Explain the Bhutanese views on happiness.

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It is worth emphasizing that Bhutanese views on happiness are diverse and complex and have been expressed in the religious and cultural traditions of Bhutan for many centuries. The majority of people in Bhutan are Vajrayana Buddhists, who believe that happiness is to be found in liberation from negative emotions...

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It is worth emphasizing that Bhutanese views on happiness are diverse and complex and have been expressed in the religious and cultural traditions of Bhutan for many centuries. The majority of people in Bhutan are Vajrayana Buddhists, who believe that happiness is to be found in liberation from negative emotions such as greed, hatred, desire and pride. However, the Vajrayana School places a particular emphasis on Tantric Buddhism, which holds that these negative emotions are not to be rejected outright, but used as part of the path for overcoming them, being transformed in the process.

This element of Vajrayana Buddhism clearly influenced the concept of Gross National Happiness, for which Bhutan has become known. The former King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wanchuck, who reigned from 1972 to 2006, declared in an interview in the first year of his reign that Gross National Happiness was more important than Gross National Product. However, the policy of GNH was only written into the Constitution of Bhutan in 2008, after the king's abdication.

The government policy of GNH, the former king's personal views on happiness, and the precepts and practices about happiness which are generally observed in Bhutan are three different things. However, they all include the idea of embracing and transforming negative emotions and experiences, rather than rejecting them outright. The government has endeavored to ensure that the values of GNH accurately reflect those people already hold by collecting extensive data, mainly in the form of extensive nationwide surveys conducted in 2008, 2010, and 2015. GNH includes factors such as mental and physical health, community, ecology, education, and use of time to measure happiness. Happiness, therefore, in Bhutanese culture as well as most other major religious and ethical traditions, is regarded not as an emotion, but as a balanced, sustainable and harmonious way of life.

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The Government of Bhutan takes an interesting approach to the pursuit of happiness. Their guiding philosophy is known as Gross National Happiness, or GNH. This philosophy uses an index that measures the happiness of the nation at large. The Bhutanese people consider promoting happiness as necessary to development as a country and have promoted their ideas on the international stage.

Gross National Happiness has holistic implications and a strong emphasis on harmony with nature. The philosophy is based on four "pillars," or practices that are crucial to GNH. These are socio-economic development, ecological conservation, preservation of culture, and good governance. GHN's implementation is overseen by a special commission that is charged with measuring the gross happiness of the nation and implementing a five-year plan.

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The Bhutanese culture contains a very intricate view of happiness.

One aspect of happiness for the people of Bhutan involves embracing unhappiness as a part of human consciousness. The Bhutanese construction of happiness advocates that the mind openly accept the reality of fear, pain, and misery. When it does so, it is able to develop the capacity to understand these elements as a natural part of existence. Energy is not spent in fighting these realities. The Bhutanese culture does not seek to obliterate sadness. Rather, it trains the mind to recognize the natural presence of these forces in our world. This condition is vastly different than what it featured in the Western world, as author Linda Leaming suggests: “We in the West want to fix it if we’re sad, ... We fear sadness. It’s something to get over, medicate. In Bhutan there’s an acceptance. It’s a part of life.” Happiness is evident in this natural acceptance because it reduces the unnecessary energy used in trying to push away the misery that is inevitable.

A significant part of this equation for happiness is the Bhutanese attitude towards death. In many parts of the culture, thinking about death is a part of daily life. Whereas death in the West is seen as something to avoid, the Bhutanese readily accept its presence as evident in many different parts of life. Children are exposed to death at an early age, while adults think about death "at least five times a day." In thinking about death so much, Karma Ura, the head of the Centre for Bhutan Studies, says happiness is experienced because the person has moved beyond the need to offset the reality of death: "Rich people in the West, they have not touched dead bodies, fresh wounds, rotten things. This is a problem. This is the human condition. We have to be ready for the moment we cease to exist.”

There can be a natural happiness in accepting death as a part of existence because then death is seen as organic. There is a greater chance of happiness then because energy is spent welcoming it. Energy is not spent trying to forcefully go against it. The philosophically painful questions that often accompany death are put aside when it is accepted as organic to life.

The Bhutanese approach suggests that if we don't question happiness, why should we question unhappiness? The Bhutanese do not question why life enters the world and thus they should not question why it leaves. For the most part, acceptance of both realities, life and death, happiness and unhappiness, is where the Bhutan culture has its strengths. An open embrace of unhappiness and death are instrumental elements in the Bhutanese notions of happiness.

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