For the third and final part of my Epic Himalayan Adventure, I travelled to beautiful Bhutan, the Land of the Thunder Dragon.
After experiencing the after the other-worldly beauty of Upper Mustang, the majestic peaks and bold landscapes of the Sagarmatha/Everest region, and the chaos and the sensory overload of Kathmandu, Bhutan feels very different. Pure air, lushly green, orderly, peaceful and very spiritual. This tiny kingdom country is home to 850,000 people, where the well-being and happiness of the people, the protection of their traditions and unique Buddhist culture, as well as the preservation of their natural world is more important to them than profit in their pockets. They are famous for their Gross National Happiness.
Many places look like something out of a fairytale, with high mountain peaks as well as gentle forests, lush green valleys and traditional houses that are beautifully painted with lucky symbols or mythical protective animals. Prayer flags flutter everywhere, spreading positive energy and good wishes. Mountain streams power ever-spinning prayer wheels that release endless mantras of compassion into the world.
This is a sacred land rich with legends and myths: magical relics and sacred texts hidden by a guru for the right teachers to find in the future, wrathful beings to be subdued by gurus, spirit teachers flying across the country on the back of a tigress, goddesses leaving their foot prints in rock… Their rich mythology is at the heart of their unique version of Buddhism that permeates every aspect of their daily life. Monasteries and temples in every village are the heart of this culture. At certain times of the day you can experience the resonance of prayers and mantras and sacred instruments. And blessings are there to be had if you look for them.
I’ve been curious about how the Bhutanese perceive happiness, so have asked a few people…what is does happiness mean to you? The answer was not what I expected. The pathway to joy, love, peace, fulfillment and success, is compassion. The Bhutanese prioritize and cultivate compassion every day through prayers and mantras, by spinning prayer wheels and hanging prayer flags printed with the mantra of compassion and love: OM MANI PADME HUM. There is Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, appearing in various forms. There is iconic Tara of many colours and an archetype of compassion. These figures are very present in temples and in the minds of the people.
In Bhutan as in Mustang and the Sagarmatha region, all Tibetan Buddhist cultures, I’ve seen mani stones, prayer wheels of various forms, and so many prayer flags, all carrying the mantra OM MANI PADME HUM. And all along the way I have been reminded of the power and importance of compassion. Every life journey will be richer, happier, more inspiring and successful if we actively cultivate compassion. And the world would be a much more peaceful and harmonious place.
I’ve written about The Mantra of Compassion and Love, learn more HERE.
My journey has been marked with signs and symbols of luck since the very first day in Nepal (when a large snake visited in my room, apparently a symbol of immense luck, perhaps Nag the goddess of luck herself blessing my journey). The the local Bhutanese spirits have continued to offer up magical experiences on this journey (thankfully no more snakes). And I have made myself open to receive them, with joy.
This has truly been an adventure to seek new horizons, to expand my inner world while discovering wondrous new lands and unique cultures, to find inspiration and hopefully some nuggets of wisdom for the future. I go home in a few days fully inspired, incredibly happy that I dreamed a dream, worked to make it happen, and enjoyed every moment.
I have three last tips for a travel journey that I think they can apply to all of our life journeys.
Thanks for sharing my adventure!
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