ཕྱགས་སྙིགས་འཛིན་སྐྱོངས which can be literally translated as rubbish management has concerned the golden throne, but people have failed to impress the throne.  His Majesty The Druk Gyalpo has again expressed His royal displeasure about the lack of civic sense and responsibility by His subjects.  We should be ashamed of ourselves.

The sights of thromde cleaners sweeping the same streets every morning have failed to ignite any realization of care and concern.  Residents, shop owners and shoppers, officer-goers and passers-by, and ramblers never fail to leave their jobs for the following day.  The BBS TV talk shows focusing on waste management and news of cleaning campaigns and concerned volunteers’ voices too have failed to engender much inspiration.  Even the schools’ attempts to inculcate civic sense in students have seemingly gone in vain.  The litters are everywhere.

According to participants of the recent Snowman’s Race, the solid wastes have climbed high into the mountains.  Trekkers have shared the same experience and sentiments.  Rivers are contaminated, drains are clogged, and roads and footpaths are unsightly.  Naturally, towns and villages are infested with litter.  The free and green nature too – forests and meadows wherever people have set irresponsible foot are trampled with bottles, glasses, and other plastic wastes.

During the last nearly three years of being mindful and collecting waste, I have observed and realized that both adults and children are behind.  Some people are apparently lacking a sense of the value of money, which is evidenced by many water and juice bottles found only half or partially consumed.  As His Majesty commanded, people are not observing and learning.  A dirty place cleaned today is strewn with litter again tomorrow.  It’s amazing how people can conveniently leave their waste at such clean places without an iota of discomfort or guilt.

Yet, I don’t believe that it is happening of one’s own volition.  I bet those hands that throw the rubbish carelessly are instructed by conscious minds purported to damage or blemish the land.  My speculation of an optimistic mind and positive outlook is that it is happening out of an auto-pilot habit.  I think littering has become an ingrained habit which happens effortlessly and without awareness.

Therefore, I wish to propose that everyone should learn and practise mindfulness.  Very simply, mindfulness means being aware of one’s thoughts and intentions, words and speeches, actions and behaviours, and surroundings.  As a result of mindfulness, our minds open up wide and far embracing wisdom.  This wisdom ushers in the sense of responsibility, care and concern, understanding what is right and wrong, good and bad, and accepting the whole of the universe as oneself.

Such mindfulness leads to realizing that the whole country is a palace since our nation has been home to peerless monarchs for more than a hundred years.  It makes us realize that our country is a sacred temple, a blissful heaven as many time-seeing Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have visited and blessed.  It opens up our minds to think that every place we go to or be is our home.  It is an altar as the Kencho Sum or gods (in other faiths) are everywhere.  If we leave a place clean or make a place cleaner, it is an offering to the Kencho Sum.  Such energy and motivation charge us through mindfulness.

Mindfulness also enables our minds to accept expanding the idea of a place called home.  We are used to thinking that only the space between the four walls where we live or the compartments under the roof we dwell is home.  Only these places are ours to care and it’s alright to ignore or be indifferent to all other places and spaces beyond one’s doors or compound.  So, this idea of mindfulness is so powerful that it convinces us to think and realize that every place one stands, sits, or walks is one’s home.  As this new insight finds root in our minds, we become more caring and responsible wherever we go.  The place called home is not a house or room, but it is the whole world.

Today, if we dig into the earth, we find minerals and precious metals, fossils, relics and treasures.  Years from now, I’m already feeling shame that future generations would only find plastics and glasses, which are good for nothing.  At this juncture, let me share my idea of who future generations will be.  It’s none other than ourselves.  Being in the samsaric cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, it is us who will sojourn again in the future – as humans, animals, birds, fish, etc.  It doesn’t matter what we come back as, every life will need a healthy environment, safe drinking water, clean air, and comfortable places to live.

In view of the above, let’s learn and practice mindfulness.  It is also going to help us in other life areas such as being resilient during times of difficulty, work and relationships, and even at the time of death.  Mindfulness in managing our waste is a tiny insight I’m suggesting.

Wherever we are, let’s leave the place clean.  If we love a place or spot and want to revel a picnic there, know that other people will want to celebrate an occasion there too.  And for that, it is our basic civic duty to keep it clean as we found it.  Let’s be like others in maintaining the sanctity of a place and not be like others if they have desecrated it before our visit.  Let’s clean it up if we can, but let’s not worsen it following their ugly footsteps.

I see many responsible citizens who volunteer in keeping the land clean and exquisite.  I am one of them and this is my third year pursuing the vision of a clean Bhutan. It may seem unreasonable to ask everyone to volunteer and clean the places up, but it should be manageable to ask to not litter.  Everyone should at least take care of one’s own waste responsibly.  Remember, if all 700,000 or so of us don’t litter, our country will be free of at least 700,000 pieces of rubbish every day.  If all of us don’t litter and also pick up one piece every day, the country will be cleaner by 14,00,000 pieces of trash each day.  We will be waste-free sooner than we think.

I have a dream for us.  Clean Bhutan.  I yearn for a headline on the international platform – Bhutan is the world’s cleanest country.

Contributed by 

Namgay Wangchuk