The Suitcase Lady


May 12, 2009, 10:32 pm

It’s comforting to know a country exists that worries about its G.N.H., gross national happiness, more than its G.N.P., gross national product.

That country would be Bhutan, a wee Himalayan kingdom, wedged between China and India. Correction: it is no longer a kingdom since the beloved king resigned last year. He concluded that his 700,000 subjects would be happier living in a democracy.

I’m not making this up. If you have read Eric Weiner’s delightful book, The Geography of Bliss, you know that certain countries rank higher than others in the overall happiness of their citizenry. America “is no happiness superpower.” The Netherlands, Switzerland and tiny Bhutan rank extremely high, while Moldova is “the least happy nation on the planet”.

Bhutan is a Buddhist country which might explain their emphasis on bliss. Buddhists put a high premium on happiness and can’t conceive of others not doing likewise. The world’s most famous Buddhist, The Dalai Lama, says, “The basic fact is that all sentient beings, particularly human beings, want happiness…”

Bhutan got a new constitution last year, and all government programs must be judged not by their economic success, but by the happiness they produce. To measure how things are working, the Bhutanese have created an evaluation system that features the four pillars, the nine domains and the 72 indicators of happiness. These people are serious about their joy.

The Bhutanese are equally serious about the Buddhist belief that “there is nothing greater than compassion.” I think they are definitely on to something here. The most self-absorbed people I’ve met also appear to be the most miserable. A nice trip to Bhutan might be in order.

2 Comments for this entry

  • julilly K

    When do we go?
    mary and Russ– we installed my green roof yesterday. YOU’ve got to come visit it! It is one of my new pillars– plus that I’m going to be a grandmother for the first time in JUly (JUlilly jr..) so I guess we can’ all construct our own pillars and domains.

  • Mara

    Hello there!
    Awesome report on Bhutan! Here at work, we are in the middle of the ‘train the trainers’ for our New Culture introduction and we are learning a lot about the human operating system, among other very good information, to be better persons, better team members, and better employees in general.. but a lot of this learning is about being happy… so I’ve found your blog very opportune. I will totally share it with my students and my coworkers (the other facilitators)..!