1907. December 17. When the people’s representatives signed the historic ‘Gyenja’, little did they imagine the future that they were creating for Bhutan. The journey of nation building subsequently assumed a heightened sense of purpose and clarity. The Wangchuck Dynasty was the beacon of hope, optimism and confidence for Bhutan’s consolidated nationhood. It was the beginning of the end of civil strife that had gripped the country for centuries. Peace, prosperity and harmony began to chime with melodious possibility.
A century and five Kings later, all Bhutanese wake up every morning to better circumstances than ever before; justifiably the best in the world. We wake up with certainty that we will not, this day, die of hunger. We wake up knowing that we will not, this day, die from a bullet. We wake up knowing that there is a school where our children will be educated, free of cost. We wake up knowing that should we fall sick, there is a hospital that would attend to us, free of cost. We wake up knowing that this day and for the rest of the days, we will perpetually breathe clean air. We wake up to a happier society, as a happier person. More than anything else, we wake up to a reality that, should everything else darken around us, there is the light in the person of His Majesty The King who exudes compassion, benevolence and inspiration.
Such circumstances do not manifest by itself. It must be envisioned, crafted, executed, nurtured and cultured. It entails vision, valor, duty, sacrifice, selflessness and absolute dedication to serve others. Each of the Dragon Kings exhibited these steely characters, personified enlightened leadership and consequently bequeathed to the future generation a greater nation.
Gongsar Ugyen Wangchuck envisioned a country that is a Drukyul, free of civil strife –in peace and harmony within and beyond with the rest of the world. Through sensible and wise leadership, the Unifier endeared himself to his subjects and the neighboring British Empire. Securing the foundations of sovereignty and prosperity, a better Drukyul was handed over to His son, His Majesty Jigme Wangchuck.
The Second King, His Maesty Jigme Wangchuck steered the nation during a phase, which was witnessing one of the most troubling times in history. The choppy waters through which Bhutan sailed needed an astute captain. His Majesty Jigme Wangchuck in his enlightened view saw the realities unfold due to the global and the regional events. The Second World War was at its peak; the Great economic depression was taking a global toll; India wrested independence from the British Empire. The important task to transform the special friendship between Bhutan and British India to an even more enduring relationship with the new India fell upon King Jigme Wangchuck. The 1949 Indo – Bhutan Friendship Treaty is testimony to the King’s astute, yet enlightened leadership that once again empowered Bhutan to take the journey of nation building with heightened resolve and confidence. The mantle to continue that journey was handed down to his son His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck.
The Third Monarch, His majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck fondly referred to as the Architect of Modern Bhutan unveiled a vision that would put Bhutan amongst the global community of nations seeking progress, justice, and modernisation. Socioeconomic development was pursued with vigor. Infrastructure such as roads, schools, hospitals, economic institutions and administrative organisations mushroomed. Democratic institutions and culture were instituted laying the foundations for democracy. His Majesty Jigme Dorji Wangchuck handed over a greatly progressed country to the Fourth Dragon King.
The Fourth Druk Gyalpo, His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck was a King who was to capture the imagination of the world with his extraordinary leadership. His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo presented a vision in Bhutan that challenged the development model, which sought economic growth almost to the exclusion of all other dimensions of human progress. Through the concept of Gross National Happiness, His Majesty The Fourth Druk Gyalpo envisioned a Bhutan where material progress is harmoniously balanced with the pursuit of cultural, spiritual, ecological, social and emotional progress. This vision of the country was matched with its clever execution. The country saw unprecedented socioeconomic development; attention to ecological robustness; intense zest for promotion of traditional heritage and incisive interest for democratic governance. The Great Fourth handed over a written Constitution, a democracy, a nation that should at all times seek GNH. His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck was to take over a country that had greatly changed and seeking ever more.
A nation that has to come to terms with the new democracy; a country that is as never before entwined with the rest of the world; a society gripped with modernisation and the commensurate aspirations of the people; a population with taste for individual dispositions and orientations; a world marked with economic collapses, ecological disasters, governance failings, wars, terrorism, and social upheavals. The ship must stock up, refurbish and its instruments recalibrated. The sea is choppy.
In the decade of the glorious reign of His Majesty The King, Bhutan emerged ever more stable, peaceful and prosperous. The national vision of a just, harmonious, and sustainable society has emblazoned in the hearts of every citizen. We are inspired to be proud Bhutanese and yet responsible global citizens. His Majesty The King has charted for us a democracy that serves the best interest of the people; built the national capital to relate meaningfully in the intertwined global village; nurtured the talents and minds to wade through the ever-changing world.
In our Kings a seemingly celestial communion happens: a union of the destined King with his subject, where the King serves; a union of the philosophy with the political power to beget Plato’s philosopher King; a union of the extraordinary with the common to create one sublime bond. Our Monarch have been distinctly Bodhisattva Kings, enlightened leaders and Kings who gave everything of themselves in the service of their subjects. Each of them had an uncanny eye for the future. Knowing the present and seeing the future, they envisioned, they steered and they delivered. And they did it all through sacrifice, selflessness and service to the country and its people.
One wonders how these extraordinary qualities gripped our Kings? What celestial or earthly forces interact to manifest these qualities blossoming into the Bodhisattva leader or Plato’s Philosopher King? The common trait that runs through all of our Kings is the intense ‘mental clarity’ perhaps like the state that astronauts describe as the ‘Overview Effect’. A unique and an overwhelming understanding of the ‘big picture’ that astronauts experience being awed by seeing the planet earth hanging in the vast void of the universe. Gazing at the blue earth from space, astronauts describe the experience as almost ‘Samadhi’, a feeling of oneness with all life forms on earth and the overpowering need to take stewardship of the planet.
The vantage point from the golden throne perhaps offers a similar ‘overview effect’. The unique view of the country from that vantage point empowers the King to experience the present in its pure and visceral form and see into the future. At a very deep level the nation and the self merges into each other transcending the sense of separation of the person with the nation. The King becomes the country. The country dissolves into the King. This powerful union of the King with the country produces the sense of stewardship and duty. For that miracle to manifest, a great being must evoke the light of the Golden Throne to shine for greater good. That seems to be the only logical explanation for the sacrifice, selflessness and the service of our Kings to the nation and its people.
2016. December 17. The 109th National Day. Today is another moment to empower the Golden Throne. Through our collective merit, this sacred institution will continue to be the source of all good kingly qualities; – the origin of inspiration to know the present and see the future; – the cause for ‘mental clarity’, sacrifice, selflessness and service to all; – the vantage point for the ‘overview effect’ for our beloved Dragon Kings. Our Beloved Gyalsey is born a great being who shall evoke the light of the Golden Throne to shine ever brighter.
Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk
Minister of Education