Experience Buddhism in Bhutan with Bhutan Bokar Tours & Treks

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Experience Buddhism in Bhutan with Bhutan Bokar Tours & Treks

experience-buddhism-in-bhutan

Visited Bhutan: 1st – 6th December, 2014

As a traveler who loves to visit less developed countries, Bhutan has been on my list for several years. My wife and I just returned from a week in Western Bhutan in December and it was a wonderful and moving experience. Another reason we decided to visit is that Buddhism is the universal, state religion of Bhutan.   Many Asian countries have long traditions of Buddhism but Bhutan is the only country where almost everyone is a practicing Buddhist and has studied it all their lives, the government supports the monks and maintains hundreds of sites across the country. I have read a number of books on Buddhism over the years but never visited a Buddhist country. Reading about it in a book is nothing like seeing the people practice it every day.   Visit Bhutan and you will witness this on a personal level.

We have all had the experience of reading about a country, its culture and history, and then being deeply impressed and surprised when you actually visit and get immersed in the culture. While I thought I knew a lot about Buddhism from the various books, I learned that I really didn’t grasp it until I saw how the Bhutanese practice it, act on it, and yes live it in most everything that they do.   Buddhists temples, stupas, prayer wheels, prayer flags and other monuments are everywhere. In our week with Singye Wangchuk and Jambay Yang (our tour guide and driver) we spent many hours talking about Buddhism, how they view the world and visited sacred places every day.   Through this very personalized tour, we learned the history and stories behind each site, the meaning of each place, and how that affects their view of life and the world. Our guide has studied the religion all his life and has a very deep knowledge of its history and how it is practiced today.

Bhutanese culture and Tibetan Buddhism are so deeply intertwined it is not possible to separate them.   A simple story illustrates what I mean.   One day I noticed in the newspaper that the national government assembly was debating how to deal with the problem of stray dogs.   I asked Singye why not just have the animal control trucks come get the stray dogs.   He was shocked at what I was suggesting. He replied, “We would never kill a dog. We have to find other ways to deal with these problems.”   I realized that their belief in the sanctity of all life is something they really practice and feel deeply. It made me question if I am really from a more “developed” country.

Finally, the stories you have read about the Gross National Happiness concept are totally real.  This isn’t a tagline or marketing concept.   The government policies, laws, objectives, spending and everything else is planned and measured against how they are doing at maintaining their culture, protecting the environment, promoting sustainable development, and providing a government that serves the needs of the people.   They have closely studied their two huge neighbors China and India, and have chosen a different path.  There is much we can all learn from their approach.

 Marcus Weseman

Knoxville, Tennessee, USA

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