October 17, 2006

Dinner With The Bhutan Ambassador To Japan, India & Nepal

Left: El-Branden Brazil with
His Excellency Dago Tshering.

As someone with a deep passion for Tibetan Buddhism, I have always been drawn to the Himalayas. It is, without question, one of my favourite regions in the world. Whilst I have visited both India and Nepal, one country in particular, that has always held a fascination for me, is the nation of Bhutan.

Last night, I was given an opportunity to attend a dinner party with His Excellency Dago Tshering, who is the Bhutan Ambassador to Japan, India and Nepal. His residency is in New Delhi, India.

Bhutan is a landlocked land, that sits between the great powers of China and India. In comparison to its neighbours' massive populations, only 700,000 people occupy Bhutan.

Bhutan is a country that has strived admirably to retain its traditions, untainted by outside influences. The King of Bhutan has been promoting policies that protect the culture, but also develop the country, so that it can become a viable member within the global community.

The Ambassador informed us that part of this development programme, is the introduction of a multi-party political system, which will be established in 2008. At this point, the King will rescind the powers that he currently retains, and a new king will be selected. The reason for such a radical change of governance, stems from the King's dedication to the welfare and happiness of his people. Unlike other countries, which focus mainly on Gross National Profit (GNP), Bhutan prioritises what it calls Gross National Happiness (GNH).

To achieve its aims for generating happiness, four pillars of policy are in place: 1. Sustainable and equitable socio-economic development, which provides free health care and education to all, as well as national projects that provide employment opportunities. 2. Protection of the environment. 3. Preservation and promotion of culture. 4. Good governance that retains the people's interests first.

This refreshing approach has been of interest to many policy makers across the globe, with even Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, considering its implications for improving people's lives. It is certainly a very Buddhist approach, which is not surprising, as Bhutan is defined by a very strong Buddhist culture.

As the evening continued, I had the pleasure of listening to two classical Bhutanese musicians. My Japanese friends were extremely surprised at how it resembled the sound of traditional Japanese music. Certainly, there is some sharing of culture between Bhutan and Japan, that probably occurred with the spreading of Mahayana Buddhism across the Asian continent.

Recently, I have been very interested in perhaps finding work in Bhutan, as I have a wish to develop my own understanding of Buddhism further. I mentioned this to the Ambassador, and he informed me that there are many Buddhist teachers, willing to take on students.

The Ambassador was a charming man, and it was an honour and a delight to speak with him.

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