10 things I learned about happiness in Bhutan
The first to be on my bucket list, visiting Bhutan was a wish I had even before I knew what a bucket list was!
The one reason it always intrigued my curiosity was that I had no idea what this place would be like. And that's right to say for a country where television only arrived in the late 1990s.
Unlike the western world, where people often equate happiness with the developments in the country, Bhutan has proved to be otherwise. The last to open its door to globalization, this Buddhist Kingdom believes 'material and spiritual development happen together'. There's a lot the 'last Shangri-La' does differently and these few factors contributing to their happiness are worth diving your nose in-
1. MATERIAL AND SPIRITUAL BALANCE
The people don't base their lives on generating more and more wealth or in collecting material possessions. They understand that the only thing it leads to is unnecessary stress and unhappiness. They are happy to just be.
2. RAPIDLY GROWING ECONOMY
With a very low rate of unemployment and a steadily growing GDP, who wouldn't be happy when you're making money? Bhutan is getting rich by the day and even then, people know how to balance their resources.
3. THE GRASS REALLY IS GREENER ON THE OTHER SIDE
I don't think you'd complain living in a place surrounded by the pristine Himalayas and lush vegetation, but the Bhutanese really understand the importance of it all. As a result, more than 75% of their land is protected as a national park and it's mandatory to maintain a minimum of 60% forest area for any future leaders.
4. LOVE FOR ALL CREATURES ALIKE
It was astounding to know that there are no slaughterhouses in the kingdom of Bhutan. The national religion of the country is Buddhism and they don't believe in killing animals. Although it is a meat-consuming country, all meat is imported from India.
You might ask, "Why even eat animals then?" That was exactly my question too. So, it is believed that Gautam Buddha told his disciple to eat whatever he gets in his bowl. One day, when he was out in search of food, a bird fell in the bowl and recalling the words of his master, he obliged, so that was his food for the day. And hence, this is not something their religion prevents them from doing.
5. THEY BELIEVE IN KARMA
When was the last time you prayed? And what did you ask for? Most of us would remember asking for one of our wishes to come true, isn't it? On the contrary, when Buddhists visit monasteries, they pray for others and for the greater good and peace in the world. Buddhists believe in the power of Karma and that if they do good to others, good will come to them.
6. GOOD GOVERNANCE
When most in the western world are significantly dissatisfied with the performance of their leaders, Bhutanese really love and respect their King. It is common to find pictures of the royal family in houses, hotels or shops. Talking of approachability, the king is oftentimes seen playing with local kids. I even heard of an instance when Jawaharlal Nehru suggested the king of Bhutan to build a palace for himself, the king simply refused and rather distributed that fund among the citizens.
7. IT'S A CARBON-NEUTRAL COUNTRY
Yes, you read it right- there's absolutely no pollution. In Bhutan land, they produce more oxygen than the carbon they emit. That means it isn't just carbon-neutral but carbon-negative. So you know if you're in Bhutan, you'd be breathing in the purest air that there is. They also ban all vehicles for one day every month to keep a check on carbon emission.
8. THEY PRACTISE EQUALITY
They truly believe men and women are equal and this can be seen in the (non-existing) gender roles. You will commonly find women running shops or as porters in hotels. The law does not discriminate based on gender and women have equal rights over any property too. I'm not sure how widely this is practised but I've also heard that after marriage, the man moves to the woman's house.
9.EDUCATION AND HEALTHCARE ARE FREE
We talked about the good governance in the country and this is another example of the same. Bhutanese people do not have to fret over basic needs that their government has decided to take care of. They even offer full financial guidance for college and study abroad to outperforming students.
10. THEIR TOURISM IS CONTROLLED
The reason why Bhutan kept itself isolated from the world for so long was not for nothing. They have been able to preserve their culture by restricting tourism and this, cultural preservation, is also one of their indices in measuring GNH (Gross National Happiness). Till date, tourism in Bhutan is controlled with a cumbersome visa application process, a requirement for all tourists to book through a certified tour operator and having a tour guide with them at all times. Except for the citizens of India, Bangladesh and Maldives, travellers from all other countries have to pay a daily fee of $200 or $250, if travelling solo (that covers basic lodging, meals and driver fees) and this is extended towards providing free education and healthcare for its citizens.
Even though it is no secret that not much is needed to lead a happy life, we are often caught up on the path of material advancements to the extent that it costs us our sanity.
Bhutan and its people are living example that one doesn't need to chase and earn a lot of money to be happy. In fact, it is often the other things we do that significantly contribute to our happiness and well being, at large.
No doubt, their government plays a major role in this area but the idea still remains the same. Caring for your environment and co-existing with nature and our fellow beings is one easy step towards leading a fulfilling life. It costs nothing to be kind, to treat others fairly and truly care for one another, but what we earn is immeasurable.
I don't think you need to go to Bhutan to learn about the simplicities of leading a happy life, but it's good to be reminded, and no excuse more beautiful.
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