UPDATED: New Message from Rinpoche: A Drupchen is Not a Business Opportunity
Published on 18 July 2016
(NOTE: SEE BELOW FOR THE ORIGINAL MESSAGE)
Announcement on Bumthang drupchen in light of tour agent advertisement:
A few days ago, I posted a notice expressing my concern about a tour operator who advertised the upcoming Bumthang drupchen and used my photo for commercial purposes. I noted that I have nothing whatever to do with such travel agents who use my spiritual activities for their personal business gain.
Heartfelt responses to that notice prompt me to say more about this situation, to place these concerns in a larger context, and to make a new announcement about the Bumthang event.
As the world’s only Vajrayana Buddhist kingdom, Bhutan has long held a special appeal for spiritual seekers. As well, Bhutan’s image of exclusivity has been nurtured by the very high daily tariff used to regulate tourism. It is not surprising therefore that some unscrupulous tour operators are tempted to exploit these unique characteristics for their own gain.
One such agent charged devoted but unsuspecting tourists 28,000 Chinese RMB (about $USD 4200) just to see my house and shrine, and $8,000 to have a supposed audience with me and other Rinpoches about which we knew nothing and which of course never happened.
Another agent brought tourists to meet a particular Rinpoche and then charged them exorbitant amounts of money falsely claimed to be a required ‘offering’ to that Rinpoche. Gullible tourists sadly believed such ‘offerings’ went to the lama when the money in fact went to line the agent’s own pockets.
Another operator used similar devious tactics to extract money over and above the already high tourist tariff by promising audiences with members of the Bhutanese elite.
As a Bhutanese I am embarrassed to recognize that foreign travel agents could not engineer such exploitative scams without the active collusion and profit-sharing of their Bhutanese counterparts in the domestic tourism industry.
In light of such unprincipled behaviour, I am deeply moved to try my best to protect genuine dharma students who wish to visit Bhutan not for tourist purposes but to see authentic teachers and to receive teachings. In fact, even if they have not been exploited in such deceitful ways, I personally know dedicated practitioners who are not at all well off and use their life savings to pay the very high tourist tariff just to see teachers and receive teachings in Bhutan.
To those students who are connected to me personally, I want to announce that they will miss nothing if they don’t come to Bhutan. Pujas and teachings happening in Bhutan will also happen elsewhere, and I am actually planning most of my South Asian teachings and activities in Nepal and India where visas are not an issue and where there is a wide choice of accommodations including very low-budget options.
Finally, I now have no choice but to inform everyone that the Bumthang drupchen and ceremonies are henceforth absolutely closed. Regardless of what tour operators promise you when they advertise the event, I must regretfully advise you that you will not be permitted to enter the premises even if you come there.
Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse
To whom it may concern,
This morning I saw the Bumthang drupchen being announced as part of a tourist promotion advertisement. Of course, it’s totally understandable that some companies will use religious events to do business. In fact many parts of Bhutan are open to tourism for those who have the appropriate visas and other required documentation.
However I wish to announce that I have nothing to do with travel agents who use my spiritual activities as business opportunities. In fact, I make every effort not to have my photograph published even in fliers nor have I ever in my life taken any commission from those who use my activities for financial advantage. So I am not pleased that the company advertising the Bumthang drupchen has used my photo for their personal business purposes.
I also wish to warn those tempted by such advertising that any promises made by such travel agents have nothing to do with me and are not the responsibility of anyone on my team.
Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse