Sunday, 22 June 2008

Bhutan : The balanced path of GNH

21 June, 2008 - "We’ve a very special event with very special people here today.”

The speaker was the president of the Asia Society, Dr Vishakha N Desai. The special event was a discussion on Gross National Happiness and a mask dance programme held at Asia Society’s head office in New York. The special people referred to were His Royal Highness Dasho Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuck and 23 Bhutanese people, who were in New York for a programme on Bhutan.

Opening the event, His Royal Highness told the gathering that GNH underpinned Bhutan’s entire development strategy in the pursuit of harmony, contentment, and happiness for the people of Bhutan. He said that the concept was gaining popularity as societies everywhere grappled with a balancing act between material development on one hand and social well being - in its broadest sense – on the other.

“… it is important for all of us, especially in Bhutan, not to lose sight of the deeper vision underpinning the concept of Gross National Happiness,” he said. “… and if some way of measuring happiness in numbers is the target of development economists, then it’s important that the numbers remain the servant, and not the master, of the concept.”

“In recent years, some may feel that too much emphasis has been placed worldwide on the material aspects of development – often at the expense of the individual,” Dasho Jigyel said. “But we in Bhutan hope that greater awareness of GNH can help redress the balance – and, if we can succeed, I believe our tiny nation can be an example to others too.”

Speakers – the home and culture minister, Lyonpo Minjur Dorji, advisor to the National Environment Commission, Dasho Paljor Dorji, Chime Pedan of Tarayana Foundation, and Dasho Kinley Dorji of Kuensel – elaborated on the four pillars of Gross National Happiness.

The in-depth discussions covered a range of topics, from monarchy and politics to education, from alcoholism and youth issues to the environment, and from spirituality and culture to the economy. “Happiness has become a frivolous term in the United States,” said one participant. “We thank Bhutan for giving the concept true meaning.”

The discussion, on the four pillars of GNH, was attended by about 110 prominent people from organizations involved in a variety of art and culture projects around Asia and from families that have ties with Bhutan. More than 200 attended a programme of mask dances.

The programme was organized by Asia Society, in partnership with the Bhutan Foundation, which raises funds for projects in Bhutan.

“The event helped raise awareness of Bhutan among influential New Yorkers,” said the president of the Bhutan Foundation and Bhutan’s honorary consul in the U.S., Dr Bruce Bunting. “It was clear that people really did understand GNH better and became excited about it. The pursuit of happiness is in the U.S. Constitution but the society is moving toward materialism. We appreciate that Bhutan is trying to maintain a more balanced path.”

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