Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Buddhist Kings

I have had a surprising number of blog responses, emails, personally conveyed comments and one telephone call concerning my blog of 29th. The emperor of Japan is not Buddhist, even nominally, to the best of my knowledge. The last three Buddhist monarchs are Bhumipol of Thailand, Jigme Singye Wangchuk of Bhutan and Naradom Sihamoni of Cambodia. The last Buddhist monarch to be dethroned was Palden Thodup Namgual, Chogyal of Sikkim who lost his throne and his country in 1975 when it was absorbed into India. This had been preceded by one of those 99.9% plebiscites in favor of union. I suppose the 01% who didn’t vote for it was the poor old Chogyal. The Chogyal and his 12 predecessors were believed by the Sikkimese to be the reincarnation of the great lama who founded Bhutan as an independent state in the 17th century. His official title was ‘Dharmaraja.’ He was a genuinely religious man, deeply learned in Tibetan Buddhism and with a strong leaning towards Theravada. He had been an active patron of the Mahabodhi Society for many years. Unfortunately, he married an American, arousing Mrs. Gandhi’s suspicions of foreign interference in a sensitive border area. Also, this was when Mrs. Gandhi still had some leftist credentials (i.e. before her ‘regal’ period) and she was not at all sympathetic towards kings. The top picture is of Palden Thondup Namgual and the other is of his funeral in 1980 which thousands of his former subjects attended.


Robert said...

Well, if all the Buddhist kings eventually disappear, hopefully those countries will end up with some sort of republic such as the ancient Vajjis or the Buddha's own people, the Sakyans, had.

JD said...

I had heard that Bhutan had recently opened up the possibility of a democratic style of governance complete with voting. National Geographic online had an article about Bhutan recently. I remember reading about a woman who was in tears over the idea of the new democracic ideas because she felt that there was no reason for it if there was a good king. Perhaps my own view of Bhutan is clouded over by Shangri-La syndrome or whatever, but from the article it seemed to be a pretty nice place.

Shravasti Dhammika said...

I too get the impression that Bhutan is a pretty nice place (as long as you are not a Nepalese living there). The country is heading smoothly for democracy and for all the advantages and disadvantages that that brings with it. Winston Churchill said ‘The best argument against democracy is a five minute chat with the average voter,’