Bhutan’s success is measured by a happiness index!
What a strange introduction right? Bhutan, unlike other countries where economic and political indices are measured, measures its own success in terms of Happiness. Here, the major index is the Gross National Happiness index, as illustrated below. GNH.
Bhutan is primarily a country of 750,000 thousand inhabitants. They’re hoping to grow into 1Million strong inhabitants. It is a country of mountains with 11 valleys or you could call it a number of valleys within a mountainous landscape. The airport is located in the only valley long enough to accommodate the landing strip for international flights. So why do they measure their economic growth through happiness? What makes Bhutan any different to other countries then?
The people of course!
Life in Bhutan is simple. Life in Bhutan is all about leading a peaceful life and remembering what is important.
Is this on purpose?
Of course! King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, King 5 as they call him, has reigned for the past 12 years. Educated in the West, he is a monarch with a very modern stance on life. He is, however, a king. He is entitled to his way of thinking and he is entitled to make what he feels are the best decisions for his people.
In the Western world, a successful life means striving for better things, more things, or busy working to go up that career ladder and dealing with the dog eat dog mentality. In Bhutan, on the contrary, achievement is measured by your Happiness index. Forget fashionable words like stress and anxiety. They don’t exist in Bhutan. There is no need for them. This is the strategy of the King.
It is priceless indeed to be able to apply what we all know to be true. It is a good thing to strive to be happy rather than strive to be stressed. It is a good thing to strive for contentment rather than strive for disappointments. A happy life is a healthy life. There is no need to confuse matters in Bhutan. Life is such that the happiness of the people is of utmost importance, the soul of the country.
Bhutan’s prime source of income is hydropower. The mountains and rivers provide clean water for consumption and renewable energy. Their second source of income is tourism. That’s us, visitors. Visiting Bhutan’s rich source of culture and education. The third source is farming. The land is abundant and the climate agreeable.
You look around, everyone is happy. Medical care is free, education is free. The houses are well built, simply, with strings of chillies hanging off their rooftops and outside windows. As the local expression goes: ‘no chillies, no life’. The farmers look after their land, grow buckwheat and red rice, look after their yaks and honor their monks. Wherever we went, the people kept inviting us into their houses for tea. The monks insisted on sharing tea with us at the monastery. For us, that meant another opportunity to learn all about the life of a monk, their aspirations and the importance of auspiciousness in their culture.
Visiting Bhutan is an eye-opener. Life is not necessarily slow. It is just calm. And safe. Everyone lives together in harmony. Mobile phones are rife. The youngsters giggle and are glued to their phone, even when dressed in their fineries climbing up to Tiger’s Nest. Life is all about compassion for others (turning the prayer wheels) and celebrating important even on auspicious days (following in the wisdom of astrologers). Hanging flags throw compassion out to the world. Find a tree and hang your flags. They’d be blessed by the monks and best to hang them on an auspicious day!
Buddhism in Bhutan is all about Dharma, the shape of your mind. “You are the master of yourself” is the basis of all buddhist thinking and local thinking. What better achievement can be mastered than to become the owner of your own happiness. The monks would know about that, after the many years spent learning to meditate to reach the highest realm of Compassion. That is indeed the highest of human achievements.
Living in Bhutan is the harmony of Dharma and happiness, to be the master of your own mind in the pursuit of everyday happiness, for every person in the land, under the auspicious guidance of the king. The whole world is watching. In admiration. It is for each one of us to take a leaf out of their book and put it in ours.