In Bhutan’s society, from the philosophical and ethical aspects of Buddhism, the parts applicable to modern society are extracted and incorporated into the constitution and policy[1]. Among them, the concept of GNH in Article 9 (2) of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan will be particularly important[2]. It seems that there are various definitions of GNH (Gross National Happiness), but as an example, “GNH comprehensively measures the quality of the nation (rather than GNP, Gross National Product), and the better development of human society is based on the belief that material development and mental development are born where they complement each other and strengthen each other[3]. The national politics of Bhutan is proceeding in line with this GNH philosophy.

GNH (Gross National Happiness) Policy

GNH is a concept advocated by Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the fourth King of Bhutan (1955 ~) in the 1970s. Since then, it has become known worldwide [4]. At that time, while the countries all over the world prioritized GNP (Gross National Product), the 4th King of Bhutan made GNH the main axis of national policy because happiness was more important than things and money.
Currently, all policies of the Bhutanese government must be supported by the GNH philosophy. Regardless of the policy, the GNH commission headed by the prime minister will judge whether or not it faithfully follows the GNH philosophy [5]. Even if a policy proposal is effective for economic growth, if there is a possibility of destroying the environment or invading the community, the GNH commission will prompt a change and it will not be implement as it is [6]. In addition, the Centre for Bhutan Studies &GNH plays a central role in conducting a national census (GNH survey) once every five years to research the happiness of each generation nationwide.
This GNH has 4 pillars, 9 domains and 33 indicators. It should be noted that there is often misunderstanding that they deny the economic aspects of GNP or GDP just because they pursue GNH policies. The economy is often not as absolute a factor as it is thought in the developed world and is one of the 4 pillars or 9 domains of GNH. That is, GNP and GDP occupy only a part of GNH. Economic growth is important for maintaining happiness. It is not just that material development is good, but it is important to realize happiness while developing while maintaining a balance between material and spirit. It seems that the Buddhist philosophical idea of ”Middle Way”, which avoids the two extremes of “only substance” or “only spirit”, also works here.

Structure of GNH

There are 4 pillars in GNH. “Promotion of sustainable development”, “Preservation and promotion of cultural values”, “conservation of the natural environment”, “Establishment of good governance”. The economic aspect is one of the major axes that supports GNH, which is included in the pillar of “promoting sustainable development,” but it can also be said that it is just one of the axes.

9 domains of GNH is “Education”, “Living Standard”, “Health”, “Psychological Well-being”, “Community Vitality”, “Cultural Diversity Resilience”, “Time-Use”, “Good Governance” and “Ecological Diversity & Resilience”. Economy would be included in the range of “the living standard”. In other words, the economy is only important as one of the 9 domains of “living standards” and is not an absolute factor. Moreover, the standard of living here refers to the standard of living of each citizen, and it is premised that a handful of people should not monopolize wealth.

(Author: Professor Seiji Kumagai)

About the scale of 33
footnote in Japanese