His eminence Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche in conversation with Business Bhutan’s Dawa T Wangchuk
Q. A survey on women and children by the National Statistics Bureau (NSB) revealed that 68.4% of the Bhutanese women feel it is acceptable for their husbands to beat them. What does it tell about the Bhutanese society?
First of all not only Bhutanese society but the whole world has never been fair to women. Major religions, institutions, and nations have never been!
Even today you may think that the Western countries may have more of a liberal attitude towards women, I don’t know. It is much disguised.
The consumerist society abuses women in a subtle but much more effective way. Especially in Asia, men have not been behaving well toward women; and most especially in countries like Bhutan and India where this is an old culture. We have so many culture hang-ups or habits that unnecessarily, unwisely, and unreasonably consider women inferior. So all of this must be the factor.
The government, schools, lamas, and individuals; we all have the responsibility. Forget beating women, no one should harm any beings let alone a human being and let alone women because that is absolutely not acceptable. And if the Bhutanese men think that it is culturally right and worst if the Bhutanese women think that it is culturally right, I will have to say it is wrong. It is not right! So I hope with modern education and media this will change. I hope by next year it will come down to 30% (giggles).
Q. Is it because we are a GNH society that there are too many bans so that we can achieve GNH faster. Like bans on junk food, smoking etc.
I never really thought about that. You are very right. And worse, GNH and the concept could get abused by politicians. That’s worst.
But we necessarily do not have to follow it (bans). It is still in your hands.
Instead of expounding the GNH philosophy I think planting tomatoes in your own veranda and encouraging that is more important.
To a certain extent, I guess, rules and regulations need to be implemented because rules and regulations are there in the society so that we have some kind of direction.
Yes, I think GNH should not become some kind of a tool; theoretical, moralistic or political thing. And if that happens, GNH will fall. By the way I have to tell you I still don’t know what GNH really is when people talk about GNH. I have my own interpretation of GNH which is very convoluted by Buddhist ideas.
Q. Your article in Kuensel last year, ‘Many question few answers,’ generated a lot of debate in Bhutan. The responses were mostly on your critique of the Bhutanese society. You haven’t responded to any of it. How do you see the whole debate it generated?
Well this is my answer; I don’t have an answer for this.
As a citizen, I thought I have the right and this is my duty to worry and be anxious. (I am a very anxious person by the way).
I look at certain situations like language for instance, the language Dzongkha. I know there have been a lot of responses or answers to my article and none of these answers have given me a concrete answer.
For instance, there was a very impressive letter to the editor really well written in English, I almost wrote back saying I would be so happy if you wrote that and translate that word by word in Dzongkha. You understand. This is the situation. And then many things like architecture so on and so forth.
Just because we have Yartsa Goenbub (Cordyceps) and apples we are becoming affluent. Suddenly we are buying cars, buildings, and plasma television. But who thinks about roads? There we lack the initiative. We feel that the government will do it, UNDP will do it.