Kinley Dechen, Laya, Bhutan 2011

Kinley Dechen, Laya, Bhutan 2011

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Laya is considered a Beyul, a hidden land unseen from the main Tibetan trade route. The prosperous Layap grow barley, buckwheat, potatoes and radishes, while yak herding, trading and smuggling generate most of their wealth. Large, strong and often dangerously unpredictable, yak pull the plows; provide milk, meat, leather, hair and wool; and double as pack animals over high passes and through deep snow.

For most Layap, yak are wealth and they sell or slaughter only as needed, then hope the herd replenishes during spring calving. Like many prosperous Buddhist villagers, the Layap will not kill their animals, believing this will create an unlucky rebirth. However, they have no misgivings about hiring poor herdsmen from other villages to do this work.

The Bhutanese make a strong and clear distinction between domestic and wild animals. The negative karma of killing and eating wild creatures trumps that of those bred for service to man. Hosts frequently serve their honored guests meat from domestic animals that “fell from a cliff” or were “killed by a tiger” because the Bhutanese do not want to admit the slaughter of an animal – nor worry their guests that a life has been taken on their behalf.