The mysterious country of Bhutan, where earth meets sky
Bhutan is a mysterious country surrounded by the Himalayas.
The majority of its territory is covered with mountains reaching 2,000 meters in height. There are more monks than police troops in this Buddhist kingdom, which is the world’s only country without traffic lights. Nor does it have fast food restaurants or foreign commercial advertisements. Everything believed to disrupt people’s happiness is outlawed in Bhutan. And anyone can receive health care and education for free. More than 60 percent of the national territory is allocated to forests. Despite its poverty, Bhutan is a spiritually rich country that chooses slowness over growth.
Poor but happy
In 1972, the Bhutanese king said he would focus not on promoting the country’s gross domestic product, but its gross national happiness. While other countries pursue economic growth, Bhutan pursues happiness. Yangzom, who we met at the Wangchuk National Referral Hospital, brought her child to undergo health examinations. This woman can’t afford healthcare costs because she makes a living selling goods at a market, but she doesn’t look worried. Anyone in Bhutan can receive medical treatment free of charge. She says she is happy to live in this country.
Bhutan provides free healthcare and education to its residents. Tshering Dorji attends the National Institute for Zorig Chusum, where he receives top-quality education because of his outstanding talent. Thanks to government subsidies, this young man from a small village can receive high-quality education free of charge. The government has also agreed to sponsor his studies abroad upon graduating. The Bhutanese government supports its talented people and presents all its residents with equal opportunities. One of the world’s poorest countries, Bhutan has achieved what many industrialized countries have yet to.
Happiness increased by sharing
Passang Dem’s family, from a small village of Mendi, prepares for an important occasion. Bhutanese households hold the religious ritual Puja three or four times a year when an important event takes place. One day before the ritual, Buddhist monks visit a family to make butter flowers to be offered to god. The ritual is accompanied by music while the monks pray for the family’s happiness. After the ritual, all the neighbors have a meal together. Passang Dem’s family is happy to receive many guests. Sharing is part of their everyday routine.
Finding spiritual happiness
The Memorial Choeten Temple was built by the mother of Bhutan’s third king. Wangchuk Dema spends his entire days spinning a hand-prayer wheel, which is believed to have an effect similar to reading scriptures. When spinning the heavy wheel, Wangchuk Dema thinks of everything good he has done during his life and prays that his life after death would be more beautiful. The Bhutanese say they are happy to follow god’s will.
Entrusting one’s life to god
The Taktshang Goemba Temple is located 3,300 meters above sea level on a steep cliff. This sacred place is hard to reach, but it is a must-visit location for the Bhutanese. Lopen Dorji struggles to climb the steep cliff carrying a heavy bag. He is exhausted but joyful. His light steps show his secret to happiness.