A promising spiritual sanctuary

GMC has the potential to become a hub for those seeking spiritual solace

The evolution of society and technological advancements has ushered in an era where an increasing number of individuals seek solace amidst the fast-paced, digitally-driven world. While technology dazzles with its wonders, it also fosters a sense of disconnection and isolation among people. From career uncertainties to pressing environmental concerns, modern life bombards us with myriad challenges, often leaving individuals feeling adrift in a sea of competition and separateness.

In response to this existential void, there has been a notable surge in spiritual exploration, as individuals recognize that the human spirit craves fulfillment beyond mere digital engagement and social validation. This quest is fueled by a deep-seated desire for purpose, connection, and personal development in the face of technological saturation. For many, it serves as a faint glimmer of hope amidst the monotony of work and the solitude of daily existence.

Within spiritual communities, individuals find a sense of kinship and belonging that transcends the superficiality of online interactions. These communities provide a nurturing environment where individuals can forge meaningful connections and acquire invaluable tools to navigate the complexities of life. Through prayer, individuals find sanctuary in moments of quiet reflection, while meditation offers a pathway to tranquility amidst the chaos of the mind. Moreover, faith serves as an inner reservoir of strength, shielding individuals from the storms of stress and instilling a profound sense of inner peace and resilience.

In essence, the resurgence of spiritual pursuits in the digital age represents a poignant reminder of humanity’s enduring quest for meaning and fulfillment. Amidst the whirlwind of technological progress, these spiritual oases offer sanctuary, fostering a deeper connection to oneself and to the world at large.

It is against the above that the promise of Gelephu Mindfulness City (GMC) as a Vajrayana Center, acting as a spiritual balm to the millions of worn out souls emerges. As the only Buddhist Kingdom in the world and the bastion of Vajrayana Buddhism, there is a huge potential for the GMC to adorn the crown as the World Center for Vajrayana Buddhism and home to those seeking spiritual assistance and answers. The potential was unfurled beginning 2016, when Bhutan hosted the Vajrayana Conference. In July, 2016, Bhutan was guest to more than 300 international participants for a three-day conference on continuity and change within both historical and contemporary expressions of Vajrayana Buddhism in Thimphu. It was a landmark for Bhutan.

Speakers included world-renowned spiritual leaders as well as prominent scholars and neuroscientists researching the effects of yogic and contemplative practices on the human brain and wellbeing. Presentations ranged from insightful historical perspectives by both lineage holders and academics to visionary accounts of Vajrayana Buddhism’s creative adaptation to the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

65 speakers from seventeen different countries shared their insights and experiences, and engaged in discussion with both international and domestic participants. The presentations addressed Vajrayana’s dialogue with 21st century science, medicine, and ethics as well as its current and historical interface.

Beyond the heightened, and sometimes challenging, exchange of ideas and perspectives, conference participants also experienced firsthand the living spirit of Vajrayana Buddhism inherent in Bhutan’s landscape, temples, arts, and daily life. Even the food offered during the conference reflected Vajrayana Buddhism’s living presence in Bhutan, in the form of native red rice, organic vegetables, and healing herbs.

Similarly, the Conference in 2022 saw discussions on Buddhism in the Digital Age, Vajrayana and Modernity, Women in Vajrayana, Applications of Vajrayana in our Daily Life, Ethics, Values, and Meditative Practices. In addition, other sub-themes included Vajrayana’s Skillful Techniques, Buddhism’s Social Contributions, Core Concepts of Buddhism, including emptiness,

GMC’s spiritual assets will enable visitors to learn and practice the above and more. However, unlike the conferences, visitors can immerse themselves in a spiritual quest offered by the Vajrayana world. There will be no limitations, like time. If one wishes, he/she can stay in the different centers for months and even years, assimilate every aspect of the different teachings and return home blessed and ready for life’s ultimate and final journey.

Further, Vajrayana Buddhism appeals to the people because of the ways in which it has fashioned art, culture, medicine and yogic practices. It has practical applications making it more meaningful in life: health and illness, death and dying, planetary environment and Western science and Vajrayana understanding of reality. The use of yoga to awaken the mind, master the mind and the body and visual arts such as murals, thangkhas and sculpture, create sacred space, and provide support for initiated practitioners and transmit lineage and religious history.

Vajrayana Buddhism can also be practiced outside the monastery. Mindfulness, practicised in schools widely is also part of Vajrayana Buddhism. A 12 one hour weekly (half an hour devoted to lecture and the other half hour to practical session) mindfulness programme conducted in high schools within school hours in Australia showed that enrolling for the programme helped them focus on study better, developed better self-discipline and helped to reduce stress.

There are other factors that add to the promise of a Vajrayana village or center within the GMC. There are several eminent Buddhist Teachers (Rinpoches) who have a mass following around the world. They have centers in countries ranging from the United States to Australia, India and others.

Some of the Buddhist masters have already visited GMC. While it is not known if they would establish their centers, they also have the opportunity to contribute to Bhutan and its spiritual heritage. As His Majesty repeatedly says, we have the responsibility and opportunity to leave behind for the future, a Bhutan that our descendants are proud of. In this line, Buddhist Teachers can come together and develop a center that has every aspect of Vajrayana Buddhism.

Author Wallace Huey said: “To walk the spiritual path is to continually step out into the unknown.” While the traditional pilgrimage has been a part of our culture since time immemorial, it has now turned into a blend of faith and fun where divinity merges into a desire to explore. Spiritual experiences range from the religious and intellectual, to those centered in art and nature. There is a huge demand for moments of euphoria, a yearning for a connection to something higher than us. And more than anyone, Generation Z requires this as they lack connections and a higher power to stabilize their daily lives and to seek out during a personal crisis. Finally, they lack love for themselves and for others. GMC can provide that and more! Vajrayana Buddhism need not be about religion. It can be spiritual.

Ugyen Tenzin from Thimphu