I am in no sense of that word an ‘expert’ in the area of ‘Religious Service’. This disclaimer is not ritual modesty on my part. I remain aware that much of what I have to say will appear superficial to policy-makers and specialists in the area; indeed some of them may feel outraged by what I say.
But outrage need not be their monopoly. I, for one, feel deeply affronted by the fact that much of the official and scholarly discourse is devoid of concern with the logic and languages of spiritualism. My principal concern, in this article, is to locate the place of “religious service”, being this quite or rather too expensive to consume. I designate the following:
We see lots of Pawos & Pamos, Jowmos & Terdhas etc. in Bhutan which I shall refer them as ‘Spiritualist’—spiritualism being the doctrine of ultimate reality—and the Bhutanese ultimate reality being the Pawos and Pamos. Some are Pawos and Pamos by birth, some are by practice, and some are by rumors. Nevertheless, their functions are all one or the same as they are invited for curing various ailments which I fail to believe in many instances. This does not mean that I am a religious skeptic, however.
Narrating the facts of what Pawos and Pamos does is quite a mystery. Their performance relates to one’s religious faith and the belief associated to it. The most intangible fact is the assurance that they assert. They swear that the patient will be OK and will get better and better. However, this promise does not carry any intelligent weight.
The more interesting fact is the fixation of monetary rate for the service they deliver. The minimum rate for them is approximately ten thousand ngultrum, and some even reach as high as fifty thousand. This is not enough for them; some even demand cloths and other material things. If their demand is not duly met, they threaten the life of patient and the entire family. This, therefore, amount to the consumption of service, which I shall refer to as “religious service”.
Ours is a society of inborn religious believers, and many are blind to believe the services that the Pawos and Pamos provide. Besides medical health care, religious treatment is part of our culture and tradition. The former being free service in Bhutan, and the latter being quite or rather too expensive to consume, I am with doubt as to whether there should be any sort of thing like “regulation”, “certification”, “recognition” etc. for these service providers. This entails only certified and recognized category of Pawos would perform the “Puja” and not others. Some may well argue that this categorization curtails ones fundamental rights enshrined under Article 7 of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan with respect to the religious belief and faith; however, I strongly contend that such classification would carry ‘intelligent differentia’ which ultimately enhance the service quality.
If this fails, an alternative is to incorporate the “religious service” as a separate provision in the Consumer Protection Act of Bhutan of 2012. Thus, defining what constitute religious service in the Act, it must also envisage the maximum amount of monetary and material consideration to be paid to the service provider. The consideration must be reasonable than the present irrational rate fixed by the Pawos and Pamos.
In traditional Bhutanese religious service, the consideration paid is based on ones religious contentment. Fixing of unreasonable rate is beyond the custom and hence, it has to either certify certain class of Pawos and Pamos or to regulate the same as designated above.