"Proverbs are like little books of magic"

Jun 03, 2013, 07:12 IST | The Guide Team

Gyonpo Tshering, author of The Bhutanese Guide To Happiness, scholar, researcher and Chief Librarian of National Library & Archives of Bhutan, tells The Guide how and why proverbs matter in today's world

>>On how this book of proverbs was born
Part of my work over many decades has been travelling to every corner of Bhutan, meeting people from all walks of life. I was privileged to have been able to spend time with older people, many who have had hard lives working in their land. But, the real treasure has been listening to their stories, the reminiscences of their long lives, and what they feel they have learned from their myriad experiences, which they wish to pass on to the next generation. I have also been very lucky to meet many of the esteemed high lamas, rinpoches and other spiritual folks who have devoted their lives to meditation, reading the teachings of Buddha, and dispersing this knowledge within monasteries and to their local communities. There have been some truly special proverbs which give real pointers as to how to really go inside yourself, to be mindful, in order to achieve a heightened spiritual existence. So, The Bhutanese Guide To Happiness is a reflection of this long journey of mine.

Bhutanese children play in a village near the town of Paro. This book is a delightful insight into a country where Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product. Pic/AFP

>> On the proverbs used in the guide
The proverbs crystalise the essence of this profound knowledge, wisdom, and spirituality, which is perfectly embodied sometimes in just one sentence. A proverb is basically a deeply meaningful message simply told which people of all ages and across the spectrum of society can relate to. Proverbs are like one little book in just a handful of words and can be quite magical. I also hope readers find these proverbs as entertaining and provide a strong component of humour - which the Bhutanese are renowned for. Laughter lightens your load, and is uplifting on many levels. Proverbs can genuinely give people hope. The range of issues that proverbs cover is more than the breadth of the entire Himalayas and beyond! I was privileged to research and compile this special collection of over 3,500 Bhutanese proverbs and decided that 365 was the ideal number for this book, as it gives you one proverb to contemplate every day!

>>On the Bhutanese way of thinking
The Bhutanese promote and practise love, kindness and compassion, embodied in our Government edict that Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product. Money and material possessions are not the answer to long-term meaningful happiness and well-being. This simple but deeply held philosophy has achieved worldwide attention. Advice is easy but it is applying it that is the difficult part.

On the book’s underlying message
Watch out for the ego taking over, because if you only think about yourself and your own needs it is impossible to reach out and help others, and be of value to your community.

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