organ also refers symbolically to “Vajra” (Dorji), which is a symbol of concentrated energy. Vajra or Dorji and phurbu, a dragger with a dorji-hilt are the most important ritual implements used by monks and lamas during religious ceremonies to control and destroy dangerous evil spirits.
Over the last few years, some people outside the country has also come to know about Chime Lhakhang and the fertility blessing ceremony in Bumthang. Few years back, a Japanese woman who had been childless for 13 years visited Chime Lhakhang and received fertility blessing from the temple. Soon afterwards she became pregnant and returned the next year with a beautiful daughter. An American woman at the age of 46 gave birth to a healhy child after receiving fertility blessings from Chime Lhakhang and Jambay Lhakhang Drub.