Thursday, February 12, 2009

In the shadow of the Buddha...

Over the years, I have seen so many tranquill Buddha images in so many countries. The look is always different, yet always the same – a serene image that spreads a sense of peace in all those who gaze on it. Only the features change from region to region, as if the Buddha were becoming one with the host peoples...

Yet it strikes me that predominantly Buddhist countries such as Myanmar (Burma), Cambodia and Sri Lanka have seen so much violence over the years. Myanmar continues to bear witness to man’s inhumanity to man, and Sri Lanka has gone back to civil strife. Meanwhile, Thailand has shown an inhumane and decidedly un-Buddhist side by beating up hapless Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and pushing them out to sea in rudimentary boats without food or water.

I don’t mean to single out Buddhist countries. I am just sad that even living in the shadow of the Buddha does not make us – and yes, I mean us, the human race – more compassionate.

Nevertheless, these are all beautiful countries with fascinating histories and fabulous temples and Buddha images undoubtedly carved with much devotion as well as immense skill.

One country that has managed to remain peaceful is the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, which measures the well-being of its citizens not just through gross domestic product but also a happiness index! Perhaps it is that kind of prioritization that has allowed the country to avoid the violence of the rest of the South Asian region.

Well, I hope happiness, compassion, wisdom and loving kindness spread through our world through the teachings of the Buddha and the actions of those who follow his teachings (such as Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi).
Om mani padme hum.


  1. Is not Bhutan where the King recently abdicated in favor of a democracy?

  2. Yes and no, I think. As far as I can remember, he actually stepped down in favour of his son. But I think there has been a move to democracy and so the country is probably not a kingdom any more. Is that what you were getting at?

    Thanks for pointing that out. I will check and update my post accordingly.

    Shows the dangers of living in one's own memories of a place...

  3. OK, I did some quick checking (on the Net, where else) and apparently it's a kindom on its way to a democracy. Not quite there yet -according to Wiki, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, eldest son of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck (who abdicated) was "crowned King of the Himalayan Kingdom" in November 2008.

    I gather Bhutan will become a democracy after parliamentary elections in March this year.

    So, Frank, I'm sticking with this post for now, but thanks all the same for reminding me to keep up with the world! It's a dangerous thing to imagine time stands still in a place after one's last visit there.

  4. Frank - I wonder if I completely missed your point? Sorry if I did.
    It strikes me that Bhutan deserves a post of its own - not just for its physical beauty, but also for all these ideas related to measuring happiness, voluntarily relinquishing power etc etc.
    And if I don't write that post, I'll keep commenting on this one, which is a bit ridiculous since it's my own original post! Apologies all. I'm being a typical exhibitionist blogger today.