Although Bhutan’s guiding philosophy – the principles of Gross National Happiness (GNH) – includes a strong cultural preservation component, the younger generation (Bhutan’s future leaders) can become overwhelmingly caught up with modernization and Westernization. Thus it becomes ever more important to support traditional spiritual practitioners whose work has always kept the country in spiritual harmony.
The country’s culture and traditions are a priceless gift – which can and should be passed on to the younger generation, to help them succeed and thrive in a rapidly changing world. Unless nuns and others can successfully take on the values of cultural preservation, the philosophy of GNH could remain a mere dream.
Education and Inspiration
In Bhutan, several thousand nuns live within and outside nunneries. Many young girls and women (ranging in age from 6 to 50) have attended classes in a nunnery as a form of traditional learning or alternate means of achieving an education, often because their parents could not afford to send all the family’s children to the formal school system.
Some girls who drop out of that system end up in the nunneries to continue learning in the traditional way; while others join simply because they wish to follow a Buddhist spiritual path – a life of meditation, devotion to Buddhist studies, peace and harmony. Finally, older women often join the Sangha (community of nuns) to seek a second chance in life through learning and devotion.
Women, both young and old, join nunneries because they are passionate about studying Buddhism, and desire to live a peaceful and meaningful life that brings them balance and wisdom in a rapidly changing and increasingly unsustainable world.
Giving Back to Communities
Educational opportunities available through nunneries have no age or learning capacity limit, as the formal education sector often does. Women from all walks of life, after receiving good educations there, become empowered and are therefore in a much better position to give back to their communities. For example, they may become teachers or social workers within their villages and their nunneries.
Living close to the village community, both psychologically and physically, nuns provide important support – especially to women and girls. Supporting nuns’ education maximizes social capital, enhances the role of women in development, and thus helps to achieve GNH. The promotion of nuns’ education and recognition of their role in Bhutanese society is critical to strengthening its sustainable development.
Benefits of empowering and educating women greatly outweigh the costs, and require urgent attention. The Bhutan Nuns Foundation is committed to championing the cause of nuns and nunneries, and solidifying its place in pursuit of GNH and the country’s development goals.