Religion, media inseparable in Bhutan
MEDIA AND RELIGION are inter-connected. Our religion is a living religion, as we breathe in and out every day, said veteran journalist and editor Tashi P. Wangdi, CEO and Editor of K-Media in Thimphu, Bhutan.
The sensitivity and the complexity of religion in this small Himalayan kingdom became evident as 40 journalists and editors held a one-day seminar recently in Bhutan’s capitol Thimphu. The event was sponsored by The Media Project together with Bhutan Media Foundation as a local partner.
The complexity of religion is particularly visible in Bhutan’s development policy based on Gross National Happiness, which holds that true and sustainable development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side.
Keynote speaker Secretary General of the Central Monk Body, Gembo Dorji (pictured) emphasized that happiness is not only having physical comfort and fulfilling our needs. It’s also a matter of deeper mental contentment brought by religious practice.
Veteran media professional Tashi P. Wangdi listed various examples of stories related to religion, not only from yearly festivals but interviews with monks who have been living in solitude for 15 or 20 years to learn about the insights they have gained.
Wangdi, popularly known as “Tosh,” started as a journalist in Kuensel and later became the editor of Bhutan Times and Bhutan Observer. Today he edits Druk Air's in-flight magazine “Tashi Delek” as well as other products.
“Media started from the religions. The old religious chronicles and scriptures, Bhagavad-Gita, the Bible, the Quran also contain cultural insight, poetry, songs, etc. One cannot disconnect religion from the media,” says Wangdi.
He emphasized the role religion has played in the small Himalayan country over the centuries since the Indian monk known in Bhutan as Guru Rimpoche arrived in 746 A.D. - songs, dances, poetry, woven arts, face masks, all point to an enduring religious heritage.
Gembo Dorji, pointed out that Buddhism is unusual as a non-theistic religion and philosophy of life that deals with human nature. He said it's a philosophy of mind and therefore of creations.
"In Bhutan, the contribution of religion towards shaping our country, promotion and preservation of our unique culture and developing a closely knitted society is very significant," Gembo Dorji explained. "The monasteries have for centuries educated and trained the Bhutanese population long before establishment of secular schools in the mid-sixties. Preservation of most forms of arts and crafts, dance, literary and traditional practices have been the handiwork of the Monk Body and religious leaders.
In fact, monk-scholars have been at the forefront of documenting and preserving the history and tradition of the country. The Zhung Dratshang (central monk body) became the basis for the unification of the country, codification of the laws, Gembo Dorji went on.