The Zhung Dratshang (Central Monastic Body) was first established by Zhabdrung Rinpoche Ngawang Namgyal, the Father of the Nation at Cheri Monastery in the Iron Monkey year of the 17th Rabjung corresponding to 1621 AD. Today Zhung Dratshang has 7127 monks, 418 Nuns and 4 affiliated monastic institutions registered under the Dratshang Lhentshog (Council for Religious Affairs).
A Brief Acount about Yarney
Furthermore, it is stated in the Buddha’s cannon of Monastic Discipline:
The Buddha had agreed to reside at the King’s grove of the city of Koshala during the short summer month.
During that time, the monks remained indoors.
During that summer retreat month, when the monks went to beg for alms mid-retreat, the heretics (non-Buddhists) criticized the Noble Wise one, Shakyathuba, for killing countless beings during the peak summer.
The Heretics criticized the Noble one for taking countless lives by going around begging for alms during the summer months.
By going around begging for alms during the summer months, the heretics criticized,
Countless small insects are trampled on and killed.
Even the mice are able to remain in their nest during these four summer months.
Even the mice are able to patiently stay in their nests during the summer months.
These monks, who renounced and took vows, do not even know this.
The heretics criticized and accused that these monks only think about receiving alms from the patrons.
The monks, thus, complained to the Noble one. And The Noble one spoke
That henceforth, the monks must take the vow that they will remain indoors during the summer months.
Thus, as stated above, monks must take on the vow during the earlier summer retreat to remain indoors for one and a half month from the 16th day of the 6th month.
Based on what the Buddha had spoken, a brief account about the meaning, purpose and the benefits of Yarney (Summer Retreat) are as follows:
The main purpose of conducting the Yarney (Summer Retreat) is to eradicate the wrong views of the non-Buddhists and to develop one’s spiritual practice by studying, reflecting and meditating. During this short summer retreat, the monks and nuns are restricted by a boundary marked by pebbles all around the monastery. Inside this boundary, they would focus on developing their spiritual practice by reciting, studying, reflecting and meditating.
From among the many purposes stated by the Buddha, some of the main reasons to conduct Yarney are as follows. It is at this time of the year that many small insects are born from heat and eggs, and come out onto the ground. During this time, moving around would kill a lot of these insects. It is also the time of the year when risks of landslides, floods and other natural calamities are very high. In short, Yarney prevents one from harming others and oneself by restricting one’s movement during this time of the year. It also gives one a good chance to focus on doing good deeds.
Likewise, when the Buddha walked the earth, all the monks depended on alms for living. Even during the summer, the monks would go around begging for alms by the houses of their daily patrons. During that time, heretics criticized such conducts of the monks saying that the monks are killing a lot of insects by going around begging for alms at the time of the summer, when countless insects are born and come to the open ground. The Buddha, keeping that in mind, made the commandment that all the monks and nuns, henceforth, shall remain indoors during the peak summer month. Since then, the practice of summer retreat has continued, never changing and never diminishing.
Even in our country, with the support and kindness of His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo and His Holiness the 68th Je Khenpo, Je Thrizur Tenzin Dondrup, the summer retreat is conducted every year by the monastic body at Tango Dodena and at all the other monasteries around the country, regardless of the ranks or positions of the monks. The summer retreat starts on the 16th day of the 6th month and continues for a period of 45 days.
The benefit of the Yarney is as follows. When one remain indoor during the summer retreat, one avoids causes of samsaric attachment, one avoids killing countless small beings hence one is able to practice strict discipline of refraining from misdeeds. Having fewer activities, one is able to focus on engaging in virtuous endeavors daily and one is able to maintain the discipline for gathering virtue. Likewise, during this time, devotees who, for the benefit of all sentient beings and for the benefit of the Buddha Dharma, provide various services to the monks, thereby, the discipline for benefiting beings is fulfilled as well.
As stated above, during the summer retreat, monks remain indoors to focus on their spiritual practice and development. Therefore, this is a great opportunity for devotees to accumulate immense merits by coming forward as patrons for the monks in retreat.
The main session of the 4th Oral Transmission of Kanjur (Words of the Buddha) has commenced on 2nd August, 2017, presided by His Holiness the 70th Je Khenpo in the court yard of the Dordenma Buddha statue at Thimphu Kuenselphodrang. This discourse has been made possible thanks to the requests of the principle patrons, namely, Pung-Thim Central Monastic Body, Gyalwa Dokhampa, Padtseling Trulku, the Monk Body, Khenpo Garab Dorji, Khenpo Karma Jigme, Lama Kuenga Gyeltshen, Lam Kelzang Tshultrim, Trulku Dorji Thomey, Khenpo Tashi Choephel and Sangay Choeda
According to the Patrons, the main purpose for conducting this religious discourse is for the sustained flourishing of the Buddha Dharma, to liberate all sentient beings from their sufferings and to attain enlightenment swiftly. It is also aimed to benefit our country by protecting it from outer harmful intentions and for peace and prosperity to flourish within the country. Likewise, this discourse is for the health and long lives of our hereditary Monarchs and for the continued peaceful flourishing of the different sects of Buddhism in the country.