A Few Days of Rest in Thimpu
After almost a week hiking in the Jumolhari trek, I went to Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan for a few days of rest. It was good to take a nice break in a nice hotel, sleeping on a proper bed and soft pillows inside a warm room, treating myself with good hot shower and good food. I spent 5 days in Thimpu since I was extending my visa in Bhutan and it got quite complicated, since I had to extend my filming permit too together with army permit and other stuffs since I plan to go to places which are very close to Tibetan border in the far north of Bhutan. But it was a good thing, it gave me enough time to take a good rest and see the life and colours of Thimpu. Its a small city, walking around it feels like any other small cities in Tibet or Western Sichuan Province of China… the smell, the people, the atmosphere… This is one city I’ve been where they dont use traffic lights, but using humans instead to control the traffic on the very main road in the middle of the city. I dont see any traffic lights since I was here in this country. Its a very clean city and this is one country I know where they ban smoking cigarettes. They dont sell cigarettes here in the country. You can bring cigarettes to the country if youre a tourist but be prepared to pay the high tax.
Walking around the street, I see mixtures of modern and traditional clothing. Even the architectural design here looks very traditional and exotic. On one of the hills here that surrounds Thimpu, there is a big Buddha statue in a sitting position overlooking the city. I had the chance to see the surroundings of the city on a bicycle, where I cycled about 30km out of Thimpu and one of the surrounding hill here with my guide Lhawang, Tshering and friends. It was tiring since there is always a climb, it was never flat. This country is really made out of Buddha teachings. On the surface, you will see it with the style of clothing of its people, the architecture, thousands of stupas, prayerflags and temples. On the inside, the people here has really deep understanding of spiritual. Most of them are vegetarians and they understand their teaching very well. They believe strongly in karma. Here I met a special man named Tshering which is also my guide, a devout Buddhist. He knows how to pronounce my name well but he prefer to call me “musafir” (traveller). He even sing a song to me called “Musafir” in Hindi language, a beautiful song. We spent hours exchanging knowledge, where we exchanged a lot of information about enlightenment which is reaching Nirvana in Buddhism and about a special branch of knowledge called Tawhid in Arabic.
Tshering, like any other devout Buddhist, is trying to achieve enlightenment. I kept observing his determination by his movement, always chanting quietly but still noticeable. A deep person. He is on his journey to achieve it through stages of shamata, vepasana, shuenyatha and finally, into nirvana. His goal is to achieve Buddha.. and finally further beyond, where the stage of realization that even Buddha himself doesnt exists, which is emptiness… true emptiness, nothing exist… not even ourself. I shared him the simplest phrase “no god but god”, where the depth of the meaning is depending on a person’s realization. But one of the level is to realize the hakikat (truth) beyond any form of creation. At a point, one will come to a realization where there is no creation, only the creator truly exists. No creation, no entity is absolute real except for the creator, who doesnt belong or comparable to the creation. The creator has no form, no shape, no image, doesnt bound to to the law of physic inside the space and time. So when one comes to that realization, it is also… emptiness… no more creation, reaching Nirvana like Buddha said, or entering into the Tao like Lau Tze said, the deepest level of metaphysic or simply in Arabic, entering into the Makrifat…
Tshering is the only devout Buddhist I met so far who asked me if I ever met a sufi master before, probably since I dwell long in the mountains of Central Asia. He is interested to study sufism. But to find a sufi master is like finding diamond in the rough. Its so difficult because theyre hiding, no true sufi master will tell everyone that he is a sufi master. People who come to realize the absolute truth usually will feel stupid, they feel empty and down to earth because it takes them so long to realize something so important yet so simple. The simplest phrase “no god but god” is so simple from the surface yet sometimes it takes lifetime to really understand the deeper level of it. People who understand only from the surface of the ocean has totally different level of understanding than people who has dive all the way down to the floor of the ocean. It takes some people 20 years studying only from books about the taste of butter tea and still dont have a clue, but all it takes is only a few minutes to drink the butter tea from a cup and you finally experience it firsthand.
While waiting for my visa extension along with other permits to be done, I also had the chance to visit the nearby villages just outside Thimpu. I visited a farmer who is waiting for harvesting season that is just around the corner. Here in Bhutan, everybody is treated equal, there is very a slight gap between the rich and the poor compared to other countries in the world. Be it a politician, a teacher, a farmer or even a nomad living high in the remote mountains, everybody is treated the same and have high income. The average income here is surprisingly around USD1600/month! Thats a huge difference compared to just around 7 years ago where the average income here was only USD400/month. I guess their govt really did the their job well, despite their total GDP is only about USD2 billion a year. Well, they seem to never care much about GDP anyway, since they are the only country who cares about a special term called GNH instead, which means Gross National Happiness. Instead of using material possession as a tool of measurement, they use spiritual well-being as the right tool of measurement. The goal… every Bhutanese citizen should reach happiness by becoming rich spiritually, not by material possession. This makes Bhutan the most unique country I’ve ever been. The result, I see smiles on every soul here in Bhutan. Theyre not very serious like others, always joking and laughing and taking things easy.