After office hour on Friday, my 10th grade son comes home and says, “mama, did you hear the shocking news today? Bhutan is going to open a slaughterhouse. The news is splashed all over and everyone’s talking about it in school.” I visit a friend’s house and the first thing that I hear is, “Wai, did you hear the disturbing news that Bhutan is going to start a slaughterhouse.” At home, in the office, over lunch, we find ourselves anxiously talking about the subject. At first shock and disbelief and then a dark ominous feeling gnawing deeper and deeper.
We are all disturbed – young and old – sons, daughters, grandparents, civil servants, rationalists and pragmatists – the whole nation is shaken and troubled at the brutality of the whole idea.
Here is Bhutan as we see it… still draped in its rather ancient mystical robe… the air ever so serene. There never was a voice, which protested against any natural doings or forces. Instead, with palms folded and hands raised to the forehead, the Bhutanese have thanked mother earth having found profound joy and peace living in the comforting warmth of her lap.
We have hoisted prayers flags on hilltops and high up the mountains just so that each flutter liberates our “mother beings” from suffering and the causes of suffering. We are once again reminded that all beings have been our mother beings once.
We have spent our weekends and days climbing up the slope where our temples and monasteries are, to make offerings of prayers and butter lamps. Where there are mountain streams gushing downhill, we have built prayer wheels. And in the cool shady depths of the forest, we actually could hear the echo of the gong as the gushing water turn the prayer wheel. And as one heard the sound of the distant gong or sighted a mountain temple or one closer by, a familiar prayer would rise on every Bhutanese lip… “ma nam kha dang nyampai samchen thamche…”
We have made pilgrimages to the sacred lakes and prayed to the gods and goddesses. And in so doing, we felt their blessings, and not for the first time we raised our hands in gratitude. We were happy, we are Bhutanese. We are happy that we are born in the land where Dharma has touched our lives.
We have always turned to prayers to avert any natural calamities, diseases and maladies…..sought refuge in our Dharma practices and lived in awe and fear of our deities.
Our children are taught to respect the lives of all living beings…this is the country where old people feed the ants, children and passers-by stop to put a half-baked earthwormback into the wet soil, stop to save a struggling insect on the pathway from the being crushed under the feet. This is karma we try to generate for ourselves….
This is what has captured the global attention. This has enchanted the hearts of the outside world and what has held them spell-bound. This is what inspires Bhutanese themselves and keeps them deeply rooted to their Bhutanese soil, what brings them back home regardless of what the outside world offers.
This is the place where peace and harmony has reigned for decades. This country what many refer to as the “last shangrila” has till now been a refuge and a place where people learn to let go….
We aren’t talking about Bhutan’s image and reputation here. We are talking about something much more, something deeper than the mere external façade. We are talking about the change in our character, our sentiments and belief system, our overall outlook towards life itself. It isn’t the superstitious beliefs and psyche of the Bhutanese that is at play here. It’s about our age-old belief in the law of karma which has guided our thoughts and actions. What karma will the slaughterhouses set in motion? It’s the nation’s gut feeling that building slaughterhouses is big mistake. People are already growing apprehensive and fearful about the consequences of the slaughterhouses.
Do we want to spill blood in exchange for rupee? Do we want to go ahead with this idea knowing that we will be answerable to pay off this karmic debt? How do the Bhutanese interpret what is happening outside of Bhutan – terrorism in the Middle east, the recent tragedy in Nepal and catastrophes all over!
How can we forget how fiercely we fought to safeguard Bhutan from outside influence of the global market and evil forces of modernization? Had we not been so cautious and shy, guided by the wisdom of our visionary kings and ancestors, we had always been careful and rather shy about taking drastic steps, always learning from other’s mistakes.
How can we forget that the readings of kanjur and tenjur that which had brought down much anticipated rain in the villages in times of drought? How can we forget that at the very heart of our nation’s peace and harmony is the play of these spiritual forces? We have honoured and have always paid our respect to mother earth – the land, the mountains, the lakes, the forests, the rocks and the soil, acknowledging the spirits and supernatural beings as the true owners and care-takers.
What do we make of our offerings of the butter-lamps and prayers for the well-being of the sentient beings whom we regard as “mother beings” without feeling guilty of our participation in the massacre. Many of us feel doomed and our future looming ahead of us. We are shaken to our very core. We are seeing the end of all the good Karma that we have so far accumulated.
What do we make of our guiding philosophy of Gross National Happiness which rests on not just the happiness of human beings but of “the welfare of ALL …of the wellbeing of all sentient beings?
How far can a nation go with such disturbed psyche, a guilt-ridden conscience and with an unstable footing go?
Can this bring an end to our rupee crunches?
Are we ready to throw away this deep seated belief – the core of our Bhutanese belief that which had guided all our thoughts and acts till now? The law of Karma; what we sow so shall we reap. The operation of the slaughter-houses would be the operation of our group karma. We will be setting forth the cycle of karma and it isn’t a positive karma.
Even as I try and calm my feelings, I am once again reciting the mantra that His Eminence Dzongsar Khentse has taught us and the chant which brought all of us together in a single wish to liberate all the sentient beings: “Om ye dharma hetu prabhawa | hetun teshan tathagato hyavadat | teshan tsa yo nirodha | ewam vade mahashramanah soha”.
You can take this as an invocation, a plea, or an outcry but know that all that we are asking for is let us not indulge in an act that might cause us to lament for what was and will no more…
Contributed by Karma Pedey