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Posts Tagged ‘Bhutan’

The landscape of Bhutan is beautiful–rugged mountains, green rice paddies, mango and banana groves, rhododendrons, pine forests. There are white orchids and hundreds of bird species. But it was the warm, hospitable people and their customs that thrilled us most. Happiness is a high value here.

Lhaden, girl in Bhutan, Bhutanese schoolgirl Young Lhaden was pleased to have her picture taken and to talk with us. English is the second language of Bhutan and most people, especially children, love to try it out. She told us she is the eldest of seven children and hopes to go to college, and she probably will. It’s free for all children whose grades are good. At a rural school we visited, with gifts of simple books in English, paper and pens, we were rewarded with broad smiles.

When we met the youthful monks at the Punakha Dzong monastery they laughed and posed in their red robes with saffron collars as they stood near red and gold prayer wheels. Shy and polite, they were also playful, pretending to throw one of their brethren over the monastery wall.  This lighthearted attitude is part of Bhutanese Buddhism.  The most popular figure in Bhutan’s history is a 15th century monk, Drukpa Kunley, known as Divine Mad Monk. He was known for his shocking behavior, singing and teaching in non-traditional ways.

Along with icons such as the snow leopard, dragon, tiger, and garuda (a mystical bird), penises are seen everywhere in Bhutan. They’re drawn on buildings and carved in wood, often with a carved sword, which signifies the cutting away of ignorance. Our guide told us that the phallic symbol, called “thunder dorje,” stands for protection of the home, and the many legends around it stem from, who else, Divine Mad Monk. Apparently he used dorji (“thunderbolt” in Bhutanese) to subdue demonesses. Whatever the truth of the unruly behavior of Divine Mad Monk, most men adore hearing they have a thunder dorje, instead of the standard issue.

When we left, enriched by the landscape, stories, and people, Lhaden’s farewell words took on all the meaning of Bhutan: “Madam, wish you happy!”

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