Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Gross National Happiness in Bhutan - how do you do it?

A Grossly Happy Baby we met in Bumthang
One of my main research priorities in Bhutan has been to understand how Gross National Happiness is integrated into policy development.  As you scratch the surface, many of the major proponents of GNH in Bhutan clearly state that it is still an "aspirational" goal - not quite achieved yet. 
 However, Mahayana Buddhism is based on great aspirations to benefit all sentient beings and GNH appears to have sprung from the same source.  I have not synthesised all of my learnings as yet, but from time to time I think I detect a conflict between some of the approaches to GNH. Some lamas insist GNH is purely achieved through Buddhist practice and philosophy while the more academically oriented approach GNH as an object of study - to be measured with indicators and operationalised by screening new goverment policies through a GNH screening tool.  However, when I ask them if there is a conflict between these two approaches or is it just a conflict in my own mind - they look at me quizzically and politely suggest the conflict resides on my side.  "Just another approach, but not a conflict." I guess the western mind loves looking for or even mentally creating differences, slicing, and separating.  I can't remember which Buddhist master said: "All suffering is caused by creating divisions in divisionless space".

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