Galem and Singye: the story of immortal lovers

Photo of the ancestral house of Galem in Punakha Bhutan

Just as the legend of Romeo and Juliat or that of Layla and Majnu which has been revered by millions of people across the globe, the story of Galem and Singye has evolved into a symbol of true love and sacrifice in the Bhutanese folklore. It is true that love is a delirious passion and nowhere has it been better expressed than in the tragic tale of Changyul Bum Galem and Gasa Lamai Singye whose yearning for each other costed them sanity and life. Today, it is still one of the greatest love stories in the history of Bhutan and has inspired many film-makers, artists and singers in the country over the years. This ancient romantic story was first immortalized in the 1988 feature film: Gasa Lamai Singye, produced by Ugetsu Communication. Since then, Bhutan has seen a number of commercial movies retelling this extraordinary tale of two ordinary lovers who had put their love for each other above everything.

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From womb to tomb: a real drama of human existence

A man, fed up with his routine life, decides to go on a long religious retreat. His spiritual Master teaches him that human desires and attachments are the main causes of suffering in the world and that he should learn to detach himself from the luxury and comfort of the materialistic world in order to discover more about himself and achieve inner happiness. He is taught that life itself is one big illusion and everything he sees around him is nothing more than a dream. But despite all the efforts of his mentor to convince him that nothing is permanent in this world, he badly misses his wife and parents at home and requests if he could be relieved to go to see them at least once. His Guru finally consents to his request but offers to accompany him.

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Pilgrimage to Beyul Langdra, one of the most sacred religious sites in Bhutan

Photo of Beyul Langdra temple from the distance

For Buddhists, Beyul Langdra in Wangdue Phodrang represents a real paradise where hundreds of devotees come every year to receive blessings from the sacred monuments believed to have been left behind by the great Buddhist Master, Guru Padma Sambhava during the eighth century. The oral tradition has it that when Guru Rinpoche was meditating here, a ferocious local deity appeared in the form of a bull to distract and attack him. But Guru Rinpoche, in the manifestation of Guru Ugyen Dorji Gur, subdued the deity with his supernatural powers and made him the guardian deity and protector of Dharma. It is believed that Guru Rinpoche hid more than 60 sacred treasures in and around the cliff to be discovered by prophesied treasure revealers over the years. As a result, the name of this place came to be known as Beyul Langdra which means ‘The Hidden Treasure of the Bull Cliff’.

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Democracy is the best form of government only if you know that no government is perfect in the world

As Bhutan is gearing up for the third parliamentary election which is to be held this year, we have already started seeing a lot of public debates and discussions on social media about which party should be elected next and why. With about five political parties already registered to join the race this year, it is certain that the road to the parliament will not be as smooth as it is supposed to be. The general excitement and anxiety are already running high among the political parties and their supporters as we start preparing for the Big Day to cast our votes.

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The unique beauty of rural life: a glimpse of my short vacation in the village

Photo of an orange tree in my wife's village

Shrouded in the surreal beauty of Nature, our rural villages have their own unique way of life that never fails to fascinate new visitors. No matter how sophisticated are the facilities and services in the cities, the villages always leave us with unique experiences that can never be acquired in the towns and cities. So every winter, I make it a point to send my kids to their mother’s village to enjoy the natural beauty of the surrounding environment and understand the cultural and social values that define people’s way of life in the village. I take it as part of wholesome education since children get the opportunities to learn about both rural and urban lifestyles. There are some children in the cities who still wonder how beaten rice or butter/cheese are made in the villages and on the other hand, there are children in the villages who still wonder how people in the cities cook rice just by inserting cables into the wall. I don’t want to deny my kids the opportunity to look at life from all angles so that they can have the bird’s eye-view of the world around them as they grow up.

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Looking at parental suicide through the eyes of children who are left behind

It is very sad to know that out of 361 suicide cases recorded by the Royal Bhutan Police and health facilities across the country from 2009-2013, 66 percent of the victims constituted married people. This means that it’s not only youth who are dying by suicide in Bhutan. Many parents are also killing themselves every year leaving behind their innocent children at the mercy of the surviving parent or their relatives.

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Happy New Year 2018

Happy New Year. Photo courtesy: stockphoto.com

As the year 2017 draws to a close, it is once again time for us to revisit the path we have walked over the past one year and cherish the good memories we have created together with our friends and family-members as we transition into the New Year 2018. Let us forgive all those who have not been good to us and leave all the bad memories behind as we embark on another new phase of our life. The sorrows and miseries we have encountered over the past one year should vanish with time because carrying them with us into the future wouldn’t let us move forward as we wish. The failures and losses we have already suffered should be a thing of the past and we should not let them interfere with the new hopes and dreams the New Year is bringing for us.

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Piecing together the memories created in the Philippines

“Passengers and crew, prepare for landing!” the pilot announced over the microphone as we finally closed in to touch down at Manila International Airport on the night of 3rd December 2017. I was part of the 7-member team from Bhutan to attend the 5-day training on Cross-sectoral Project Management at the Industrial Advanced Academy of the Philippines (IAAP) in Manila. I was filled with excitement as the aircraft landed and taxied to the gate since it was my first time to be in the Philippines, the Pearl of the Orient Seas. We got the first taste of Filipino hospitality when the airport staff treated us warmly as we made our way out of the airport. Unlike in many countries, the immigration formalities were so simple and efficient. We did not have to even process for Visa on Arrival since we were going to be in the country only for five days. Outside the airport, the staff from the Institute were waiting for us as expected. They warmly greeted us and escorted us to the Institute with a short stopover on the way for the late-night dinner. It was already about 1 o’clock in the morning when we reached our destination. It was a long day for us but we had a lot of fun.

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Revisiting the past and looking ahead into the future as I complete my ten years of service in the government

Photo of me with Hon'ble Education Minister after receiving the award. Image courtesy: Sherig Bhutan FB page.

Today, I was truly honored to receive the prestigious Bronze Medal and a certificate of recognition signed by His Majesty the King as a token of appreciation for my ten years of dedicated service to the Royal Government of Bhutan. As an ordinary civil servant, I really feel blest to be recognized for whatever little contribution I have been able to make through my organization over the past decade. As His Excellency the Minister of Education, Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk who graced the award ceremony said, the medal and the certificate do not only represent the success of my career so far, but they also serve as a great source of inspiration and motivation for me to continue to work hard and contribute more to the country in the times to come.

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World AIDS Day 2017: Understanding HIV infection as an issue of national importance

Against all the odds, the world has made a significant progress in its fight against HIV and AIDS over the years. As we observe the World AIDS Day today, it’s appropriate that we reflect on how we could continue to work together to save the world from the disease and initiate care and support systems for those who are already living with the virus. But before that, it’s important that we have a clear understanding of what is HIV and AIDS so that we can effectively work together to create public awareness on the prevention and treatment of the disease.

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Some of the most common causes of divorce: a small personal reflection

In life, everything happens for a reason and divorce is one of the events that does not happen by accident. In a marriage, problems can build up overtime if the spouses do not know how to respect each other’s boundaries. No matter what, having an open communication is key to sustaining a happy relationship. If the spouses choose not to share their feelings with each other, it can build a wall between them that can gradually push them apart. Interacting with those people who have divorced, I have come to understand that the lack of open communication between the spouses, lack of commitment and infidelity are some of the most common causes of divorce in Bhutan.

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Memories from the 3-day Krodikali Retreat in Paro

Panoramic view of tents pitched for meditation practice. Image courtesy: Dudjom Dharma House FB Page

The successful completion of 3-day Krodikali Retreat at Chubjakha in Paro on 12th November 2017 marked another milestone in my spiritual life. After receiving the highest Krodikali initiation (Throema Wangchen) from His Holiness Garab Rinpoche last year, it gave me a great sense of accomplishment to attend the retreat for the second time this year. Starting from the evening of 9th November 2017, we all embarked on a unique spiritual journey closely guided by His Holiness Garab Rinpoche who supervised our practice throughout the retreat period.

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On the middle path to self-contentment

Exactly one year after attending the 3-day spiritual retreat in Paro, I am once again taking a short break from the worldly affairs to explore myself and the world around me in the surreal wilderness of Chubjakha valley in Paro. In the hassles and bustles of busy city life, it gives me an immense sense of relief to break away from the madding crowd for a moment around this time every year to embark on a spiritual journey which is being supervised and guided directly by His Eminence Garab Rinpoche. This year, I am once again blest to get the opportunity to be part of thousands of devotees to attend the retreat from 9-12 November 2017.

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From Violence to Peace: The Story Of A Former Gang Leader

One late evening in 2006, 19-year-old Kencho was walking home from Rigsum Institute in Thimphu where he was studying IT. All of a sudden, a group of unidentified boys encircled him and started hitting him indiscriminately. The incident left him utterly shocked and traumatized. He had no clues why he was attacked and who were the culprits. Since that day, he began to feel insecure to be alone. In the following days, he started contacting his close friends and brought them together to discuss how they should have their own defense mechanism so that others won’t be able to threaten them in the future. A series of meetings and discussions he had with his friends over the span of few months eventually led to the birth of MB Boys (Mass Brothers Boys) in 2007 under his leadership.

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Some basic philosophies that should guide our way of life

Pursuing happiness in the materialistic world is like chasing our own shadow. The more we move forward, the further it goes. No matter how much wealth we accumulate at the end of the day, we will never be able to attain the level of happiness we desire. It will be an endless race. The real happiness actually comes from within, not from outside. If we learn how to be content with what we have, we will never have to look for happiness anywhere else. The world we live in can be defined by how we perceive it. If we look at it positively, we can see the real beauty of life around us. But if we view it negatively, that will shut all the doors to happiness.

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