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Exploring Happiness in Bhutan

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

The Kingdom of Bhutan

In October and November I had the extraordinary opportunity to visit Bhutan just after it had opened following more than 2 ½ years of some of the severest lockdown restrictions.

The Kingdom of Bhutan, photo by Lukas Kroulik.

My partner Dominic studies sustainability from the standpoint of business and government policy at London Business School. I have been exploring my passion for a sustainable world through art, with my work being celebrated by the Royal Academy in this year’s Summer Exhibition.

Bhutan is at the forefront of sustainability: the last King said that gross national happiness must take priority far ahead of material wealth.

What makes people happy?

We met Khenpo, a senior Buddhist monk, until recently director of the Bhutanese National Art Museum, and had a rich discussion with him about mindfulness, compassion and how this could not be just about individuals but had to relate to the whole environment.

Khenpo, senior Buddhist monk, director of the Bhutanese National Art Museum.

Those Buddhist values are everywhere in Bhutan: it is an undisturbed Buddhist culture going back more than a thousand years.

Buddhist images, photo by Lukas Kroulik.

You see Buddhist images and mantras appearing on rocks and trees; the whole country is sacred the monastic system provides social care for many boys from poor backgrounds who become monks.

Young monks playing football, photo by Lukas Kroulik.

Monks making cakes carvings class, photo by Lukas Kroulik.

Here are child monks making cakes carvings as ritual offerings but we didn’t see any opportunities for poor female children of this kind. There are few nuns in Bhutan. As in many traditional societies, we saw women doing the heavy work.

Bhutanese women with huge baskets of rhododendron leaves photographed by me as well as the photo below of women carrying heavy bags up the very steep stairs.

Bhutanese women, photo by Lukas Kroulik.

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