Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Long Live The King!

Tibet and its once glorious culture has been almost totally erased by the Chinese.
Now the Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan stands as the world's only example of a theocracy along Buddhist lines.

Of course there are several examples of Muslim theocracies - that is, a country in which God and the state religion are seen as the primary guides and regulators for daily life.

However, a nation living according to Buddhist principles is a slightly different prospect.
The openness and contentment of the Bhutanese people bears witness to this.

Based on Buddha's teachings about peace and compassion, this remote Himalayan land is broadly considered to be an oasis of calm and loving-kindness.

However, for some time now it has been on the brink of 'modernisation' - a process which Tibet never got the opportunity to attempt.

Bhutan has become quite expert in discerning exactly what to modernise and how much - and more importantly what not to change.

Externally it looks like the ancient culture it is. Above all it remains true to Buddhist principles. But internally it is developing and moving, carefully, into the 21st century.

Some striking examples of this 'progress' westward -

  • Bhutan recently held its first ever election
  • the kingdom has 'green' policies
  • plastic has been banned
  • tourists are discouraged from entering for fear they will spoil the natural and cultural balance
  • a relatively huge daily fee is levied at those who insist on going to Bhutan
  • the government has a bias for creating policies that nurture 'Gross National Happiness' rather than gross national product!
But THE most central aspect to the Bhutanese way of life is the role of the King.

The monarch is trained by the most eminent Buddhist teachers of the day and is considered to be a living saint embodying the highest spiritual values.
However, he is also highly educated in the best available institutions. The new king went to Western schools including Oxford.

Maybe we in the west could take a leaf out of Bhutan's book and learn to combine the best of the old with the new - and above all, only give political power to those who deserve it and will be trust-worthy guardians of the people's welfare.

The Boston Globe recently published a sumptuous photo gallery of the enthronement of the new King of Bhutan.

Here we see a procession leading guests to the ceremony. Incense prepares the path while shawms herald the auspicious day.

In this photo, the king-elect [28-year-old Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck] awaits his coronation. He is considered to be a thoroughly modern man who is more than capable of preserving the ancient tradition while offering contemporary government.

The 'Raven' Crown is passed from father to son as the will of the people. The new king and all his ministers have been elected by the nation and entrusted with caring for the people as one would care for the most treasured loved one.

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