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Over the last few months I have had the great fortune to visit three absolutely fascinating nations: Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet ... the kingdoms of the Himalayas. The idea was to gather enough material to prepare my second book, "Himalaya" which will go on sale late next year.


It has been a journey full of emotions, most of them positive. But I knew that one of the destinations would play like no other my heartstrings; I speak of Tibet: the roof of the world.


I undertook this last visit with the hope that, beyond the horrors that the country has lived for years as a result of the frantic and unjustified invasion by the Chinese government, would be able to find small signs of kindness, nobility and the value of a nation trying to stand despite the terrible oppression suffered by the neighboring country. And so it has been; is not easy to witness such a violation of human rights ... over a million Tibetans killed, imprisoned and tortured many others so brutal, hundreds of monasteries destroyed, thousands of kilometers of majestic nature suffering the devastating consequences of an Chinese expansion totally disproportionate, countless endangered species .... and the worst: an ancient culture full of wonders that goes off in silence. But there it was, solid and indestructible, the heart of a society, that thanks to its faith in the teachings of Buddha and its great strength of spirit, is still beating, until today and forever, with strength and pride.

 


More and more Tibetans fleeing the fierce oppression have left home to seek refuge in India or Nepal, where they can express their religious beliefs and stay true to their culture with full liberty. It is a complicated task to find traces of this culture among debris and overpopulation that leave behind the continuing waves of Chinese who come to Tibet in search of a better future. But they are still there, in the old district of Lhasa, the Forbidden City for many years, or the fabulous Jokhang Monastery and many others who have survived a mass destruction; and in the souls of millions of people who will never give up their roots or their peculiar and wonderful idiosyncrasies.

 
As on many other occasions, my outrage at such acts of injustice is only reflected in these lines. This treatment does not, in any case, try to avoid looking straight at the crude and unjust reality, but rather to give way to a continuous search for the beautiful part that lives in the human soul. I find grand the ability of man to overcome again and again in the most difficult moments; the magnificent landscapes full of life and the countless expressions of kindness, joy and optimism that I find along the way in places as punished by adversity, make me feel that not everything is lost, that in this broken world there will always be room for magic and beauty to blossom.

 
You can see more about this work accesing "TIBET, THE ROOF OF THE WORLD" and "SPIRITUAL TIBET".
 
 
The local name of this mysterious country hidden in the foothills of the Himalayas is Druk Yul, which translated into English means "land of the thunder dragon"; this is so because of a popular belief that says that thunder is the sound of the roar of dragons. Curiously, this gives us an idea of ​​how the Bhutanese mystify and worship nature all around them; they greatly respect it -the Constitution of Bhutan states that at least sixty percent of the land area must be covered by forests- and they consider it one of the most solid pillars that support its deep rooted spiritual world.

 
Furthermore, the fact that only twenty pilots are allowed to land at the only airport across the country, located in the city of Paro, is a clear example of the fundamental role played for centuries by the mountains in this magic kingdom . On the one hand, they have been a key element in connecting with that spiritual world, so present in the daily life of the locals; on the other, and along with the impenetrable jungles of the south, they have served as protection for any possible invasion of the two "giants" neighbors: China and India. Hence, this little corner of Asia of about 800,000 people have the honor and the pride of not have been conquered for centuries and, consequently, of keeping intact their culture and ancestral traditions.

 

As in so many other countries of Asia, the majority religion is Buddhism. There is a large monastic community that the government provides basic needs such as lodging, food and clothing. The monks continually renew the votes, but few will remain in the monastery after adolescence; in fact, they may renounce their vows and return to their secular life at any time. The dzong are the best example of local religious architecture; strategically located at the entrance of the valley or on top of the hills, are strengths that originally had a defensive work; today they are also administrative centers and monasteries around which have arisen small capitals of the province. The beautiful landscape is dotted with banners of colors with thousands of prayers written on them, by prayer wheels at the entrance of the temples, by the majestic goembas (buildings with a community of autonomous monks) or by chortens (dedicated to receive offerings ). It becomes clear and evident in every corner that Bhutan is a highly spiritual country where Buddha's teachings mark the behavior of society ... a joyful and vital society, living in perfect harmony.

 
And this is how we come to a clear and evident truth : if there is anything that defines perfectly the peculiar idiosyncrasy of this unique nation is the fact that for years the main objective of their monarchs has been to try to get the higher rate of "GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS" of the world. Western societies in which more and more often the happiness is being measured based on material acquisitions are not at all an example to follow for Bhutanese society. On the contrary, they put the individual at the center of all development efforts, recognizing an essential truth to understand: it is not only about material needs, but even more important are their spiritual and emotional needs.

 
Hence, the development is not defined or measured by consumption growth; the key to happiness must be, once the basic needs are covered, in the search of spiritual growth. This curious philosophy has as pillars of their success four key objectives: promoting individual well-being through spiritual enrichment, preserving the culture of the country, protecting the environment and promoting good governance systems, education and health to meet the social needs. You could say, then, that we are talking about a matter of state. So much so, that there is even a committee of Gross National Happiness headed by a Prime Minister who is responsible for carefully examine any proposal made by the various ministries of the country; and if it concludes that a policy is contrary to the objective of promoting such happiness, it will be immediately returned to the relevant ministry for review and subsequent improvement.

 

Maybe we're the ones we should reconsider and decide whether our priorities are the most appropriate to achieve a full and happy life.

You can see more of this work accesing the galleries "BHUTAN, THE HAPPY COUNTRY", "BHUTAN  MONKS" AND "URA TSECHU FESTIVAL".