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Thread: A country ruled by dharma.

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    Veteran Member Jacques de Imbelloni's Avatar
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    Default A country ruled by dharma.



    On 31st October 2004, His Majesty The King, then Crown Prince of Bhutan, was installed as the Chhoetse Penlop, and offered the Nga Chudrum seal. The seal was created by Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, who used it for more than 30 years, 400 years ago. This deeply significant moment of history, representing the unbroken link between the past and future of Bhutan, is also symbolic of the reign of the Dharma Kings of Bhutan, who have adhered to the Zhabdrung’s code for a Ruler of Compassion, putting the welfare of the people above all else.

    The conceptual foundation of Druk Zhung is based on having a compassionate leader. The founding text of the government of Bhutan is the Chayig Chenmo, or the code of law. It states that, “the head of the state should be a Bodhisattva, ” or a “compassionate leader taking human embodiment.”

    In Buddhist literature compassion is referred to an “unbiased mind that aspires to the liberation of all sentient beings from suffering equally.” Compassion has to be cultivated through mind training and is not to be mistaken for pity as the latter implies a feeling of superiority towards the object of compassion.

    Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (1594-1651) wrote this code for his monastery in Tibet between 1607 and 1612. In 1616, when he fled Tibet, he may have brought it with him or written a new one for Bhutan, as the Chayig Chenmo has been with the Zhung Dratshang (the state monks) for a long time.

    Before the Chayig Chenmo was introduced, there was no real law in the country. For example, each region had its own law and each place had its own religious system. There was no universal value or common interest to bind the people. So when the code of law was introduced it became the common denominator and many of the Bhutanese followed it.

    Ngawang Namgyal is revered as the founder of Bhutan. He introduced statecraft, which has its root deeply embedded in Buddhism. Zhabdrung strengthened the Drukpa Kagyupa sect of Buddhism and became the head of the state with the title of Zhabdrung, also known as Dharma Raja, which means The King of Righteous Law. During his 38 years in Bhutan, he used the code of law to unite the minds of the Bhutanese and develop the first system of governance.

    As head of the state, he earned the respect of the people and was considered the “physical embodiment of Avalokitesvara,” the Bodhisattva of compassion. After his death, it seems that the law that he drafted was not followed as he wished, as we find that in 1689, the fourth Desi Tenzing Rabgye (r.1680-1694) had it enforced more strictly.
    The Prince or Devil

    Until the first king’s coronation in 1907, 57 Desis ruled Bhutan. It is not clear how many of them followed the code, but Zhabdrung wrote it keeping them in mind.

    The Chayig Chenmo states the three main responsibilities of the Desi– the first job was to make sure that the people were content; the second duty was to ensure that there was regard for the law and the authority that maintains it; and lastly, the Desi had to maintain the Buddhist Order.

    The code of law prescribes that the most effective and shortest method of securing the happiness of the subjects was to dispense justice strictly and without bias. “If a ruler were to devote himself to the administering of justice impartially, he would make all his subjects happy in a single day.”

    The Chayig Chenmo, states that the primary responsibility of the Desi was to ensure the wellbeing of the people. It must be one of the few written laws in the world that mandates its ruler to inquire daily into the condition of the subjects, to see whether the people are happy or unhappy, contented or discontent.

    The code of law also states that if the people were not happy then it was the leader’s responsibility to ensure that they were. The leader had to put in his best effort to create the right atmosphere to pursue happiness.

    “If those who are rulers, having the opportunity to make their subjects happy, neglect their duties, where is the difference between them and the Prince of Devils? ”
    Fair Trial

    According to the Chaying Chenmo, the foundation of good governance rested on justice. It reasoned that by establishing law and justice, it would bring peace and security to both the ruler and his subjects.

    While the general prosperity of the nation depended on the ruler, the local authorities were responsible for the wellbeing of the people living in the region or district. Using an example, from the code of law, let us demonstrate this rationale.

    In the 17th century, when a crime was committed in a region, the village headman would report the matter to the Dzong, which served as the central government. The head of the fortress would then send an officer to the field to investigate the crime. Together with the headman, they would dispense justice.

    According to Zhabdrung, people would be content and have faith in the officials and trust authority if the trial was conducted without any bias.

    The Desi’s third responsibility was the maintenance of the Buddhist Order. Since the ruler was projected to be the living embodiment of Avalokitesvara, he had to cultivate certain Buddhist qualities. So, the code of law encouraged him to abide by the ten duties of the primordial Buddha and the ten perfections. These consist mainly of charity, good conduct and courage.

    Most Bhutanese were and are still, superstitious. The Zhabdrung used this for the maintenance of Buddhist order. The code states, “those who offer insults to those who live in Dharma are worthy of being exterminated.” It further states, “They shall surely be offered up as fitting sacrifice at the shrine of the great and terrible Mahakala.”

    On the other hand, those who followed the code of law were rewarded with the blessings of Koenchosum. The code restates that it is to promote “the general as well as their individual good.

    To ensure that the leaders performed the three responsibilities, the code contains a threat, “If they neglect public prosperity and fail to check their subordinates, or if they suffer karmic laws to be subverted and tolerate the spread of evil without making an effort to remedy it, how can the Spiritual Guardians help them .”

    Although much of the law and order was maintained by the prevailing high morale code, intimidation or physical force was also used but as the last resort.

    “Not always can one conquer and subdue rude and evil persons by mild means in worldly matters. Sometimes, it is unavoidable to use stern measures. So when there are lawbreakers or evildoers, the ruler’s duty is to punish them sternly, without any consideration or pity and sympathy. This is how a king on the throne ensures his own salvation.”
    Public Wealth

    The Chayig Chenmo reminded the leaders that the happiness of the nation depended on the proper collection and use of the taxes.

    It states that care should be taken to ensure that the tax collectors were fair. They should not be partial to any wrongdoer or exempt him from punishment. The tax collector should not use his position to inflict underserved punishment on anybody through grudge or prejudice.

    The code of law states that the administrative duties of the Deb in relation to tax was to ensure smooth collection of revenue, the raising of compulsory government labor contribution, and the hearing of trials related to tax.
    Conclusion

    In the western society, there is just law but it is hard to find that one outstanding person, as the notion of Bodhisattva does not exist in the culture. So, the vision of a compassionate ruler is completely lacking and hence the need to make laws that survive beyond a single ruler.

    Until recently, Bhutan did not have many laws as it relied on the enlightened leaders. For example, until recently, Bhutan had no commercial code, the understanding being that the philosopher king would decide disagreements.

    Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyal wrote the Chayig Chenmo over 400 years and used it to unite the country. Today, the code of law is with the Zhung Dratshang and the state monks still abide by it. This is the tradition of the Dharma King of Bhutan.

    King of Bhutan gives up his absolute monarchy

    By Matthew Rosenberg in Thimpu
    ,
    Bhutan



    The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, a land that has made promoting happiness its paramount goal, ends more than a century of royal rule today with its first parliamentary elections. And no one, except the King who is giving up his power, seems happy about it.

    Candidates proudly call themselves monarchists. Party workers describe the vote as "heartbreaking". Voters fret about what will become of the Land of the Thunder Dragon when it trades its Precious Ruler for politicians.

    Bhutan has long been an eccentric holdout from modernity. A mountainous land where Buddhist kings reigned supreme, it only allowed the internet and television in 1999. It is perhaps most famous for gross national happiness, an all-encompassing political philosophy that seeks to balance material progress with spiritual well-being.

    The election is, in some respects, no different. Unlike so many other countries, where upheaval has been midwife to democracy, Bhutan has never been more peaceful or prosperous; it is only voting because the king said it should.

    "No one wants this election," said Yeshi Zimba, one of the candidates, as he campaigned door-to-door in the capital, Thimpu. "His Majesty has guided us this far, and people are asking, 'Why change now?'" After the election, King Jigme Keshar Namgyal Wangchuck, 28, will remain head of state and will probably retain much influence. But elected leaders will be in charge, a fact that worries many here who have seen the disastrous democracies in Nepal and Bangladesh, as well as the often corrupt and chaotic politics in neighbouring India.

    "People were looking around at what is happening in south Asia and saying, 'No thank you'," said Kinley Dorji, who runs the state-owned newspaper, Kuensel. "But His Majesty said you can't leave such a small, vulnerable country in the hands of only one man who was chosen by birth and not by merit."

    The Bhutanese are not so sure, and the two political parties both stick closely to the king's vision, promoting gross national happiness and featuring leaders who each served twice as prime minister under royal rule. On one side stands Sangay Ngedup, 58, the brother of one of the king's four wives. On the other stands Jigmi Thinley, 56, a man who helped put flesh on the king's concept of gross national happiness.

    "Why do we need these people and their arguments?" asked Kinzang Tshering after listening to one candidate's pitch. "They tell us they are better than the other ones. How should I know which one is better? I think His Majesty is better."

    The vote for the 47-seat National Assembly is the latest step in a slow engagement with the world, which Bhutan began in the early 1960s. Back then, Bhutan was a medieval society with no paved roads, no electricity and no hospitals. Goods were bartered rather than bought, and almost no foreigners were let in.

    But across the Himalayas, other isolated Buddhist kingdoms such as Tibet and Sikkim were coming under the sway of foreign powers, and Bhutan – sandwiched between India and China – decided it needed to change to survive.

    "In the past, the strategy was to hide up in the mountains," said Mr Dorji. Not any more. The country of about 600,000 people now has a cash economy. It is even likely to join the World Trade Organisation soon and thousands of tourists are welcomed every year, albeit on heavily supervised and expensive tours.

    Bhutan retains many of its peculiar ways. Mountain climbing is banned to preserve the pristine forests that laws dictate must cover 60 per cent of the country. Bhutanese must go about in public in their national dress: a colourfully striped knee-length robe for men and an embroidered silk jacket with a wraparound skirt for women.

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