Since it’s South Asian Heritage Month, Chicago Asian Network takes this opportunity to highlight some things many may not know about South Asian countries. We may have been on an unstoppable route to a proper Asian representation for many years now but there is still so much more to uncover.
One of the countries often overlooked is Bhutan. As a tourist spot, this country is not a typical destination for those who chase whirlwind adventures. It is for those who wish to look within and embrace the world for what it is. The country may not be the pioneer of international advancement, but Bhutan is popularly known for their way of life that inspires people to live in humility and preserve their own definition of happiness.
To further understand what we are referring to, it may be best to visit and experience the country yourself. But for now, here are some insights on the Bhutanese’ way of life and how they continue to uphold happiness as their main priority.
- Practice praying regularly
One of the most common things you will see in Bhutan is ‘prayer wheels.’ Often, these prayer wheels consist of six syllables, “Om Mani Padme Hum,” with each syllable having their respective meaning. In a nutshell, Om is for generosity; Ma to address jealousy and lust; Ni is for patience; Pad is diligence that removes ignorance from one’s body; Me is for eradication of poverty; Hum is for wisdom that nulls aggression and hate.
In Bhutan, prayer wheels and Buddhist temples are often seen everywhere. The people are known to always align themselves with their beliefs and spiritual values through prayer.
- Slowing down and being mindful
In a podcast titled, “Paano ba ‘to?” (directly translates: “How to do this?”) by a Filipina celebrity Bianca Gonzales, she shared that one of the things that she learned in her Bhutan trip was the importance of slowing down and being mindful.
Through a discussion with a senior lecturer in Royal University of Bhutan, she asked what the reason for people's unhappiness was. The senior lecturer answered, speed. The Bhutanese value mindfulness–slowing down and living in the moment. Enjoying the company that you have right now, the present that you get to live.
We all know that speed makes things easier, but it also blurs the vision of the present as we swiftly proceed to the next one and the next and the next. Guru Rinpoche, The Fifth Reincarnate and head of the Sangchen Ogyen Tsuklag Monaster, advised that happiness is not a by-product of external factors but a result of positive mind conditioning. “Always remember that the most important thing is to live life in the present moment,” he said.
- Guarding nature
Bhutan is mandated by its constitution to maintain 60% forest coverage for eternity. They value the preservation of their natural environment to a point where international franchises like McDonald’s or Starbucks cannot be seen in the country. Bhutanese believe in interconnectedness. As part of their Buddhist values, they understand that guarding their nature is a part of safeguarding their identity, culture, and way of life.
- Rethinking progress
Rather than measuring their progress through the world’s standards like GDP (Gross Domestic Product), they pioneered GNH or Gross National Happiness.
While GDP measures the progress of a country through their expenditures, products, and services, GNH measures through healthcare, housing conditions, food security, cultural diversity, good governance, and more.
For many, it is important to gauge a country’s materialistic development and how they are at par with the rest of the world. However, for Bhutan, it is fundamental to measure the sustainability of the country’s development in both material and non-material value.
Undoubtedly, Bhutan–like all other countries–vests their tourist places to attract foreigners, promising a picturesque Instagram feed by the end of the trip. However, many travelers who went to Bhutan testified that they did not only return with aesthetic souvenirs but with filled hearts, calm minds, and enlightened souls. This is not to say that Bhutan is an official place for the lost to find their place, like a go-to sanctuary for a pilgrimage.
This is to say that Bhutan has a lot to offer to those whose heart is ready to journey and see the tranquil beauty of the country.
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