Category Archives: Bhutan

Street Art in Bhutan

Lion’s Roar published a short piece (with lots of pictures on) in March on French street artist Invader’s work throughout Bhutan, painting and building Buddhist images in his bitmap style. “Famous street artist “invades” Bhutan with Buddhist-inspired mosaics”

And see also the artist’s interview on the subject.

250-year Zhabdrung statue to be loaned to Bhutan

The Statesman, 01 November, 2016

The 250-year-old statue of Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel housed in the Asiatic Society building in Kolkata is soon coming back to Bhutan albeit on loan for a year.

The statue measuring six feet tall is believed to have been found by a British officer, captain Hadyat Ally during the Duar War that Bhutan fought with the British in 1864 and he donated it to the Asiatic Society in the City of Joy, Kolkata.

“We are very grateful to the Government of India for agreeing to our request,” Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said. He said that the union minister for the culture ministry, India, Mahesh Sharma, will be coming to the country personally to deliver the statue.

“The fact that its coming on the celebration of 400 years of Zhabdrung’s arrival in the country is very significant,” he added.

The statue has a sign that says `Brass Image of Dhurm Rajah, found at the capture of Buxa, 7 December, 1864’ and studies pointed out that it was acquired by the British army after the fall of Buxa fort and “gifted” to the Asiatic Society.
Indian media reports mentioned that Bhutan had asked India to return the statue in June, but the Society had turned it down saying that its constitution did not allow it to return a gift.

“The Indian government has taken a decision and the Asiatic Society has given its concurrence that the statue of Dhurm Raja will be given to Bhutan on loan for a year, where it will be part of a year-long festival. At the end of December 2017, it will come back again,” the general secretary of Asiatic Society, Satyabrata Chakrabarti was quoted in Indian media reports. It was also learned that a memorandum of understanding to this effect will be signed soon.

Buxa Fort, near present day Alipurduar, was a bone of contention between British-India and Bhutan.

Records maintained by a British officer, who served during the Duar War revealed that the Buxa had a large two-storey house, substantially built, with carved verandas on the upper storey.

In addition to the Buxa fort, Bhutan had three other hill forts. The first is the Yongla Goenpa and the only one in present day Bhutan. The other is between Kalimpong and Sikkim in India and the third one is on the road from Kalimgpong to Tibet.


Homer, Alaska Author Publishes Buddhist Novel

Homer, Alaska October 27, 2016 Entertainment News
(PRLEAP.COM) October 27, 2016 – Saved by the Light, a new book by Lela Ryterski, has been released by RoseDog Books.

Saved by the Light is a story about the samurai warrior, Shijo Kingo, and the Buddhist monk, Nichiren Daishonin. Nichiren is a rebel. Shijo Kingo is quick-tempered and, like most of us, has an inherent sense of what’s right and what’s wrong. He becomes Nichiren’s pupil and learns to chant a powerful invocation that can bring peace to the world. Because Nichiren refutes the main religions of his day and teaches the chant, he is almost killed and is exiled. However, the key to his victory lies in that very same chant. This is a true story of amazing events that saved Nichiren’s life.

There are now more than 12 million practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism worldwide as a world peace movement. It is the fastest growing sect of Buddhism in modern times.

About the Author:
Lela Ryterski encountered Nichiren Buddhism through the lay Buddhist organization, now called the SGI (Soka Gakkai International) in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, New York, in 1985. Over the years she transformed her life from sad to happy because of the practice and overcame many challenges. She studied art from an early age and became a teacher and artist. She has previously illustrated a coloring book by Helga Wagenleiter and Chirpee the Squirrel by Alice Oates.

Lela practices chanting and yoga. She currently resides in a yurt in Homer, Alaska.

Saved by the Light is a 30-page paperback with a retail price of $16.00. The ISBN is 978-1-4809-6690-1. It was published by RoseDog Books of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. For more information, or to request a review copy, please go to our virtual pressroom at or our online bookstore at
Jessica Stillwell
RoseDog Books


Film Review: ‘Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait’

Jay Weissberg

AUGUST 30, 2016 | 11:34AM PT
A group of people don masks and come together in the woods for fifteen days of liberating and transgressive anonymity in this Buddhist-themed, intriguing Bhutanese drama.

The exoticism of Bhutan and the spiritual philosophy of Buddhism combine with an eerie invented ritual by which masked anonymity allows participants to inhabit a limbo world of all present and no past or future in lama/director Khyentse Norbu’s visually rich though narratively challenging “Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait.” How successful the film is in folding Buddhist ideas into an imaginative reflection on the liberating yet unstable notion of collective identity concealment depends entirely on the viewer’s awareness of certain Eastern spiritual concepts, and uninitiated audiences looking for foreign color will experience a hefty degree of head-scratching among the intermittent pleasures. While never less than intriguing, “Hema Hema,” like Norbu’s previous “Vara: A Blessing,” is unlikely to break out of the festival circuit.

Since working as technical advisor on “Little Buddha,” Norbu has grown into a fully-fledged director (this is his fifth feature), with international visibility assisted by his association with Jeremy Thomas, once again acting as executive producer notwithstanding the majority Bhutanese production. Seeking to incorporate contemporary society’s mores with Buddhist beliefs, his films play with ideas of transgression and reinvention, informed by the spiritual philosophy of inhabiting intermediary spaces poised between death and rebirth. Familiarity with such concepts certainly help to greater appreciate the underlying notion behind “Hema Hema,” which is mostly set in a commune-like forest clearing where participants don masks and revel in the collective freedom of effaced identities.

A man, credited as “Expressionless” (Tshering Dorji) makes his way to a secret forest where, every twelve years, people are gathered by the elderly Agay (Thinley Dorji) for 15 days of anonymity. Amidst revelry and dances, this masked rag-tag community is strictly enjoined from removing their masks; they shed their past and are without names, exulting in the freedom of being unknown.

One need only think of Carnival practices to realize that such a concept isn’t entirely foreign to Western society — putting on a mask in public allows for barriers to be dropped and instinct to reign. But such freedom comes at a cost, and human foibles can fester as lust and jealousy build in the heated atmosphere. Expressionless develops a powerful desire for “Red Wrathful” (Sadon Lhamo), and he breaks the rules of both the commune and society. Continue reading

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s Fourth Film Debuts in Switzerland

 Hema Hema, a modern fairytale largely shot in a remote village in Bhutan, examines the themes of identity and the transition between life and death. From Hema Hema, a modern fairytale largely shot in a remote village in Bhutan, examines the themes of identity and the transition between life and death. From

Hema Hema, a modern fairytale largely shot in a remote village in Bhutan, examines the themes of identity and the transition between life and death. From
Hema Hema, a modern fairytale largely shot in a remote village in Bhutan, examines the themes of identity and the transition between life and death. From

By Craig Lewis Buddhistdoor Global | 2016-08-18 |

Described by the trade website Screen Daily as “colorful, exotic, and mysterious,” the fourth cinematic outing by Bhutanese lama, filmmaker, and writer Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche made its world premiere in Switzerland earlier this month. Titled Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait, the film debuted at the Locarno Film Festival (3–13 August) to a positive reception.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche has previously directed three major feature films: Vara: A Blessing (2013), Travellers and Magicians (2003), and The Cup (1999). He is also the author of the books Not for Happiness: A Guide to the So-Called Preliminary Practices (Shambhala, 2012) and What Makes You Not a Buddhist (Shambhala, 2007).

Continue reading

Bhutan princess seeks to preserve kingdom’s cultural heritage

Princess Ashi Kesang is a picture of concentration as she practices the delicate art of restoring a thangka. Photo: HKEJ

Princess Ashi Kesang is a picture of concentration as she practices the delicate art of restoring a thangka. Photo: HKEJ
Ella Cheung
Jun 3, 2016 5:34pm

Bhutan’s Princess Ashi Kesang Choden T. Wangchuck, who is the namesake of her royal grandmother, studied and lived abroad, but she keeps her heart at home.

Out of a sense of family duty, the princess has made it her personal mission to promote and preserve the kingdom’s rich cultural heritage.

Growing up in a royal family, Ashi Kesang said she received the same early education as any ordinary Bhutanese child would have, which puts strong emphasis on traditional customs and etiquette.

The only difference was that she didn’t have to go to school. Her mother became her first teacher.

Buddhist monks were her spiritual teachers, giving her valuable teachings and guidance. And her grandmother enthusiastically told her Buddhist stories from time to time.

Ashi Kesang recalled precious moments with the great spiritual teacher, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, who she said has had a profound influence on her life.

“I used to be so impatient and I realized the importance of patience and empathy from him,” the princess said.

“He always understood everything but he was never judgmental about people. He genuinely accepted the way you truly are.

“I then started to accept my true self, admitting my wrongdoings and reminding myself to be a better person than ever,” she said.

At the age of 12, Ashi Kesang left the palace and her country for the first time in order to study in an international school in Thailand.

She credited the school for making her a more independent person, a major achievement considering that she grew up in an overprotected environment.

Then she went to Australia and enrolled at the University of Canberra. It took her some time to get used to the weather and adjust to the different value systems of her new classmates and friends.

“The westerners are more independent and individualistic. I felt lonely because my family was not there. Yet I overcame this feeling and became more confident.”

Her stay in New York was quite a culture shock.

There she observed that everyone just walked past one another without even having a look at who was around.

“It felt like you don’t exist, or you are an inanimate object in the streets. Everyone was so absorbed in their own world. To me the situation was a bit unbearable.”

That is quite different from life in Bhutan, where everyone is connected and lives in a small neighborhood.

“In Australia, the people are also nice and kind,” she added.

Right now the princess works as an ancient Buddhist scriptural text and iconographic scholar. Continue reading

‘The Bhutan Exhibition: A Hint to Happiness’

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 9.50.53 AMTHE UENO ROYAL MUSEUM
Japan Times
MAY 17, 2016

Bhutan, a land famous for monasteries, historical architecture and picturesque mountains at the eastern end of the Himalayas, is often known as the happiest country in Asia.

To celebrate 30 years of diplomatic relations between Bhutan and Japan and perhaps reveal why it rates so high in happiness, the Ueno Royal Museum is hosting a showcase of rare Bhutan artifacts. More than 140 pieces will be on display for the first time in Japan, including a Bhutanitis ludlowi swallowtail butterfly specimen. The butterfly is endemic to Bhutan and its first sighting in 80 years was in 2011, after which it became a national symbol.

The Ueno Royal Museum; 1-2 Ueno-koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo. Ueno Stn. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. ¥1,400. 0570-00-3337.


Treasure Caretaker Training donations

Consider making a donation to Treasure Caretaker Training, an organization that helps to train Buddhist nuns and monks “to protect and preserve their own monastery collections of sacred art.”

From the campaign:

If you believe that preservation of Buddhist monastery treasures by the monks and nuns who use them every day is important, please donate now!

Every donation counts towards our February and March workshops in India and Nepal. Our work would not be possible without your kindness and ongoing generosity.

We thank you and our monks and nuns will thank you with letters and updates from their monasteries.

His Holiness 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje
“I fully support Ms Shaftel’s endeavours [in Treasure Caretaker Training] and ask all of you who are concerned about the preservation of the living tradition of Buddhist art to offer your full cooperations and whatever support is possible to facilitate this valuable training.”

Ani Pema Chodron
“This is a great project that could use your support. Please consider helping.”

Treasure Caretaker Training in Bhutan





Those interested can contact

Samsara Is a Movie

Photos and film stills by Pawo Choyning Dorji

Photos and film stills by Pawo Choyning Dorji

June 9, 2014
by Amie Barrodale

When he was in film school, Khyentse Norbu wore pants. He liked to befriend people who didn’t believe in Buddhism. He liked to argue with them. He also liked that they didn’t treat him with any respect.

It was 1994, and Norbu was in his early 30s, attending the New York Film Academy. The course was an intensive one: three weeks to learn to use a 16-millimeter camera and edit. Classes started early and ended late. The pants he was wearing, khakis, replaced his traditional crimson monk’s robes. A non-Buddhist friend who resembled Wallace Shawn came to see him every day, as soon as class got out. Sometimes “Wally” came over before Norbu got back from class, and just hung around the condo Norbu was borrowing, a pied-à-terre owned by one of Norbu’s Buddhist students. So Norbu would be in school all day, and then he’d come back, and Wally would come around to argue.

In addition, a public defender from Louisiana was traveling with Norbu—yet another student of his. She slept on the couch. She wrote his papers for him sometimes. Mostly what she did was watch TV all day and smoke cigarettes and chew Nicorette gum. And I was there. I was 18. At this time, though I had been raised as a Buddhist, I had decided I was not one. I had come up to look at colleges, and I’d asked if I could sleep on the couch. It was one of those long sectionals, so Norbu said fine.

So here was this famous Bhutanese lama, in pants, in film school, and it was around 6 PM. He had Wally the Skeptic, Public Defender the TV Watcher, and me. I had just gone and cut off all my long hair for $400 at a salon I’d read about in Vogue. I’d been given a short, conservative haircut when what I’d wanted was Christy Turlington’s shaved head. The public defender and Wally—for reasons I can’t remember—were at each other’s throats. It was one of the craziest arguments I have ever witnessed. “You’re just an old fat woman,” Wally said, and the public defender snapped back, “You’re a short, bald man!” It was loud and ongoing, back and forth, and fast like that, and for some reason I—with my 40-year-old woman’s glossed hair—had climbed onto the windowsill and started crying. Norbu came home to this scene.

He started laughing. He ran to get his tape recorder and raced back and forth to catch everything that his furious, shouting students said, laughing joyfully. Continue reading