First of all, I would like to thank the Lord for a safe trip. It’s been quite a while since I travelled alone. At the beginning of the trip, I was rather not used to it. Especially when I was at the Singapore airport and having to wait for almost the whole night for the first Drukair flight from Singapore to Bhutan. However, the wait turned out to be good one because I spent quite a fair bit of hours talking to my Constant Companion. It’s been a long time since we talked like this. I enjoyed that long coffee session with Him at Starbucks. I took forever to finish the latte on venti.
I have learnt quite a number of things during my trip to Bhutan. Bhutan, like Tibet, is a very mystical place. I think the most mystical part about Bhutan is all these stories and accounts of Guru Rinpoche. As a matter of fact, their lives and their belief system all centre around this saint that came to Bhutan in the 8th century to spread Buddhism to the Bhutanese. He is very much regarded as the second Buddha as Sakyamuni himself predicted his coming just before he attained nirvana. He predicted that someone will come back and continue to spread Buddhism. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche himself is Sakya himself. He was borned not of human descend but from the white lotus flower. Guru Rinpoche’s main mission was to spread Buddhism to the Bhutanese and the Tibetans. The Guru was also believed to have come to Bhutan in a ferocious form and landed on what is known today as the Tiger’s Nest. The Tiger’s Nest is a temple located in Paro, in one of the mountains, about 2000 meters above sea level. The trek up the temple is rocky and rather steep but the local people believe that by climbing up to pay homage to the Guru will earn them great merits. It was believed that Guru Rinpoche flew over from Pakistan on a tigress. He landed on a cave there and meditated there for 3 years. The cave is still there today but under locked only to be opened once a year. If you were to climb three times in your life time, you will go to heaven. Not quite a difficult path if that is all you need to get to heaven!
Religion plays a very important part in all Bhutanese lives. They often talk about Buddhism in their daily life and the philosophy of life behind Buddhism is so embedded in them. The belief that everything is impermanent and that everything will come and go. Therefore, there is no need to be too stubborn about anything. They believe that one needs to have a heart of compassion, like the Guru, in order to know the true meaning of happiness. Happiness is not found in gratifying individual desires but it is in having a heart of compassion for everyone around you, do good to them and to be contended with all that we have in this present life. There is just so much of Buddhism in each one of them. Although I am not a Buddhist, but once you are here you can’t help but to literally see Buddhism in each one of them.
I am so impressed by their duo system of government in Bhutan. While almost all the countries in the world believe in secularisation of government, the Bhutanese believe that they come hand in hand together. In fact, the dharma and the civil law have equal status in Bhutan. In all the Dzongs in Bhutan, the monastic order and the civil administration share the same office. Half of the Dzong will be occupied by government officials and half will be occupied by the monastic order. The King and the chief of the monastic share the same positioning in the country but they do not interfere in each other’s affairs. The main job of the chief of monastic order is to look into all matters pertaining to Buddhism. They also look into the cultural and traditional aspects of the nation as this is often buddhist in nature. This is almost close to a theocracy which the Bible advocates. I do think that such balance is remarkable. The Bhutanese, instead of blindly following the western form of democracy, they have crafted out something that works for them. This is very similar to Singapore. We crafted our own definition of what democracy should be, a democracy that works for Singaporean.
The Bhutanese are nature lovers. They take it upon themselves to protect the haven that they have been given. They do not see themselves as ruler of them all, but see themselves as part of nature and thus they are responsible to upkeep the environment. I have explained this in my previous post, so I would not elaborate any further here.
Finally, what they are very famous for, their measures for success. “Happiness is a place” is their slogan! They truly value their Gross National Happiness index as more important than anything else. Economic development and benefits will always take a second or third place in this country. They measure their GNH according to four main criterions, namely: Equal Development, Cultural Preservation, Environmental Preservation and Good Governance. There are many sub categories under these four broad criterions. I love the equal development concept. For instant, if you wish to introduce something to the nation, the basic guideline is that people in the most remotest part of Bhutan must be able to have access to it. If this cannot be achieved, they will not introduce to the nation. In other words, the entire nation enjoys it. I think this is a cool idea.
There is so much to say about this country of happiness. I just can’t have enough of her. She is so unique in her own way. I love being among the Himalayan mountains. I have mentioned, there’s so much life in them. I have been to many countries and have seen their mountains, I tell you I never experience anything like the Himalayan mounts. They are huge yet they are so personal. The last thing that I did before I headed for the airport was to have a last look at the mountains that guarded me for the past so many days. They have inspired me so much that I felt that God is in the mountains. They would greet me every morning and would embrace me in the evening. I am never out of sight of them. But now, I am certainly out of sight of them. I will be embraced by very different things here in Singapore. 7 days in Bhutan, though short but certainly have changed quite a bit of me. Yes, I have my family and friends here…I love them all. But there is still a very deep hunger for more in life. More not in terms of quantity or quality…but in terms of meaning and greater purpose. I have to truly make a decision for myself.
I met a German gentleman who were also on a tour in Bhutan. He too, decided to take sabbatical, leaving behind his job and career, and traveling with his wife. They will be going quite a number of places including Singapore. He too decided that enough is enough and it’s about time he has some peace and tranquility with his wife. They are a lovely couple and we spent many dinners together during our stay at Paro. He is a lawyer turned property developer and eventually he was dealing with steels and some sort like that. Compare to him I am just a humble teacher in a mission school up north of Singapore. But we both shared the same objective…that is to have more meaning in the things that we are doing. He encouraged me to go into writing. I don’t think I am up to the mark. Perhaps when I am more ready or when I have more exciting things to write about. I shared with him regarding my cafe hopping and writing critics for cafes. He finds the whole thing so cool and I certainly recommended some to him. Our last dinner together he wished me all the best and hope that I will find the meaning that I want. I think I found something but not all yet. I wished him the same and that he and his wife would have many many more years.
This is certainly a long post…and I did this on my flight back to Singapore. I will put it up first thing when I arrived in Singapore…plentiful of wifi and 3G.