The Divine Madman And The Fertile Chime Valley, Bhutan

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Chime Valley (Pronounced Chi-Mee) literally translates to: “No Dogs Valley.”

The story of how the Chime valley got its name, dates back over five hundred years, when a Tibetan yogi called the Divine Madman, came to live in this area.

His real name was Drukpa Kunley. (1455-1529)
He was a popular teacher and the uneducated people loved him, since he delivered his teachings in a simple conversational form, that was easier for the people to understand than just listening to long sermons by other Lamas.

The Divine Madman came to the Chime valley when it was filled with disease and the soil was infertile.

Apparently, a destructive demoness lived in the valley, causing all the misfortune.
The Divine madman confronted the demoness on the top of a mountain at the Dechula pass.
The demoness turned into a pack of black dogs, and ran away from the area.

A temple was built on top of a hill above the valley, and it was called the Chime Lhakhang.

It is believed that one of the demoness’ legs used to be perched on top of a nearby hill, while her other leg was perched on top of another hill.

After the defeat of the demoness, two stupas were built on the two hilltops where she used to sit, to make sure that she will not rise again and devastate the village.

One of the stupas was painted with some black paint, to ward off the black dogs the demoness had turned into.

The valley is still called the “No dogs valley,” and we were on the way to see the Chime temple in which important relics of the the Divine madman are still kept and used to bless the people.

The Divine madman belonged to the Drukpa sect of Buddhism, but he refused to take monastic vows.
He lived a very eccentric life, which gave him the title of a madman, but his supernatural powers and good intentions made everyone realize that he was a DIVINE madman.

It is said that he could slay demons with fire that he generated from his penis.

He was an excellent hunter with great skills with a bow, whose arrows never missed.
In iconography paintings, he is often depicted holding a bow and arrows.

He was a hunter, which contradicts the Buddhist precept of not killing.
But to compensate for his hunting, it was believed that he could send the souls of the animals that he killed to heaven, with a flick of his fingers.

Perhaps the most shocking tale that is known and told about the Divine Madman, was that he had sex with his own mother.

The story says that he believed that all social hierarchy, vanity and a sense of self importance, just serve to hold a person back from realizing his or her true nature, and that those qualities are an impediment to enlightenment.

The divine madman’s mother asked him to get married and to bring home a wife that could help her with all the work around the house.

She was a widow and she needed help in collecting and chopping wood for winter, cooking, cleaning, etc.

The Divine madman got married to a very old woman.
He brought her home to live with his mother.

His mother got upset and asked how could he marry a woman that was so much older than she was….
That old woman could not help with the household chores at all….

His mother sighed and asked him to send back his new wife, before she becomes yet another burden on her.

After he sent his new wife back to her house, the divine madman told his mother that he wished to have sex, and because she sent his wife away, he wished to have sex with her instead….

His mother refused for a long time, but finally she agreed, but on two conditions; that he would do it fast and that he will never tell anyone about it…

Of course the divine madman told the whole village, and his mother felt deeply shamed.
Another of her sons was a high lama, and very well respected, and the fact that everyone now knew that she had agreed to sleep with her own son, made her seem like a madwoman, and not a respected person at all…
She had lost respect in her own community….

The divine madman told his mother that he did it to help her to get rid of both her pretenses and her shame….
Now that she no longer had to concern herself with keeping up appearances, she could fully concentrate on her enlightenment…

We hiked to the temple through rice paddies and small villages.
We saw women harvesting rice by hand and many phallic symbols decorated most of the homes.

Up in the temple, the walls were painted with fresco murals of the life of the divine madman and his blessed mischief.

A young monk of about thirteen years young, blessed a whole Bhutanese family who bowed before him, while he pressed a large wooden thunderbird penis and the Divine Madman’s bow and arrow, to their bowed heads.

Jules and I bowed our heads and got the blessing of the wooden penis and bow as well.

This temple is frequented by families and women who wish to become pregnant.

It is told that up until recently, a woman who wanted to become pregnant, could spend the night sleeping on the temple floor, in front of the statue of the divine madmen and other deities.
She would spend the night with the thunderbolt penis in her bed, and usually she would become blessed with a child.

I said that this was the custom up until recently, because another story tells of an American couple who came looking to be blessed with a child.
The wife spent the night sleeping on the temple floor with the wooden penis, as was the custom.

When they were back home in the USA, they found that she was indeed pregnant.

On the first anniversary of their child’s birth, they came back to Bhutan to offer their gratitude in the Chime temple.

The fact that their child had an uncanny resemblance to the Bhutanese guide, did not escape anyone… And it was understood that it might not be the hand of the Divine man who blessed that couple….
That was the last time that women were allowed to spend the night on the floor of this temple, which is also a monastery and a school for young monks.

The whole area is filled with fertile valleys.
We saw some of the best vegetable markets around, and it was the first and only time we tasted avocados in Bhutan.
Tropical plants as well as rice, and other crops grow and thrive well here.
Farmers in this region are in fact among the most well-to-do in Bhutan.
They attribute this to the blessings of Lama Drukpa Kunley, the Divine madman.

At dinner time in our shabby hotel, we sat next to a couple of friends from the USA.
The woman was from NYC and the man from LA.

We spoke about the major storm that was heading to the eastern shores of the NY area, and about our travels.

They were headed towards Myanmar, which was currently experiencing some riots and civil unrest between Muslims and Buddhists.

We shared and compared our experiences in Bhutan.
I finally understood why the high daily rate being charged from tourists visiting Bhutan, does not reflect at all in the quality of the accommodation or the food…

The hotel we stayed in that night, had small smelly rooms and a corridor that felt like a hospital ward… For this we paid $500 per day….

But as it turned out, the government of Bhutan takes HALF of the fees and leaves only the other half to pay for your room, food, entrance fees, guide, driver, water, car and petrol, plus profit for the tour organizers, which really does not leaves a lot for your comfort or luxury.

I wished it would be more like any other government who only charges a GST or Sales Tax on services, or even like other developing countries where the government adds another 10%-20% fee for a tourism tax.

I also realized that some people who booked their trip to Bhutan via an agency in the USA or in their own countries, stayed in really low quality rooms around Bhutan and believed that this was all that was available in Bhutan, while the multiple agencies took their cut of what the government left behind.

But despite the gloomy hotel room, that night we had a cheery evening in good company.
The owner treated everyone to a glass of his homemade Ara brew, and a large group from Norway dressed in traditional Bhutanese clothing and had a fun time.

One guide told us of a British man (age of 83 years young,) who hiked up to Taksang, the Tiger Nest Temple in Paro, which took us three hours to hike up to, in only 45 minutes.

The guide who was a short young man in his twenties, said that the British man was very tall, and that for every one stride that he took, the guide had to take three steps….

We all laughed and had a good time, but this story already proved to me what I fully believe in…… that we do not lose strength with age, nor are we necessarily more physically capable when we are young…. Aging is an individual process, based on your beliefs…

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