“The people here don’t have a lot for themselves, but they have a lot to share,”
The Bhutanese people are content and grateful for everything that they have. Perhaps it is also due to the Buddhist mindset of living in the present that we live our lives one day at a time – despite the lack of financial security – and with a lot of gratitude too, gratitude for our Kings, our work, the beauty of our country, our family and our community.
The population in Bhutan is small. At about 735,000 people, the entire country is the combination of three mature estates of Singapore. What this translates to is a tight-knit community where everyone knows one another. Someone is always somebody’s cousin, in-law, relative or work associate.
Compassion is an integral trait of the Bhutanese and you can witness it in the way we treat animals, specifically the multitude of stray dogs here.
Stray dogs roam the streets in droves – along the roads, napping at your doorstep and even entering shops at times – but you’ll rarely see a Bhutanese chasing a dog away or hitting them. They have become such an essential part of the daily lives of people living here that some locals feed the dogs on a regular basis. Bhutanese love to do picnics and any leftovers are always given to the dogs. “it’s better to feed the dogs than to waste the food”. Now that’s good food waste management.
Compassion is also seen in our collective support and words of encouragement that you can see on social media, during times when tragedy strikes or when someone is in need. The outpour of solidarity and compassion that is seen is always encouraging and inspiring.
Elderly beggars entering the office seeking alms, and they are never chased away. Instead everyone reaches out for their wallets to give some money to the elderly. Compassion is also exemplified in our prime minister Dr Lotay Tshering, who is a trained urologist surgeon and treats patients for free, often working after hours and on weekends to tend to the sick.
As a Buddhist nation, it is clear that in Bhutan, the cultivation of compassion for all beings is the goal for a life well lived and for society to flourish. And when that happens, it translates to happiness.
We as a small community helps to foster kinship and harmony unlike populations that live in large, globalised cities. A lot of time here is spent on kindling those relationships, and cousins are usually hanging around with one another, over a beer or a cup of buttered tea huddled around the bhukhari (local wood-fire stove used as a heater), or playing sports such as archery, darts and football.
Neighbours all know one another and stop to chat in the middle of the road, relatives are always at your disposal when you need them to help with family rituals, and if you need help in procuring a nice silk kira (traditional costume for women), there’s always someone who knows a weaver somewhere. To get something done here, we normally just pick up our phone and make a call. With a close community like this, help is always there when you need it.
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