In the world today, we can see many systems that are not working. Anything from healthcare, education, living standards, environmental issues, and the list goes on. That is why visiting Bhutan and experiencing their holistic approach to the happiness of their people and country is so refreshing.
Bhutan is a tiny little kingdom, known to its people as Druk-Yul – Land of the Thunder Dragon. It is tucked away in the heart of the Himalayas, located between China and India. It is a lovely and mysterious place and has been very successful in preserving its Buddhist culture. It was influenced by early on by Tibetan civilization but developed its own original culture. Bhutan has never been conquered and remains a place of stability and serenity in an increasingly crazy world.
One of the most unique things about Bhutan is how it measures the Gross National Product (an indicator of the progress of a country). The government has decided to measure it in Happiness, they even have a Minister of Happiness. There are nine domains and 33 indicators of their Gross National Happiness (GNH). There is even a level for the individual and Bhutan the country! They definitely take their GNH seriously.
The nine domains are living standards, psychological well-being, ecological diversity and resilience, community well-being, health, time use, education, good governance, cultural diversity, and resilience.
We experienced first-hand the free health care system of Bhutan during our last tour in 2015. Dominique had some elevation issues and needed to see a doctor. He saw a doctor in Paro, only waited 20 minutes. The doctor was earnest, kind, and listened to Dominique’s symptoms and came up with proper diagnosis and prescription. Dominique asked the receptionist where he could get his prescription filled, she laughed and said right here! After 10 mins he received the medicine and wanted to pay, she just smiled and said it was free. The wonderful thing was the medication worked very well, and Dominique felt much better.
Bhutan is a tiny country and only opened to tourism in the ’70s. Their government is very sensitive to the environmental impact of tourism on their country, so they made the decision to restrict the level of tourism and promote high-quality tours. All visits to Bhutan must be coordinated with local tour companies and are very respectful of Bhutanese unique culture and traditions. There is no independent traveling through the kingdom. Visas and flights into and out of Bhutan are all part of the coordination needed to experience the beauty of Bhutan.
The people of Bhutan are modest, sweet, traditional and have a quiet spirituality that runs through their lives. They are open to talking about themselves and their culture. Many of them speak English, so this communication for us is easy. Their deep-rooted traditional dress code was introduced in the 17th century and was mandatory at the time. What emerged out of this practice was a more profound connection towards the land and a sense of belonging amongst the citizens. They still dress in traditional clothes, even in cities you will see the men wearing a Gho, a knee-length robe-like cloth wrapped around their bodies held secure by a belt. The women wear a Kira, an apron-like dress that is ankle length and super comfortable to wear. All of the material is beautifully woven with intricate patterns and delightful colors.
One of the most shocking things about Bhutan for visitors is seeing big phalluses painted on the sides of buildings and homes. There are statues, both big and small of phalluses everywhere and many times the artwork shows the phallus dripping with ejaculation. Of course, after the shock, there is the curiosity of why especially when there is not an overtly sexual vibe to the country.
The answer lies with a crazy saint. Back in the 15th century, there was a famous Bhutanese Saint named Drukpa Kunley, who migrated from Tibet. Kunley was very unorthodox and called himself the “Madman from Kyishodruk.” He was fond of wine and women, devoid of all social conventions, and used sex to shock the clergy who were prudish in their behaviors and teachings. He used his “Thunderbolt of Flaming Wisdom,” (his phallus) to drive out evil spirits and subdue demons. He became known as a fertility saint and his phallus is painted on the walls of houses for good luck, fertility, and to subdue demonesses and demons. Kunley built a monastery, Chimi Lhakhang, that is still visited today by people around the world seeking blessings of fertility and children.
As you know, the Boulder Centre for Master Builders is passionate about the energies of places. We continuously write about sacred sites and their individual energies and in 2015 we were lucky enough to coordinate our first tour to Bhutan. Part of the visit was to study the sacred geometry of the Bhutanese Stupas. We found that the stupas we visited were clean, clear, excellent quality, and a joy to visit. The stupas or “Chortens” in Bhutan are connected to the five elements and are built precisely. There are around 8 different styles of stupas, and many have legends surrounding their creations.
Our tour was coordinated by Bhutan Scenic Tours, who was a delight to work with during our entire 12-day visit. All details, from flights on Drukair to and from Paro to our visas, hotel stays, food, and transportation was smoothly taken care of. We are happy to partner with them again for our June 2019 Sacred Geometry Tour and expect the same smooth efficiency during this tour.
And lastly, here is what our own Anne Z. Parker, a professor at Naropa University and in charge of the Bhutan study program at Naropa, has to say about Bhutan.
“Just stepping off the plane in Bhutan felt like a joyous return and a relief from busy American life. A colleague commented, “It seems easier to meditate here and is restful for the nervous system.” Another noted, “This is a living culture of both ancient and new sacred sites that are alive and actively revered by the people.”
Daily life here includes circumambulating, i.e., walking around, sacred structures, visiting temples, literally working with the beneficial impact of holy structures on the human body and psyche. The great Memorial Chorten in Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan, is like a generator of collective energy as people circle it day and might, saying mantras and prayers.
Joining the Boulder Center for Master Builders Tour to Bhutan will be a unique way to see Bhutan and feel a culture that still values the healing and enlightening qualities of sacred buildings in present times.”