969 Buddhist devotees perform Gochak ritual in sacred month

By Rinchen Angmo Chumikchan LEH, Mar 01, 2016

Hundreds of Buddhists in Ladakh recently performed mass prostrations ‘Gochak’ for world peace for three days on 20, 21 and 22 February.  Lord Buddha is said to have exhibited his miracle powers from first to fifteen days of the same month. 

Around 969 devotees perform Gochak this year out of which 434 were male and 535 were female. The penance is aimed at seeking world peace and prosperity.

It is stated in the sutra that devotees who under take even a single meritorious deed with the pure heart during this month will get as much benefit as one hundred thousand times and that is why this month is known as Cho ldza.  Buddhist move from village to village prostrating at every few steps.

“Devotes leave their homes early morning and begin the journey early in the morning. This ritual has been taking place since ancient times seeking world peace and prosperity. It's not just for oneself but for the entire humanity”, said Lobzang who is working as Lopon since 3 years.

Every Buddhist knows its spiritual and physical benefits. Conducting physical prostration is one among many Mahayana ways of practising Buddhism in the Himalayan region.  During this sacred month (bod-ldza dang-po) people devote themselves to prayers and carry out fasting (bsNyen-gNas) and complete silence (Snyung-gNas).

During the period of bsNyen-gNas, liturgies for Chenrazig are uttered and devotees meditate on him. They are to abstain from killing, stealing, sexual contact, lying, occupying high thrones or carpets, eating meat and onions, drinking alcohol, purchasing new ornaments, and using fragrant emollient. The bsnyen-gnas alternates with Snyung-gNas in twenty-four hour cycle for sixteen days. The Snyung-gNas liturgies are to be accompanied by absolute silence and the absence of solid or liquid foods.

“The Gochak ritual was started by an old man known as MeMe Phuntsog from Leh. We cannot mention the exact date. We came to know by oral history that it was started way back before 60 -70 years ago. Earlier it was difficult to perform Gochak due to cold weather and heavy snowfall”, said Lobzang. 

He further added that with time it see ms that people are more interested in understanding the teachings and we can see many participants in as compared to the past years.

The procession starts from Chaktsal Gang and move further to Chubi, Lamdon, Yartse Konga to moti market and then back to Chaktsal gang. It is a process of three days. On the last day, all the devotees go visit the monasteries.