Sikhim and Bhutan/Appendix 1

Sikhim and Bhutan  (1909)  by John Claude White
Appendix I : The Laws of Bhutan.



A Brief Outline of the Laws and Rules laid down for the Government of Bhutan

The form of government is twofold, viz., spiritual and temporal.

1. The spiritual laws are said to resemble a silken knot—i.e., easy and light at first, but gradually becoming tighter and tighter.

2. The temporal or monarchical laws resemble a golden yoke—i.e., growing heavier and heavier by degrees.

This twofold law was composed by a spirit of perfect disinterestedness.

This twofold system of government established in Bhutan rendered the country happy and prosperous, taking for example the system of the great Saint-King of Tibet, whose very first prohibition was against the taking of life, a crime punished by the realisation of blood-money in case of homicide, and damages or fine in case of attempted homicide. A penalty of hundredfold repayment was realisable in cases of robbery or theft of church or monastic property, eightyfold repayment in cases of stealing the king’s property, eightfold repayment in cases of theft amongst subjects. Adultery was punishable by fines. Falsehood was punishable by the offender being put to oath in a temple, and the invocation of tutelar deities and gods. Over and above the prevention of the ten impious acts, all were required to regard parents with filial respect and affection, and elders with reverence, to receive with gratitude any kind action done by others to themselves, and, lastly, to avoid dishonesty and the use of false measures, which constitute the sixteen acts of social piety.

Although Bhutan had been once effectually brought under the beneficent influence of strict law and justice, it subsequently, on account of general corruption and laxity on the part of those in authority, became slack in all branches.

If this should be allowed to continue, there would be no discrimination between right and wrongdoing, no justice, and without justice human beings cannot have happiness and peace. If there were no peace or happiness for human beings, the Dukpa Hierarchy would have failed in its errand upon this earth, and it would be useless for it to exist longer. Therefore, bearing the interest of the Hierarchy at heart, every one is exhorted to leave all partiality aside and to act up to a true sense of justice, emulating the great Saint-King Srongtsan Gompo of Tibet.

For it is said that Universal Happiness depends upon the existence of the Jina’s Hierarchy, and that, in its turn, depends upon the character of individual Hierarchs. But it is unfortunately the general custom now for those who are in authority to give way to their own selfish and immeasurable greed of gain, to satisfy which they resort to extortion by oppressive means—e.g., binding, beating, and imprisoning—thus rendering the subjects as miserable as tantalised ghosts in this very lifetime. And the elders of the village—i.e., mandals and pipons—in their turn act the part of spies and inform those above them as to who amongst the raiyats have some articles of value or riches. Thus they render the clear fountain of justice muddy and foul. Therefore it is extremely necessary that he who enjoys the privilege of being the Dharma Raja should use the utmost circumspection in finding out the real truth and facts, when it happens that cases are brought before him for trial, so that the innocent be not punished for nothing and the wrongdoer escape unpunished. To enforce temporal laws by punishing sinful and impious acts in perfect accordance with moral and religious laws is the essence of the

Commandments of the Jinas.

A Brief Outline of the Proper Course of Action for Deb Rajas

Buddha says in the Sutras, “A king, if he is fond of Dharma [Righteousness], finds the path to happiness both in this and in the future lives. The subjects will act as the ruler acts, and therefore should the ruler strive to learn Righteousness.”

They should encourage religious institutions and the inculcation of knowledge, and religious sentiment therein.

They should see that the priests are properly trained in the ten pious acts; that they gain the necessary accomplishments in (a) dancing, (b) drawing, or making mandalas, and (c) psalm-singing; besides acquiring knowledge in the twofold method of meditation. The above should be for those who expect to spend their lives as priests. Those who are to acquire the other branches of learning, such as rhetoric, poetry, and dialectics, also must be encouraged, and their progress enforced by periodical examinations in each of these several branches.

An annual circular perwana should be issued to those in charge of the State monasteries, requiring that the monastic properties of value, whether they be ornaments for the altar, treasures, coins, plates, utensils, &c., should not be disposed of or misused in any way. To those also amongst the priesthood who are engaged in handicrafts (e.g., painting, sewing, embroidery, carving, modelling, &c.), and those also who are engaged in menial service, should be taught thoroughly writing and rituals, and they should be thoroughly imbued with the ten pious sentiments. In short, the Deb should consider it a daily duty to inquire into the state of the raiyats’ condition, whether they are happy or unhappy, contented or discontented, and strain his utmost power to render them happy.

They should prohibit indiscriminate life-taking, by forbidding cruel sport on the hills and fishing in the rivers. This effectually strikes at the cause of several ills in the future.

The collection of taxes, raising of labour contributions, and trial of cases constitute the administrative duties, on the proper discharge of which depends the happiness of a nation.

A constant check and inquiry as to whether, out of those who are sent on these duties, there are any who exempt certain persons, some from partiality, and tax others heavily in consequence of grudges or prejudice, should be exercised and kept up.

The officers posted on the frontiers should be constantly reminded of the fact that the peace of the central nation depends upon the conduct of the borderers. The borderers, if they commit lawless raids into others' territories in their vicinity, will give occasion for reprisals and involve the nation in the horrors of foreign warfare in an unjust cause. Therefore they should be exhorted to live peaceably.

To be brief, these are the three ends to be secured:

1. The contentment of the raiyats.

2. The proper influence of and respect for officials or authorities.

3. The support of the Sangha, or the body of the Trinity.

Therefore it is absolutely necessary that the Deb Raja, as the temporal ruler of the people, should be well versed in the method of securing these ends.

The most effectual and shortest method of securing the first end, the raiyats’ happiness, is by administering strict justice. If a ruler would devote himself to administering justice impartially, he would make all his subjects happy in a single day. For it was by this means that the ancient dynasty of Tibetan kings secured happiness for their subjects and popularity for the rulers themselves, and also by which the Dharma Raja of Bhutan (Shabdung Rimpochi) succeeded in subduing the stiff-necked and lawless people of Bhutan, and rendering his reign so very glorious and popular. The main end of establishing law and justice is to give peace and security to both the ruler and his subjects, and in particular to promulgate the Dharma and to perpetuate the Hierarchy of the Buddhist Sangha, which embodies and represents the three chief principles of the Buddhist Trinity.

Of late a dangerous laxity has crept into all branches of justice.

Priests who break their vow of celibacy, and criminals who are guilty of homicide, robbery, and otherwise disturbing public peace, go unpunished. This not only sets a bad example for the future, but endangers present tranquillity, and encourages crime and breach of faith. Thus the country becomes filled with vow-breakers and knaves, and public peace is destroyed. It is said, “The violation of spiritual laws makes the Guardian Deities retreat to the Abode of Passivity, and allows the foul breath of the mischievous Fiends to pervade everywhere. The breach of Social Laws weakens the power of the Gods, and the Demons of Darkness laugh with joy.” It is absolutely necessary to compel the priests who have violated their oaths to change their modes of dress and give up other priestly habits.

Moreover, at present the use of a most filthy and noxious herb, called tobacco, is spreading amongst the sepoys and raiyats, who use it incessantly. This is sure to steep the sacred images and books in pollution and filth. It has been prophesied by Ugyen Padma Jungna that it will cause wars and bring epidemics. So unless every one of the provincial Governors, Kazis, Subahs, and Headmen strives to stop the use of this poisonous and evil stuff by fining those who deal in it, and those who use it, they will be sure to feel heavily the consequences of such neglect themselves.

If those who are rulers, having the opportunity to render their subjects happy, neglect their duties, then where is the difference between them and the Prince of the Devils? In worldly matters it is not always mild means which conquer and subdue rude and evil persons, but sometimes stern measures have to be adopted. So when there are law-breakers or evildoers the ruler’s duty is to punish them sternly, putting aside all consideration of pity and sympathy. This is the path by which a king on his throne obtains salvation.

Although the rulers are responsible for the general prosperity of a nation, yet it is the local authorities on whom lie the responsibilities of a province or district. The deputies (who are sent to inquire into a case), and the headman who reports, are the chief persons on whom the real burden of a fair trial lies. The establishment of a second-grade Kuchap, as well as that of a Lama and Hyerpa combined, should consist of two orderlies or sepoys and one syce, and ordinary Kuchaps should have only one orderly and one syce. Officers' tours entail too much expense and trouble on the raiyats, so unless it be for transfers or new appointments, officers’ tours should be restricted as much as possible, and they should not be allowed to travel about on any trivial pretence. The husking of paddy should not be given in dribbling quantities, but in a large quantity at one time; nor should rice be realised over the actual out-turn of the husking. The raiyats should not be dispossessed of any gold, turquoise, vessels, cattle, or ponies they may possess on frivolous pretences of extortionate rates of interest on trading capital lent by the headmen, nor should any headmen request subscriptions by means of giving charm threads or cheap clothes. All barter or trading should be carried on at fair prevailing rates, and not at extortionate and preferential ones. Forced gifts of salt or butter should not be made. No wearing wool should be given, no sheep’s load should be realised. All Jongpens and Head Lamas of monasteries shall not try to realise any gifts by going round visiting raiyats.

The sale and purchase of slaves (plainsmen) must not be permitted. Any one persisting in it should be reported to the Durbar authorities. State officers will not be entitled to any coolies or rations from the State, if they are going to visit a hot spring or mineral-water spring for their own health, but they shall provide themselves with the necessary provisions and coolies on such occasions. When officers are out on their own account they shall not present themselves at the Jongs, and if they do the Jongs shall not provide them with, the usual rations to which they would otherwise be entitled.

The officers in charge of the several Jongs should report to the Durbar what amount of free labour has been enforced, how many coolies supplied, or how many coolie-loads have been conveyed, and for whom, or by whose order, on what date, and so on. Should any officer at the different stages permit any load to be conveyed free of cost to the owner without reporting, he shall be liable to a heavy fine.

A Kuchap can keep one pony, and may perhaps be entrusted with the feed of a pony from the Superior Jongpen. Over and above these he may not maintain any ponies at the cost of the State. Should he do so he will forfeit the same to the Jong. He may, however, by paying a licence fee of over one hundred tankas to his Jong, be allowed to maintain one more pony. But on no account is he to be allowed to maintain more than three ponies at the cost of the State. Should he desire to give a pony in the place of the annual revenue, he may not send any raiyat to purchase it from any market. In case of complaints made to him, he may not receive anything over a measure of pachwai murwa, not so much as a square bit of silk in kind, nor a tanka in cash. A Kuchap should report all cases, be they light or important, to the Jong, and by no means decide any himself. At harvest-time a Kuchap should not take the opportunity of visiting his field border, or turn it to a means of going on a rambling visit to his raiyats. Nor should a Kuchap make slight cattle trespasses upon the border of his fields the pretence for realising heavy damages from his raiyats. The Kuchaps or other responsible officers must not be wine-bibbers, fornicators, nor adulterers. Should they be guilty of any of the above faults, they render themselves enemies to public peace, and thereby liable to dismissal from their office in disgrace.

The collection of the taxes in kind, such as meat and butter, must be considered and settled at the Kuchang’s own place, with the assistance of the elders, and karbaris or mandals under him, after which he will submit the proposed demand rent-roll to the Jongpen, his immediate and chief superior, for sanction and order. Only upon obtaining such sanction can he realise the rents in kind.

Should any guests have to be provided for, it will not do for him to realise the provisions or their equivalent from the raiyats, but he should quarter them on the houses in turn. The guests should on no account expect luxuries, but bare necessaries.

The Kuchap must not grant any remission of rents of either kind, on consideration of any private gift to himself.

The Kuchap may not accept the first portion of any ceremonial feast, be it for the dead or the living. He should not accept or demand any present for marriages or separations.

When sending out for collections, he should send a pipon, who will represent an orderly, a mandal, and a karbari in one. This man shall not realise anything on his own account. He shall not accept any present from cattle-keepers. Any mandal, or lamas or shalugos who have been appointed to any posts, requiring to go to the seat of the Durbar, must not take any raiyats to accompany them, nor should they raise any tax on the pretence of nazars for the Durbar. Any officers, village headmen, who have obtained permission to retire from service on account of old age, infirmities, &c., must not linger above three days in the Jong. Any foreigners or strangers arriving in their jurisdiction must be reported and presented to their superior at the Jong. They must not harbour or receive any such. Anybody found harbouring robbers or thieves must be punished as heavily as the criminals themselves.

Any slaves attempting to escape in an unhappy mood must be detained, and should any one after having harboured one fail to detain him the same shall make good the slave. But, on the other hand, if any one succeed in handing back to the owner the escaped slave the same must be compensated, due consideration being taken regarding the distance, the time, the cost and expenses incurred in the performance of the enterprise.

Two different raiyats cannot combine into one. A holding may be enjoyed both by a son or, if there is no son, by a daughter. A raiyat who is aged, and has neither daughter nor son, may be asked only to render such labour and service for revenue as he is able to perform alone as long as he lives; upon his or her decease the same holding shall pass to the nearest kith or kin, who will thenceforth be expected to render both labour and cash and kind revenues. No marriages or permanent connections should be allowed where the parents do not approve. And whereas, where there are two or three holdings and houses which used to pay taxes separately now combined in one, with a view of lightening the labour contribution, it must be ruled that this be not permitted or tolerated, as it is a bad precedent. If there be any, either a male or a female, heir to the property, the same should be compelled to make good the State revenue. If there are no heirs in the line, then it should be made over to the nearest kin, or to such person whom the owner wills as his assignee, who will thenceforth make good the State revenue. Those who own properties in land and houses, and yet live untaxed in towns, should be made to render proportionate labour contribution and rents in cash and kind with the value and area of their properties.

Whereas the slaughter of many animals on account of funeral ceremonies is bad, both on account of the deceased as well as the living, henceforth it is expedient to offer simple gifts on these occasions, which shall be regulated as follows:

1. For the Durbar, in lieu of a head and limb the value of half a tanka.

2. For the Lama, the price of a piece of cotton cloth.

But if the party be poor and cannot afford the gifts, but simply some offerings for the deceased, then he shall be liable to the above costs only in case of Durbar and Lama, and for the assistant priests he can give rice in lieu of meat, about four manas. But if one animal has to be slaughtered, on no account shall he exceed one life, out of which he must defray the necessary meat expenses.

A monastery Head Lama shall perform the cremation within one day in summer and two in winter; he must not exceed this time, on his own responsibility. The number of priests to attend a funeral, and the fees to be received by them, are the same as at the capital or Durbar. But if the Head Lama is delayed in coming or prevented from coming, the layman must have the obsequies partially performed at home, and must take such stores with him with which he can have the same performed at a monastery. No freehold grants to lamas for their support shall be sold. The laymen shall not stop supporting the lamas. Should any wealthy or propertied lama die, his chief supporting layman or disciple shall utilise his property in meritorious charity. When any State-supported and retired lamas die, their effects, if they are books, images, or altar appurtenance, shall be offered to the State or Deb as obsequies offerings, and the rest shall be devoted to funeral ceremonies to the best account. When it becomes necessary to build a cell to serve as a retreat for any lama of the monastery, it shall be within the compound or in the vicinity of a monastery or other religious institution, and not in the vicinity of a village or any hill spur. Should any child be born to a couple, as the result of a connection within monastery precincts, the same couple shall be considered to have reverted to the world, and their life must be passed amongst the villages, and they shall accordingly be made to fill up any vacancy amongst the raiyats, and shall be liable to the same taxes and labour contributions as any other raiyat.

Should any member or Tape of the monastery loiter more than fifteen days amongst the villages, otherwise than on some special business of the Head Lamas, or their own, and on the usual charity begging purpose, the same shall be liable to be forced to render the usual labour contribution by the village headmen. The Head Lamas of the several monasteries, too, must, except on the occasions of the annual congregation for observing the Buddhist holidays, always pass their time in retreats. They shall use their utmost efforts to effectually put an end to any sham or charlatanism, necromancy, quackery, and false witchcraft. The licensed as well as private Manewas (those who go about singing “Om mani padmi hum”) shall only enjoy such offerings as are made voluntarily; there shall be no tax for them. No one shall harbour any mischievous person who has been banished from a Jong for some roguery.

A thief or robber, killed while in the commission of theft or robbery, dies without any hope of redress. The man who kills a thief in the above manner is not liable to any punishment. But otherwise one who takes out his sword (for threatening or for striking) is liable to sword fine.

One committing homicide must be bound to the corpse of the deceased whom he has killed. If he escapes after committing homicide, he may be killed wherever and whenever he is caught. The offspring of a homicide shall be banished from their home.

Any one killing notorious highway robbers, any wild beasts which are working much havoc in a country, or who has performed heroic service amongst enemies during war should be encouraged by gifts of robes or clothes according to merit.

The headmen should inspect the products of their country industries, and see that they are honest and solid in make and texture.

The merchants who have the responsibility of the import trade at the different marts also must satisfy themselves that they get good things, and all the traders must obey the State merchant in these particulars. Any one acting in defiance of these rules, and any one found forging Government letters, or altering their meaning, or attempting detention or miscarriage of such orders issued from the seat of the Government, shall be dealt with severely, inasmuch as they shall be deprived of their sight or of life by decapitation.

From the Dharma Raja at the head of all the ruling officers, including Lamas, Jongpens, Penlops, &c., down to the Mandals and responsible village headmen, if they do not act in accordance with the above, if they do not regard public prosperity nor check their subordinates, if they suffer Karmic laws to be subverted, and tolerate the spread of evil without making an effort to remedy it, then how will the Spiritual Guardians help them! Thus, in conformity with the text “Those who offer insults to those who live in Righteousness are worthy of being exterminated,” they shall surely be offered up as fitting sacrifice on the altar of the Great and Terrible Mahakal.

But, on the other hand, if all observe the above rules, which they must understand are for their general as well as individual good, they will put their faith in the threefold Rare One (Tri Ratua) as their God and witness, and regard the Chagdzöd (Deb Raja) as the human liege lord who has been entrusted with the weal of the nation and the prosperity of the Hierarchy in general, and serve him unto death most loyally and energetically, just as the great Righteous Prime Minister Garwa did formerly.

This completes the brief code of rules and regulations of the great Dharma Raja, of which this is the chapter regarding the officials and provincial governors, and their subordinate Kazis and Subahs.