Attention – Due To Allegations of Plagiarism, This Article Is Highly Suspect


From our school days, we have used to hearing the word Gross National product as the measure of a country’s affluence.  The economic advancement of a country and by extension, the degree of a country’s status in the world was graded largely by this benchmark. The general approach of the international community has been to gauge a country’s global standing on the basis of its GNP. Although over the years, there has been recognition that this kind of appraisal is too materialistic and did not provide sufficient weightage to non material and intangible dimensions of life, not much was done about it till recently to come up with an alternative measure.


It was left to Bhutan, the diminutive Himalayan kingdom to challenge this way of ranking and look at life from Buddhist point of view. In the Buddhist way of things, greed, consumerism and an over emphasis on the materialistic way of life is not a desirable end to pursue. Proceeding along this thinking , the current king, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, felt that while it was helpful for his country men to be rich, it was more important that they be happy, rather that their traditional way of life which has ensured happiness for much of its people be preserved.


King Wangchuck told the former New York Times South Asia correspondent Barbara Crossette a few years ago. “Being a small country, we do not have economic power. We do not have military muscle. We cannot play a dominant international role, because of our small size and population and because we are a landlocked country. The only factor we can fall back on . . . which can strengthen Bhutan’s sovereignty and our different identity is the unique culture we have.” And so the government has kept a tight grip on matters of culture, which have grown out of the Drukpa Kagyu lineage of Tantric Mahayana Buddhism. In 1999, only 7,000 foreign visitors were granted visas, and for 2000 the figure rose only to 7,559. Police are empowered to detain any Bhutanese not wearing official national dress, the robe like gho for men and the jacket and apron like kira for women. It was perfectly in keeping with this strict but benign paternalism that the King should proclaim that “gross national happiness is more important than gross national product” because “happiness takes precedence over economic prosperity in our national development process.”
And so , the King coined the term” Gross National Happiness”(GNH) in 1972 signifying his commitment to an economy and philosophy where progress and state planning processes would be guided by Buddhist values and priorities rather than blindly follow norms being used in the “outside world”. Today, the concept of GNH has been picked up by many others outside of Bhutan and it embraces a wide range of initiatives, across the world, to define prosperity in more holistic terms and to measure actual wellbeing rather than consumption
Although GNH as a measurement is not without its critics, it has come some way in attaining recognition as an alternative , even though not yet a widely used tool to determine the progress of nations. The UN Human Development Report is still based on tracking the indicators that Mahbub Al Huq, the Pakistani economist developed in the 1990s though recent reports have begun referring to Bhutan’s unique model and Thailand, another Buddhist country is beginning to adopt it.
 Mean while Bhutan continues with its policy of GNH. The focus continues to be on cultural promotion and good governance, and at the same time aiming to factor in the spiritual- in this case Buddhist dimension of life. Material and technological progress is not rejected or banned, but it must not be to the detriment of the value of human life, and humanity’s soul. Mental and psychological wealth are genuine considerations in Bhutan and happiness is more important than monetary wealth. 
Be Sociable, Share!