Paro, Bhutan

With one major exception, most of what there is to see in Bhutan is centered in Thimpu. But, you’re not going to Bhutan to see things, you’re going to get a sense of a culture that is still firmly rooted in Buddhist traditions. When we made our way to Paro midway through the second day, we did so to see things like the national museum, a school that taught the traditional arts and crafts of the Bhutanese, and a workshop that made the paper for scrolls. But the real goal of our trip to Paro was to a get a sense of the people, a sense of what this culture really means.

We began our final day in Bhutan with a hike up to the Tiger’s Nest; a brutal three-hour climb up a sheer mountain to a temple nestled high on its cliffs. We were ready to collapse by the time we made it to the top, but the monks and other Bhutanese who worship or work at the temple, do it every single day. Not out of a necessity for tourists to see the site, but in dedication to the Buddhas and their gods.

With almost as much difficulty, we descended from the mountain and went to visit the oldest temple in Bhutan. Much like the other temples, monks chanted and sang from sun up until sun down. They were happy to let us sit in their temple and showed us how to participate when we could. Much as the monks in the Tiger’s Nest temple, the dedication to their cause was evident.

But the monks’ cause doesn’t end with their religion, rather it extends to all people. They were ecstatic to show us the temples and the rituals they do there. Their joy shone through in every demonstration they made and every prayer they offered. Looking out over Paro, it was evident as to why these people were at such peace: they want to be.

But as with all things in life, that peace comes wiith a price. In the case of the monks, the price is money and material possessions. People aren’t judged for having material possessions, but there is a definitive line between the monks that have very little and the people who aren’t sworn to that lifestyle. Monks are admired for what they do, but their is definitely a divide between them and the rest of the Bhutanese people.

But what’s emphasized over everything is that no matter which lifestyle you choose, the goal is to be kind to all living things. All actions, all sayings, feed into this mantra. The heart of the Bhutanese people is kindness; if they achieve it, they’re satisfied.

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