Invoking the Divine

Everything for a permit to Australia

Religious figures, such as lams, rimpoches and tsips (astrologers) are always busy catering to the needs of the people. With people deeply seeped in religion, the blessings of lams and rimpoches are sought from the day one is born till one departs from the face of the earth. In between, people perform annual and other rituals.

Of late, there has been a new group seeking blessings and the number of people belonging to this group is rising. So much so, that one Rimpoche in jest said that this group really disturbs him. And the new group are those aspiring to go to Australia and other countries, who consult religious figures for almost everything.

A Rimpoche based in Thimphu said the first time he got engaged was before the Covid 19 pandemic. “A young couple came saying that they plan to go to Australia and asked me if it would be good. I looked at their stars etc and said the road ahead is good,” the Rimpoche reminisces. However, it was not the end. The couple then asked whether it would be good to go to Perth or Canberra. They were told that Canberra looks better. The couple then shot the next question. “Which would be the best university?” Rimpoche gave the answers from three universities that the couple had in mind. “It wasn’t the last question,” Rimpoche said.

Another Lam who has attended to several similar cases says that he receives messages through we-chat and whatsapp even from Australia. “They ask me to perform rituals when they have a job interview. There are also some who face difficulties finding a house and work. I perform rituals for them, too,” the Lam said, adding he sends video recordings of the rituals conducted. “When they see, they are satisfied and a positive energy generates, which is good for everything,” the Lam said.

Both the Lam and Rimpoche said that such practices are good as it shows that belief in the Dharma stands steady even amongst the youth. “We are concerned that our spiritual heritage would weaken as youth are exposed to different cultures. But it is very heartening to see that the youth hold it close to their hearts,” the Lam said.

Meanwhile, a freelance writer of statement of purpose (SOPs) required for traveling to Australia and other countries also say that he has met several clients telling him the exact time to begin writing their SOPs. “The first was in 2018 and a girl who had asked me to write her SOP called asking me to begin writing her SOP at 9.00 AM on Tuesday. I didn’t know what to say and I asked her what the reason was.” According to him, he thought that the girl perhaps had to submit the SOP in the afternoon. “She said that an astrologer had said that the right time was 9.00 AM on a Tuesday. I am also a firm believer and so I did as asked,” he said, adding that problems ensue when such requests come from more than one individual, asking to begin writing at the same time.

Employees of consultancy firms have also experienced the same. “There are always requests to send their visa papers on a certain time and a certain date,” an employee of a consultancy firm said. Similar to the SOP writer, she said that they face problems when there are requests from more than one person. “We have experienced two to three people asking us to send their papers at the same time on the same day. We then seek the help of other employees. If their visas are rejected, we do not want to live with the guilt that it could have happened as we did not send it on the time requested,” she said, adding that it is also part of their service. “There are people who come personally to ensure that we send their papers at the right time.”

Karma, a graduate, who is currently applying for his visa said that he has done everything. “I have always believed in the powers of those who are invisible. That’s the reason we pray and lead a good life. Even if I do not get the Visa, I will be satisfied that I have done everything. If not, I will regret,” he said.

Chimi, another graduate said though everyone does it because of their beliefs, peer pressure is also another reason. “If you are the only one not engaging in such practices, when everybody is doing it, you lose confidence. You begin to worry, which is not good,” she said.

Sonam Dorji, who has helped several students and parents reach out and connect with spiritual leaders said it is part of the Bhutanese culture. “We perform rituals for peace, prosperity and almost everything. I do not really know if everything works, but as most Lams and Rimpoches say, such rituals generate positive energy; one becomes confident, resilient and bold. And all this adds up in making one’s future bright,” he said adding that there will only be very few students from the hundreds in Thimphu who do not visit Dechenphug and other lhakhangs before their examinations.

Nidup Lhamo from Thimphu