Hidden beneath the towering peaks of the eastern Himalaya, Bhutan is the final outpost of the rapidly disappearing Tantric Buddhist culture that once guarded the Roof of the World. Tibet, Ladakh, Mustang, and Sikkim have all fallen to conquest, or cultural and economic colonialism, while Bhutan—never conquered, never colonized—remains the last jewel in Buddhism’s Himalayan crown, blessed with peace, prosperity and an ancient culture still vibrant and alive. The Fourth King rejected the conventional model of global development: more is better and growing consumption equals success. The King aimed to balance the country’s economic needs with preserving the environment and traditional values—a policy founded on the Buddhist principles that all life is sacred and all living beings are interdependent.
With such abundant resources and enlightened leadership, it’s easy to romanticize Bhutan. But to do so would be a great disservice, trivializing the very real challenges — internal and external — that threaten the Bhutanese future. These photos reveal some of these challenges and give them a human face.
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