…that there was such a being…

It is often tempting to co-opt the Darwinian view of evolution built on the principle of natural selection eventuating in the survival of the fittest and transport it to the social plane. But the two worlds are vastly different. The human of the species has not only shed its embarrassing tail over time but proved itself to be the most highly evolved of all other species.

To be sure, fitness in the human realm goes beyond the competitive ability for survival and self-preservation. Physical fitness or material fitness are concomitantly visited by notions of ethical or moral fitness which immediately sets the humans apart from other non-human species.

Humans have carved out nations, built societies, laid out cities, established institutions and formulated laws for governance and firmed up ethical foundations for good life. We have forged a shared understanding of the fundamental conceptions of truth and falsehood, right and wrong, good and evil even as we established families and neighbourhoods and developed comprehensive codes for social conduct.

Thanks to the marvels of human genius, our specie discovered the laws of science and created incredible works of art and timeless symbols of culture and civilisation. The human family is the womb of enlightened beings and awakened sages and omniscient seers.

The little Kingdom of Bhutan has been home to some of the earliest spiritual traditions of the world and seat of rare supernatural beings and supremely realised masters just as it has been the cradle of generations of Bodhisattava Kings and wise statesmen.

Even at the level of ordinary mortals, this radiant Jewel of the Himalayas has been the birthplace of rare individuals who have risen above the ordinary and shone as inspiring exemplars of nobility and grace in being as much as in doing. They stand out as true images of well-integrated and harmonious evolution manifesting essential virtues befitting the human of the species and becoming of the grace and glory of our unique culture.

In my travels across the length and breadth of our beautiful country and beyond, I have had the joy and privilege of meeting and interacting with exceptional individuals in the remotest corners of our little hamlets and in some of the most advanced countries around the world. In their presence, I have felt in my being inexpressible intimations of humanity at its best and its noblest. Perhaps, this is the way human beings were meant to be…

It is in the essential nature of these individuals to exude sublime grace, genuine goodwill and endearing demeanour. Their bearing shows a rare kind of freedom from anything and everything that denigrates and degrades their own person as well as the sanctity and integrity of the person of other people. They are free from prejudice or ill-will and have the same standards of reference to others in public as well as in private. Their relationship with others is unconditional, edifying and uplifting.

Such individuals are a tribute to their family, a gift to their society and glory to their nation and the world beyond. Humanity flourishes in them and rises through them even as institutions and commonwealths achieve ever greater levels of goodness, and therefore greatness, through them and their virtues. They mark a rare confluence between their role and the soul of their role.

Many societies around the world have their own incalculable wealth stored away in quiet and humble individuals who give their best to their countries without ever looking for external validation or reward but whose standard of duty is their own inner voice of reason and wisdom. Bhutan has been singularly gifted on this count, as sagely observed by our revered King of Destiny, The Great Fourth, Druk Gyalpo Jigme Singye Wangchuck, during an audience granted to us over three and a half decades ago.

I am very grateful for the privilege of knowing and working closely with some of the finest elders, peers and common fellow-citizens whose outlook and actions have been an inspiration to me as I continue my humble educator’s journey to make a positive difference wherever I can, not always succeeding…

The first time I saw late Loynpo Ugyen Tshering was way back in 1981 when, as the Deputy Director of the erstwhile Planning Commission, he addressed us, fresh university graduates, and spoke on the country’s planning process during our National Graduates’ Orientation Programme. I wondered then how and when our underdeveloped, isolated little country could produce such a wise, refined and articulate young officer who carried a stunning bearing in looks and learning.

I was immediately struck by his wide understanding of global affairs, the beginning of the practice of the five-year planning process and where Bhutan stood in relation to our dreams and our reality then. There was warm humanity, great good cheer, rare goodwill and genuine sincerity in his attitude and approach that left us wishing to be like the man who won our hearts with respect and admiration.

I learnt later that Loynpo Ugyen Tshering was the first Bhutanese officer to bring a computer into the country!

I knew more about Loynpo Ugyen when, as the Foreign Secretary then, he led a large Bhutanese delegation to an important GNH conference in The Netherlands in 2004. The depth of insight that he brought to bear on Bhutan’s unique development vision during the deliberations struck our guests as well as us as we felt how beautifully he presented the country and its holistic pathway to sustainable progress.

I deeply valued Loynpo’s advice whenever I led our delegation, or was part of one, as we sought the Foreign Minister’s wise counsel on important issues relevant to the theme of the meeting or summit as the case warranted.

Loynpo Ugyen Tshering was a calm and wise presence at Cabinet Meetings and Parliament Sessions to which he brought the benefit of his extensive knowledge and experience of foreign affairs and diplomacy characterised by infinite grace, sublime goodwill and keen sensitivity befitting the timeless culture and caring worldview of our country. Bhutan’s diplomatic relations gained in breadth and depth even as global understanding and appreciation of our country and its all-embracing development vision reached new heights

As Bhutan’s longest-serving Permanent Representative to the United Nations Headquarters in New York, Loynpo Ugyen worked tirelessly to advance the cause of our sovereign, independent, non-aligned, peace-loving country deeply committed to playing its part in the building of peace and harmony in the world, against the backdrop of its own unique development model for human and societal flourishing.

By virtue of his position as the country’s top diplomat, Loynpo Ugyen Tshering rubbed shoulders with the most powerful and influential leaders of the world. But whether as a Minister or Member[U1]  of Parliament, or senior officer in civil service, or indeed a common citizen, an inherent trait of saintly Loynpo Ugyen’s character was his essential humanity, endearing humility and genuine sincerity. He was a sublime image of true human excellence and quintessential Bhutanese grace.

Whenever I called on late Loynpo during his prolonged battle with Parkinson’s disease that significantly impacted his life and work, he would immediately light up and often cry holding my hands as he struggled to utter what filled his heart. What came through clearly though was his deep understanding of the sovereign interests of the country and the need to safeguard its well-being.

Having followed the evolution of our country and its development journey inside-out and having played his role at its historic moments, Loynpo Ugyen would invariably express how grateful he was to our visionary Monarchs for what they have done for the country and the people, and for him personally.

I will always remember late Loynpo Ugyen Tshering as an exceptional human being – a true gentleman, a faithful servant of the Tsawa-Sum, a loving family-man, and a rare citizen of the world.

Some people make the world a better place by doing. Others, by just being! Bhutan and the world would have been just as beautiful even if Loynpo Ugyen Tshering had just been… 

*   *   *

Thakur S Powdyel

Former Minister of Education

Author: As I Am, So Is My Nation.


Related Posts

About The Author