Really growing happiness

Yeshey Dorji, a prolific blogger (and an excellent photographer), weighed in on minister Khaw Boon Wan’s controversial comments by concurring with the view that since we want to emulate Singapore, for us Singapore could well be the Shangri-la.

But regardless of where Shangri-la may lie, Au Yeshey admits to finding GNH confusing, and raises the alarming prospect that GNH may actually undermine personal happiness. This is what he writes:

“GNH, GNH. GNH – Oh God, it is so confusing. This GNH has me totally baffled. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that the principles of GNH are the antithesis to GPH – Gross Personal Happiness.

“At one point soon, we must all calmly sit down and debate on the issue: Can GNH contribute to GPH; if not, what is the point? Can GNH be achieved without usurping GPH? Is GNH more important than GPH?”

Au Yeshey Dorji is not alone. GNH has indeed become complicated. This simple, straightforward idea, which has quietly guided our country’s development till now, seems to have suddenly become an animated metaphysical commentary on how to make the whole world a happier place.

So let’s go back to the basics, and relearn GNH.

This is how His Majesty the King explains GNH:

“Today, GNH has come to mean so many things to so many people but to me it signifies simply – Development with Values.”

This is how Simpleshow describes it.

And this is how Mieko Nishimizu sees it:

“A philosophy that sets the mandate of government as removing obstacles of public nature to enable individual citizen’s pursuit of happiness.”

But what about Au Yeshey’s important question: “Can GNH contribute to GPH?”

Dr Nishimizu would answer “Yes!” In fact, just last week, she delivered a lecture at RIM telling us how Ina Foods, a  business company in rural Japan, has embraced GNH principles to make their employees happier, and how, in the process, the company itself has become more sustainable and very profitable.

Happy people, making money, in a sustainable way – perhaps Shangri-la is in Ina!


Facebook Comments:


  1. it is exactly that..from pm to ministers to mps, most of them are distracted by personal instead of delivering for the public, they are scheming & planning on ways to increase their personal happiness..disregarding why & for what they hold public office..
    is this distraction not the reason why fm wangdi norbu together with his pm, cabinet & mps could not even assess that their tax revision was unconstitutional? this distraction of mps towards self enrichment was also the reason why they could not understand that a draconian tobacco law voted in by pm, ministers, mps, incl council mps, with the exception of the opposition leader, was, well, draconian..
    the pm, ministers & mps talk gnh..but in reality, they all practice gph..

  2. As a Citizen, GNH for me is the overarching guiding philosophy in carrying out my everyday professional, social and spiritual responsibilities. From professional point of view, GNH is the overall mandate, and the government has set clear policies and strategies so called PILLARS of GNH. What our PUBLIC SERVANT/Civil Servants therefore must bear in mind is to work towards delivering those strategies and policies to the general public. Ofcourse our leaders talk, coerce and threaten just to reflect it onto their policy papers but some of them (actually most) forget to lead by example.
    I guess that is where GNH becomes just a mere term hijacked and raped by many.
    As a Buddhist country, GNH is very much in line with Buddhist values, and perhaps that is what our wise kings must have meant about GNH. GPH might lead to GNH but GPH without understanding what values we as humans first, and then Bhutan as a Buddhist country possess can be detrimental.

  3. Logically, GPH should lead to GNH. But what is GPH and what are its parameters?? Is it owning car, building, land, factory etc? or is it simple living among forest, birds, wild animals, or wondering from place to place; or is it a monk hood or hermit, or farmers toiling in the field; or office workers earning monthly salary????? GPH means different thing to different people and accounting and generalizing it is too darn complex and irrelevant.


  4. I would think that whenever you work or do things with the intention to relieve others of pain and suffering i.e that benefit to others precedes your own interests/benefits i.e. your personal happiness is not at the expense of others peace and happiness – THEN that will bring about GNH. And the reverse way of acting/behaving may bring you immense material benefits but you may have no peace of mind or happiness.

  5. I would explain GNH from the Buddhist anology of thinking in three ways. They are the King’s way of thinking, the boatman’s way of thinking and the herder’s way of thinking. The king first makes himself to be in a safer place and then will be able to look after the welfare of the people. Otherwise without the leader, the welfare of the people cannot be taken care. The boatman wants both his passengers and himself to reach the safe place together whereas the herder wants to first take his herds to a safer place and then make himself safe. If we all have this type of mind according to the status in the heirarchy of our society, then we will definately have attained GNH.

  6. Timothy Tang says

    I think I have realized the real reason why the Singapore minister said that the Bhutanese people are unhappy. It is because he was disappointed that he could not find the Happiness he sought when he went to Bhutan a few years ago in his personal capacity(who makes a trip all the way to Bhutan not to seek its Happiness?). So his failure to find Happiness in Bhutan could have led him to think that Bhutan’s focus on Gross National Happiness is a scam/lie, which he later expressed this in his disparaging remarks made in parliament that the Bhutanese people don’t look happy to him.

    Bhutan is actually a place where people can find real Happiness/Liberation, but only if they look from the right perspective, otherwise they would fail to find it.

    I hope one day he can find the right perspective to perceive and appreciate Bhutan’s true Happiness.

    I have wrote a spiritual article of the 5 core factors of Happiness in my Spiritual Facebook group

  7. GNH in simplest form to me would be, money for all…

  8. ngawang dorji says

    Your excellency, as a citizen of Bhutan i had indeed volunteered to remain unemployed and dedicate myself in doing an independent research on GNH for last three years. Today, i finished my findings and i would be fortunate if sir can provide me with the platform to reveal my finding on GNH. A 45 minutes presentation can convince you of my research. i need your assistant to witness my findings, i managed to solve the TIME USE domain with curves and formulas to weigh happiness.
    i need an audience of His Excellency the PM, Secretary of GNH commission and those intellectuals who might be interested in giving me a critics.
    i would feel fortunate if Sir can manage me a stage for a conference. looking forward for your kind and helpful response. please, sir, give a notice of atleast 5 days prior to the date you fixed for my presentation.Your excellency can contact me in the address given below.i beg your pardon if that is wasting your precious time for which i have an immense respect for you and hoping for a try in serving my country.
    yours sincerelly,
    Ngawang Dorji.

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