Greetings from the Netherlands. I was asked to write you a letter. That is not easy, I don’t know where you are, how you are; are you still in this world? It is very difficult to imagine that your presence is no longer under your own control. The first time we shared an event was the Gross National Happiness conference in Canada in 2005. We all got absorbed in the joyful style of this conference and the place that was given to spirituality, good food, the First Nation people of Canada, art, the initiators from Bhutan and to young people. You wholeheartedly joined the preparations for the next GNH conference, first in Thailand for partners from the Mekong region, and in 2007 the international event in Nongkhai and Bangkok, Thailand. You had hosted the visit of a delegation from Bhutan to PADETC and several places in Laos in order to familiarize our Bhutanese friends with the way of life in the Mekong region. We discovered a lot of the same intentions across countries: in particular to support young people in their discovery of genuine happiness; and how to integrate this happiness perspective in education.
You presided over the interreligious opening ceremony at Wat Hin Mak Peng, just the opposite bank of the Mae Kong River from Vientiane. You spoke at the provincial hall in Nongkhai and at the main auditorium of Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. The memories come back now as we prepare for the next GNH conference in Thimphu, Bhutan. We all miss you dearly, Sombath.
What I most remember, now, is that we meditated and prayed for the wellbeing of all people at many occasions. You often led us in these meditations. When I go back to these moments of silence I feel united with you, with all the people you prayed and worked so hard for. With effort I feel even united with the people who are responsible for your disappearance. May we all be well and happy and realize the sometimes awful mistakes we made. Let us try to bring back your sincere intentions and your inner strength.
Hans van Willenswaard, School for Wellbeing Studies and Research