THE SECRETS BEHIND THE SMILES OF BHUTANESE PEOPLE
Last Friday, I was walking with two of my friends on the Doebum Lam highway in Thimphu when a news reporter from India stopped us and asked us why Bhutanese people are happy. The reporter told us that his team was in Bhutan to understand our secrets to happiness. He excitedly talked to us how Bhutan has been known to the outside world as the Land of Happiness and that he was interested to find out why. So in response to his question, this is the gist of what I told him: The first and foremost reason why we the Bhutanese people are happy is because we have learned how to walk the middle-path between spiritual and materialistic life. As a Buddhist nation, we have been always guided by the teachings of Lord Buddha who has taught us the value of living in the moment and to be content with what we have. We all know that human desires are the root cause of suffering and hence, we have learned to balance our spiritual needs against the materialistic world that we desire to be in. We have realized that nothing is permanent in this world and that realization helps us to be self-content at all times. When we are basically content with what we have or what we are, happiness naturally evolves from the satisfaction we enjoy at the moment. The other factor that contributes to our overall wellbeing and happiness is that all our public policies and developmental activities are strictly guided by the philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH). Under the wise leadership and guidance of our beloved kings, the government has recognized the importance of measuring people’s happiness by the four main pillars of GNH namely: Promotion and Preservation of Culture, Conservation of Environment, Equitable Socio-economic Development and Good Governance. Using this yardstick, the government ensures that any major project or developmental activity it initiates does not pose threats to the wellbeing of the community, its culture and environment and that the developmental activities are evenly distributed across the country ensuring that the nation’s limited resources are effectively managed through good governance. The government understands well that if we have rich culture, pristine environment, balanced socio-economic development and good governance in place, whatever initiative we take can lead to happiness at the national level. So to me, Gross National Happiness is a great development philosophy that constantly guides our policies and plans and leads us to everlasting happiness and wellbeing. In the face of various global crises fueled by global warming, cultural degradation, corruption and political conflicts, Bhutan still has rich and unique culture, pristine environment and efficient and effective government in place to be proud of. With blessings from our beloved kings and our guardian deities, we still have enough reasons to smile today when half the world is in tears. Last but not the least, we feel really fortunate to be born in such a beautiful country where we enjoy free access to education and health services regardless of our ethnic/religious backgrounds. If we can really demonstrate our capabilities, we get equal opportunities to participate in all spheres of public life. For instance, although I am blind, I have so far got equal opportunities to participate in the mainstream socio-economic and public life. So even to be born with a disability in Bhutan is really a blessing. Our communities are founded on the basic principles of Buddhism and the people are generally empathetic and compassionate. So we don’t face major discriminations apart from the few challenges we are working with the government to address such as the lack of adequate accessible public infrastructures and facilities for persons with disabilities. And one thing that makes us fortunate is that our government is very supportive and listens to our concerns. So Bhutan is truly the Land of Happiness. May the Sun of Peace never set in this part of the world. God bless Drukyul as always!