Peripheral pre-Bhutan googling throws up mostly non-exciting trivia until you discover that this pint-size nation tops Asia's happiness index. Apparently, Bhutan has rejected GDP (Gross Domestic Product), a materialistic yet universal approach to measuring national progress and replaced it with GNH (Gross National Happiness), a novel homegrown concept that measures prosperity based on the spiritual, physical, social, and environmental health of its citizens in a productive and natural environment.
What's with Bhutan's Gross Happiness Index?
Well, Bhutan as a nation exudes an uncommon air of contentment. In a world racing on the economic treadmill, it's a tad strange to see people whose demeanour seems to be an extension of the serene mountains they live amidst contented with their lot; holding on ever so gently to their traditions; moving towards progress, one baby-step at a time; trying to preserve that which makes them unique; taking care not to snip their cultural roots. The Bhutanese shun brute ambition and savage competition — traits that are markers of global unhappiness — perhaps at the cost of being labelled 'unambitious' and 'unassertive' by the uncharitable.
It is easy to misinterpret Bhutan's quest. The 'Fast and Furious' types might view them as lazy and lacking in ambition but those with a more evolved outlook will appreciate their un-embellished and uncomplicated ways. Bhutan is like a soft whisper in a sea of cacophony, a nation that dwells in nature's womb where satisfaction is a credo and greed, a four letter word.
Spirituality and piety are enmeshed in Bhutanese lives. They are prompt to attribute every fortunate happening to the blessings of the supreme power.
Spirituality and piety are enmeshed in Bhutanese lives. They are prompt to attribute every fortunate happening to the blessings of the supreme power. A hill is not just a hill, but the hump of a demon's back. A lake is not simply a lake, but the trough of a holy treasure. A temple is not just plain architecture, but a structure to nail down the head of a giant mythical serpent.
Religion defines the country's landscape and vice versa. Keeping on the right side of spirituality must certainly contribute to Bhutan's happiness quotient.
The presence of monks everywhere adds to the mystique. Despite all the technological progress, people mostly live traditionally — they pray at home altars; plough with oxen; grow their own food and cook it on wood stoves in dark, chilly, smoky rooms; and walk for hours, or even days, on mountain paths just to reach the nearest village.
Bhutan's common dress code is again one less reason for heartburn and unhappiness. It obviates the likelihood of sartorial one-upmanship. Every Bhutanese is a cultural ambassador of their country.
Bhutan: A Higher State of Being
Green schools teach children basic agricultural techniques and environmental protection. A new national waste management program ensures that every piece of material used at the school is recycled. Daily meditation session reins in the mind and soothing traditional music replaces the clang of the school bell.
Spend a few days away from the hum of you world to reinstate your belief in the old adage: simple living and high thinking.
Bhutan is one of the few places on earth untouched by the goblin of globalisation; where compassion still trumps over capitalism.
At an ecological level, it is highly evolved. It has given the world, a blueprint for environmental sustenance and cultural preservation. Every development project is scrutinised and stopped if it affronts religious faith or adversely affects the environment.
In a world beset by collapsing financial systems, gross inequity and wide-scale environmental destruction, this tiny Buddhist kingdom's approach have attracted a lot of interest. It is an illustration of how humans can curb their parasitic proclivity and co-exist with nature in a happy symbiosis.
Bhutan: Should you, shouldn't you?
Well, you shouldn't, if you haven't yet had your fill of the world's epicurean side — the Cannes, the casinos, and the cruises. You should if you need a real break from the rat race and not some synthetic spa for the mind and soul.
Spend a few days away from the hum of your world to reinstate your belief in the old adage: simple living and high thinking. In the bargain, enhance your personal gross happiness index.