Bhutan is unique amongst the small group of nations in the Himalayas. It is peaceful and democratic. Above all, it emphasizes happiness that is not necessarily associated with possession of material goods. It protects the environment by eschewing mass tourism that could trample its fragile land.
Bhutan is also known for creating the world’s one and only Index of Happiness as a measure of wellbeing for its people, which it prefers over the more materialistic and widely used index of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). And yet, to the outside world, Bhutan remains shrouded in mystery. This is about to change through the publication of Meeting the “Other”, by Rieki Crins.
In 1990, the Bhutanese government invited Western scientists to conduct research in one of Bhutan’s most remote villages. Rieki Crins was one of the few foreigners permitted to have an encounter with a unique culture that had not changed for centuries. Bhutan is an experience in itself; a country where spirituality is everywhere and immediate, where the logic of the animist/Buddhist religion ordains that life is experienced entirely in the present and where human gender is conceived of as part and parcel of the cosmos. The people of Bhutan identify this experience explicitly as “sustainability.” In this respect, the modern world can learn a great deal from Bhutan. Rieki Crins is a cultural anthropologist who has written several books and articles about Bhutan.