Gross National Happiness has grossly outgrown the fundamental simple but crucial philosophy of national guiding goal that it was.
In my view harnessing happiness dimension is a tall order. And happiness is abstract so it is felt differently by different individuals. I do not believe that everyone genuinely aspires to be happy in like manner. If such a fallacy was a fact the world would be in far better shape. People would be less hungry for power and less driven to subjugate the other. Happiness is definitely not centred on an individual aspiration. That's why I find it rather naive on part of many self proclaimed happiness authors declaring that every individual aspires to be happy.
It is actually more correct to assume that everyone aspires to be successful or famous than happy. Success and fame bring in a level of satisfaction and pride just as wealth and materialism promote convenience and comfort. However success, fame , wealth and other materialism do not necessarily usher in that ' state being of happiness.'
The King of GNH philosophy was not promoting or propagating a unique philosophy termed ' happiness ' when he said that the happiness of his subjects was more relevant than gross national product. He was not grappling for that unfathomable state of utopian happiness on earth. What he meant was that comfort and convenience level of all his subjects were more important to him than the statistic figure of GDP or GNH.
These alien economic indicators used to measure national progress did not reflect the actual living standard and condition of his people struggling in rural Bhutan for 2 or 3 square meals a day and a shelter that they could reside in as home. GNP and GDP were designed to indicate the grand accumulation of national wealth and productivity which actually are mostly found in the hands of the upper pyramid of the whole of world society including Bhutan. The King was more interested to raise the socio- economic standard of the masses ( all his subjects ). He understood that poor and miserable livelihood of the masses was not accurately reflected in the statistic of GDP. The national picture of urban Bhutan and rural Bhutan did not tally. GNP was growing but livelihood status of rural people remained as it was. GNP was blind to rural misery just as the beggar on the street is invisible in the aura of developed world economic statistic although beggars and very poor people also exist in the industrialised nations. Per capita income is far away from the reality of the actual income of the real poor people.
To the youngest ruling Monarch who was struggling with many crucial national issue during 1970s, it must have been frustratingly disappointing to be in a position of scarce political advice to enhance national sovereignty and inadequate economic data that failed to gauge the true livelihood status of his subjects.
History was a trial by fire for King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. The sceptre of reign was thrust into his hands at the tender age of 16 when the third King suddenly passed away. China the northern neighbour of Bhutan was in the midst of national struggle to find its rightful world position. And India the other neighbour in the south was in the aggressive political mood of consolidating her external security that entailed encroaching into the domain of her tiny neighbours. In 1972 Crown Prince Jigme Singye Wangchuck ascended the Throne of the Kingdom of Bhutan. In 1974 the Kingdom of Sikkim the immediate neighbour of Bhutan to the west was annexed by India. It was a massive political earthquake for the young King. The Ruler of Sikkim was maternal uncle of the Bhutanese King and the two Kingdoms shared so much commonalities.
The Bhutanese national bureaucracy was young and inexperienced and in any case, political and traditional culture prohibited loud honest thinking. Such an introvert culture made subjugation easy but it also causes bankruptcy in resourcing true picture of national conscience in that it is not possible for a King to differentiate between true allegiance and obedience; honest words from pleasing words.
The King was young and inexperienced and unmarried. He did not have a queen to share his deeper thoughts. His own royal family members ( paternal and maternal ) may have been at different wave length and deeply shocked by turn of events upon the unexpected death of the third King.
There was impregnable united family and national will standing by the King. But how does a young King hold on to his throne and thereby ensure the sovereignty of the Kingdom in the face of Sikkim annexation? The danger was external not internal.
What would be that magic formula that makes possible the sovereign dignity of a tiny nation to survive powerful external designs ? The third King had the answer. And if the great father did not have the time to share the answer with his royal son then the young King must have scooped it from the amber of Sikkim annexation. The annexation was quick and smooth because the people of Sikkim had not protested loudly in adequate numbers. It was said that the Chogyel of Sikkim with his American wife had forgotten the true base of his throne. The people at grassroot level were not taught to hold a stake in the affairs of Sikkim. No stake therefore no onus and thus easy acceptance of new masters.
His Majesty King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck knew from the start of his reign that the sovereignty of the Kingdom rested with the Dragon Throne and the very stability of the Dragon Throne itself had to rooted in the hearts of the common people. All the kingly deeds since ascending the throne in 1952 demonstrated that care and concern for the common people. The serfdom practice was abolished. Compulsory labour was reduced to the minimum and wages instituted for such labour. Rural taxes were reduced to nominal statistical requirement. Bonded labour to chieftains removed. The land holding ceiling was decreed for the rich whilst the commoners were provided for with land and even shelter. And to those bulk of the average farmers who toiled upon limited ancestral farms lands handed down the family lines, the King gave his solemn words that he will never wrest from them such ancestral farm lands.
His Majesty King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck did not stop the kingly duty with social welfare. The King went on to provide political voice to the populace. The National Assembly was constituted and the people were given free rein to elect whoever they wanted to represent them. Next the Royal Advisory Council was constituted and majority of this high political body were elected by the people. This body not only advised the King but was entrusted to act as the highest Appeal Court of Law because the King abided by the advice submitted by it. Through this Royal Advisory Council, the common people of Bhutan voiced their say in the judiciary conduct of the nation and even in the external affairs of the nation. It was the delegation led by the Royal Advisory Council that went to New Delhi to negotiate with the Government of India the UN membership of Bhutan. And law was legislated by the National Assembly dominated by people elected representatives. The King even granted to the National Assembly the power to remove a King from the Throne.
The third King had devoted whole of his reign to empower the common people. Therefore it was of no surprise when the fourth King proclaimed that Gross National Happiness was more important than Gross National Product. And by all account the King was not referring to an intangible utopian state called happiness. He was referring to the conditions that enabled the masses to enjoy respectable comfort and convenience. He was young to hold the sceptre but he was definitely old enough to understand why his father spent his 20 years reign in raising the living standard of the masses and why the masses were empowered to have say and stake in the health of the Kingdom.
I feel that it was unfortunate that Bhutan tried to quantify and define the King's guiding goal of his reign ' Gross National Happiness ' in response to curious unimaginative alien minds. The developed world society though rich and powerful found that happiness was an elusive shadow. They had failed to discover paradise. So when an idea of happiness was floated as a kingly desire for his Kingdom, it aroused curiosity. If such a thinking had come from any other Country but Bhutan which was already referred to as the, ' last Shangri La ' maybe the outside response would have been muted. But Shangri La and Happiness combination was irresistible to both the rich and powerful and the poor and underdeveloped societies. Many powerful world leaders and influential minds embraced this ' new thought '. It was catchy and it was tantalisingly engrossing. Politically it was found to be fashionable. After all happiness is deemed to be an ageless pursuit of all colours.
Not withstanding what my true views are on Gross National Happiness, I am glad that Bhutan led a team of international thinkers to delve more into the enchanting theory of happiness. The four pillars and nine domains with so many seventy two indicators that conveniently identified GNH with GDP and GNP had motivated both philosophers and politicians buzzing with fresh socio- economic and political slogans.
A discussion on GNH cannot be closed to an end without paying a small tribute to the man who walked this philosophy of his King to the world at large. Towards the end of his Prime Ministership term, he was ointed as the Ambassador of Gross National Happiness by the Bhutanese Parliament. The shadow of Bhutan's first democratic Prime Minister Jigmi Yoeser Thinlay would loom large as a foremost disciple of GNH philosophy whenever and wherever a discussion on happiness takes place. The first democratic Government of Bhutan led by the Prime Minister Jigmi Yoeser Thinlay effectively used the GNH philosophy of King Jigme Singye Wangchuck to galvanise the whole world and succeeded in drawing the international attention to the Kingdom of Bhutan and created immense goodwill all over the world. The endeavour culminated with the United Nations Assembly adopting 20th March as ' Happiness Day '.
There is much to say but more important is to give space to other thoughts of other people. So let pundits of happiness expound whatever. I just hope some of them did experience a momentary happiness which actually is joy rather than long term happiness whilst exploring their decided path to world or self happiness. I have a small request and that is that in the Hall of Mirror of Happiness Philosophy, please give a momentary thought to the comfort and convenience of the poor masses. For in the adequate comfort and convenience of the poor society, the true essence of Happiness value will be discovered as so desired by the visionary King His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck.
The true souls that will wholely and truly celebrate from the bottom of their hearts the 60th Birth Year of the fourth King would be those masses whose comfort and convenience the King had made his sole priority.
Gross National Happiness lies in the good health, good education and sustainable livelihood that the common people must be assisted to acquire. These three necessities if fulfilled within a democratic political environment, will bring about the enabling socio economic and political condition to saw and bring to fruitions the seeds of Gross National Happiness.
Now a little about me, the Free Will Writer.
My life has been an open book and my soul transparent to all. I take immense pride in my birth as a Bhutanese and throughout every year of my life I have kept my faith with the Nation, the Kings and the Masses. I feel blessed by the Deities, their Majesties the Kings and above all by this Country and my families.
I have been exceptionally fortunate to have my thoughts shaped by His Majesty King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck. And I became a more informed and broader conscious citizen thanks to my several years of being in close proximity with His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck. I cannot claim to comprehend the Kings but I feel that their Majesties did and do understand my honesty, frankness and my deep faith in the goodness of the Dynasty and the greatness of the Kingdom. Their Majesties the Kings have always kept the royal communication line to the people open. They have openly expressed both pleasures and displeasures thus practising true ways of guidance and honest relation with the people.
The greatness of the Great Kings lies in seeking out the truth and being so forgiving for lesser being's mistakes. Most humbly I take the opportunity to deeply thank His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck for the gracious understandings and the words of wisdom and forgiveness in true spirit of democracy under constitutional Monarchy Reign. The admiration is for the exercise of qualities that a true People's King ultimately enshrines in everyday affairs.
I do write about the state of affairs of the Bhutan and that of the world as I honestly perceive. There is no malice and no prejudice and definitely no disrespect. Few tell me that I am fearless and few caution me to be careful and some anonymously have issued threats in social media. I am not courageous and I am not a foolhardy.
I intend well with honest views. Yes, it is possible that I could be misunderstood at times. That is because there are hardly anyone else who express honest thoughts in public especially about true state of affairs in my own Country. Actually if people speak out inner thoughts without prejudice or self benefitting angles, the national leaders will gain further insights in national affairs and in their extra wisdom the nation on the whole will benefit. It does not mean the national Leadership will applaud honest views but at least they get exposed to opinions other than that faithfully fed by close associates and self preserving yes men and women that surround them. There is inherent risk in being honest politically. Both one self and innocent family members can be made to suffer. I simply pray that the Triple Gem make the political leaders see value in honest statements. So far the prayers have been heard.
I tread my national path because I have immense faith in the insights and visions of the King on the Throne. The 5th King is in the ninth year of reign and I humbly wish to highlight one far reaching and nation stabilising act of service that has been a defining landmark of nation building. His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck has most graciously and wisely resolved the painful grievance against past cadastral survey of farm lands in rural Bhutan. The King understands and has graciously demonstrated that livelihood based on farm land holding is one root pillar of GNH. This ability to grasp and tackle the issue immediately upon ascending the Throne has strengthened the traditional bond between the people and King. People refer to the Kings as ' Gom Sonam Chenmos ' meaning Blessed Kings. From where do Kings get such ocean of goodness and blessings? The precious sources are the Blessings of Pelden Drukpai Chhoe Chongs and Goodwill and Reverence of the people.
I am not happy with the Constitution of Bhutan on two issues: One is that the Constitution does not enshrine Buddhism as the State Religion of a known Buddhist Kingdom and the other is the unnecessary and politically provocative clause requiring a King to abdicate at the age of 65 birth years. I had publicly made my stand before the Constitution was adopted. However, now I find it my sacred duty to defend the Constitution because the same had been signed into the Mother of all Laws by the Parliament after due consultation with all Bhutanese people. And I call upon all especially the Parliament Members of Bhutan to uphold intact the Constitution at least for the life long period of the Fourth King who instituted its founding and the Fifth King who signed and sealed it as the soul of Bhutanese Democracy. And in upholding it, respect the intent and the spirit of the nobleness of the Constitution. The spirit of Gross National Happiness is interwoven in the structures of the Constitution.
May Gross National Happiness Blossom !