Life is like a car. Once you get behind the wheel, it becomes your responsibility to get to your destination no matter how bad may be the condition of the road ahead of you. Challenges are everywhere and sometimes they make you feel that you are more unlucky and miserable than others. But if you look around carefully, you would find that there is nobody in this world who would not have undergone similar experiences you have been through. Problems are part of life and there isn’t anything that can be done to strip them off completely. But as nothing happens without a reason, I think it’s also important to realize that problems are there just because there are solutions. It’s true that every problem has a solution and if you can take time to think and explore it, you can definitely find your way out. People say God has plans for each of us but I am sure they don’t always materialize if we do not strive to implement them. Whenever we are bound in a chain of problems, sitting down and crying won’t break us free. We must always have the courage to pave our path through the wilderness of time as we move forward in life.
Great masters say that our life is a reflection of our own thoughts and actions and I think it makes a lot of sense. It’s true that what and how we think today defines who we are tomorrow. This is called Tha-Damtshi Lejungdrey in Buddhism and this explains how our life revolves around our Karmic actions. When I was in school, our Dzongkha Lopoens used to tell us that we can harvest only what we have planted. We cannot expect to harvest corns from a paddy plant or vice-versa. In Bhutan, we all believe that if we focus on good deeds, the reward will naturally be positive. But if you engage in sinful and unhelpful acts, the brunt of the consequences falls back on you only. If we have to blame anybody for our failures and sufferings, it must be ourselves, not anybody else, because what we are today is the product of our own actions and thoughts. Both our happiness and sadness depend on how we look at life and the world around us. We say that man is the maker of his own destiny because our life is in our hands and we have all the freedom to take it forward in any direction we wish. Have you ever heard the story of a house with a thousand mirrors? I have summarized it below to illustrate what I have stated above.
The nation which firmly believes in the philosophy of Gross National Happiness is devastated by what happened in Yebilaptsa Middle Secondary School on 16th October 2015. The entire population of Bhutan react with shock to the senseless murder of a 13-year-old student of Grade 7 for no personal fault of her own. What is most shocking about this particular incident is that the crime was committed by her own teacher, the Assistant Principal and this is something Bhutan had never seen in our schools before. Schools are supposed to provide a safe environment for students to learn, play and have fun with friends, but tragedies like this one is really unthinkable. It’s a shame to the entire education sector.
The fragrance of a flower lies in its petals, not in its brilliance
The true love of a person lies in the heart, not in the caste or appearance;
People say a stone can also show love if you hold it with trust and right opinion
But even nectar can be poisonous if you take it with suspicion.
I neither have wings to fly like a bird in the sky
Nor do I have the fins like a fish in the ocean to swim by,
But I always have a sacred room in my heart
Where you can forever live like a princess as in the art.
You just give me your heart where I forever can be,
And I shall fight all the obstacles that get between you and me;
I shall never let the external force disturb and destroy
This beautiful journey of our love and joy
For, I have loved you with the heart of a true friend
And decided to walk with you the rest of my life hand-in-hand.
No matter what tragedies befall us on the way,
May our hearts never break away!
May our hearts never break away!
Bhutan is known to the world as a Buddhist country but Buddhism is not the only religion our people are allowed to follow. Today, we have a significant number of Hindus and Christians as well in the country who have their own rightful places to worship and carry out their rites. Unlike some other countries, Bhutanese people have never been subjected to religious persecutions for not following the state religion. Although some people initially believed that Christians were discouraged by authorities to influence others to join them, there was no written order issued to this effect and nobody has been legally charged so far for being a Christian or for influencing others. So considering this liberal attitude and tolerance of the Royal Government of Bhutan and the Bhutanese population towards other religions in the country, I think now it would be fair to call ourselves being in a multicultural society where people from different faith and cultures have been living in harmony for centuries. Honestly speaking, I have been exposed to the culture and practices of all three major religions found in Bhutan: Hinduism, Christianity and Buddhism. I was born and brought up in a Hindu family and I have some understanding of Hindu culture and traditions. But after my father suffered a brain-stroke in the November of 1990 and partially lost his ability to walk, we started living with my paternal uncle and his family who are Christians. My father was then convinced to believe in the miraculous powers of Jesus Christ to help him regain his mobility and then he was baptized. Since then, I grew in a Christian family during winters where I got to learn many things about Christianity and its cultures. I often used to accompany my father to church on Sundays and attend the church services. But I could never decide to become a Christian although I was frequently invited by my uncle to sit with them for prayers. Then when I was in school, I got the opportunity to study more about Buddhism and that’s how I got more exposure to the philosophies and teachings of Lord Buddha, which ultimately made me realize that this was my religion, if I ever have to adopt one. However, I have learned that although the actual essence of every religion is same, the spiritual practices are often influenced, either for good or bad, by our cultures and vice-versa. So based on my superficial understanding of these three religions, I would like to draw a brief comparative analysis of Buddhist, Hindu and Christian cultures as seen specifically in Bhutan. I am saying particularly ‘cultures’ because what I have seen and heard is the cultural aspect and not the spiritual part. The following are some of my observations:
As you might know, today is a special day set aside in many countries in the world to celebrate the achievements of persons with visual impairment and to promote white cane as an important symbol of independence for the blind. Over the years, the white cane has become a very popular tool of mobility as well as a symbol of independence for the blind across the globe because it is this particular device that has brought the visually impaired persons out into the streets and highways, and helped them live a fully independent life in the community. Prior to the invention of this type of cane, the life of visually impaired persons was mostly confined within the four walls of their house. But today with the help of this mobility device, we the visually impaired people have been able to come out into the public and participate in the mainstream society without much difficulty.
Although Bhutan has lost 3-4 to Maldives during the 2nd-round pre-qualifying world cup match yesterday, the extraordinary performance of our Dragon Boys during the last few minutes has re-kindled a new hope in the hearts of their fans in the country and abroad. I know our boys have been playing under intense pressure both from their direct opponents as well as their fans especially in this round of the pre-qualifying matches. As amateur players representing a country where football is just beginning to gain momentum, I can clearly understand the degree of both psychological and physical pressure our boys must be going through to save our country’s name in the midst of highly professional and experienced opponents. Although we have consecutively lost so far during this round, the constant efforts and commitment of our boys to contribute to the team will never be forgotten. Although I don’t have much hope that we would win against any country in this round, I feel what our boys have been doing so far is enough at this juncture considering the economic constraints of the country to groom professional players and to expand the scope of the game. I know that they have been facing criticism from many people for their lack of proper team coordination and game tactics particularly after losing 0-15 to Qatar last month but despite all those public outcries and challenges, it’s amazing to watch them prove last night that they have still not lost their spirit.
While studying in Khaling as a small boy, I had heard about so-called Sondreys, the living ghosts that are believed to evolve from some women. I was told by senior friends that the souls of some women temporarily leave their physical bodies when they are asleep and wander around as balls of strange fires. Many people used to share their experiences of seeing such mysterious fires at night, which keeps on glowing into one big single flame and then spread away into smaller ones. Even my youngest sister-in-law claims to have seen such a thing when she was a little girl in the village. When I was in school, some of my senior friends who were partially sighted used to claim seeing such fires at a distance and would explain it to us. It was very scary at the time. I was once sick for a couple of days with intense pain on my chest and after the drugs prescribed by Basic Health Unit did not relieve me of the pain, some people wondered if I was attacked by such a living ghost or Sondrey as it is locally called. Subsequently when the pain subsided, people told me that the scratched marks were visible on my chest, which they claimed was that of the Sondrey.