Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Sacred Arts of Bhutan 3: Gross National Happiness
Bhutan is one of the few Asian countries that has never been colonised by the West nor conquered by its huge neighbors to the north and south, China and India respectively.
The population is about the same as San Francisco and the size of the country is about that of Switzerland, with Himalayan peaks over 24,000 feet in the north and subtropical lowlands on the border with India.
Unlike Switzerland, the national focus is not on money but on spirituality, and the success of the nation is measured by its "Gross National Happiness."
My friend Heidi visited the country a decade ago with a small group led by one of her Tibetan gurus, and she found the experience literally mind-blowing.
My two favorite factual tidbits from Wikipedia's article about Bhutan (click here) are the following: "Numerous homes and shops in Bhutan are adorned with colourful depictions of penises. Many Bhutanese feel that such images ward off the evil eye and protect anyone inside the building"
This is followed by the complementary "Inheritance in Bhutan generally goes in the female rather than the male line. Daughters will inherit their parents' house. A man is expected to make his own way in the world and often moves to his wife's home."
This exhibit follows the amazing "Afghanistan" show which was from a country that has been invaded, colonized and abused throughout a very long history which continues to this day. In a way, this collection of Bodhisattvas, Buddhas and Wrathful Guardians from Bhutan feels like a healing tonic, and it couldn't be any happier.