A light for our red-robed cousins

By Sonam Choki

Bhutan has a substantial proportion of citizens who have opted to join the monastic system, the Zhung Dratshang, as nuns and monks, and which is a vital line of profession in the country.

Nonetheless, the lack of a save social security net has never been part of the discourse nor does any religious practitioners, registered nuns and monks lay monks excluded, feel that a safe retirement policy could bring them sea changes.

This is what the Central Monastic Body is planning to provide for its monks and nuns in their old age. Unlike civil servants, currently, they don’t have a pension scheme. A pension is a retirement income helps provide financial independence when you lose your main source of income after retirement.

Despite dedicating their entire life to the practice and propagation of the Buddha dharma some monks and nuns have to spend their last days of lives without anyone taking care of them. And without any income after they leave their monastic lives they are left to fend for themselves.

The new retirement benefit plan which is being discussed with relevant stakeholders is expected to provide some relief though any serious discourse is yet to happen.

“The proposed pension plan will help them especially when they “don’t have anyone we can rely on or if our body fails us in our old age. It will be of great help even if they want to spend the rest of their days praying,” Rinzin, a former senior monk at the Zhung Dratshang opines.

He adds that since there is a talk going on to provide provident fund for the monks, he took the opportunity to get the same for the nuns. Like monks, some nuns are already worried about how they can sustain their livelihood after leaving the nunneries.

Another monk said they don’t have anyone back home. The pension plan would really help address these issues.

To give impetus to these pressing issues, a consultative meeting was held in Paro recently to discuss this. Representatives from five western districts discussed how best to provide this benefit.

The Dratshang Lhuentshog said pension will be first piloted for its monks and nuns, and if it proves successful the Body plans to implement it for the private monastic schools too. The Central Monastic Body also hopes that this pension plan will attract more people to become monks and nuns in the long run.

A senior lopen from said the pension will come handy when they want to go on pilgrimage. Moreover, it will support their daily expenses after they retire to pray. That is why we are studying to implement this plan.

Further, the Central Monastic Body plans to conduct a similar consultative meeting in the central and eastern districts soon. Today, there are more than 11,000 monks and nuns across the country registered with the Zhung Dratshang.

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