Sunday, February 24, 2008

Beauty in the Mind:The Dragon’s Gift: The Sacred Arts of Bhutan

flowers from Bhutan

(dance)photo by heloisa oliveira

A furious dialogue ensued in Dzongkha, the Bhutanese language, among the priests, the owner, the government official overseeing the country’s cultural properties and the curators’ Bhutanese driver over how to interpret this ambiguous sign. (Even numbers are bad, ascending numbers are good, and nine is great, the most auspicious number of all.)

The kingdom’s remoteness allowed it to remain isolated for centuries. Snow-clogged passes kept out foreign marauders; the only invader was Buddhism, imported by Guru Rinpoche, the founder of the earliest school of Tibetan Buddhism, in 746. Before Rinpoche’s arrival, the Bhutanese practiced a nature- worshipping form of animism called Bon. The absorption of Bon’s earthly gods and goblins into the new religion created a uniquely environmental form of Buddhism that has defined the culture to this day.

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