Philosophy of GNH: In Pursuit of Happiness and Equality

Ours is an age when Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has become something that indicates our living standard. It has been the main device used to measure a country’s economy since 1944 (Dickinson). It indicates which countries are economically developed and the living standard of the countries’ people. On the other hand, Gross National Happiness (GNH), a newer term than GDP, emphasizes more on a nation’s wellbeing than economic status and was introduced in 1972 by the fourth king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. Bhutan is the only country till now that has adopted GNH to measure the progress of the nation instead of GDP. This paper, will argue that if the measurement of GNH is practiced in all countries, the world will be a better place to live in because happiness will prevail and inequality will not exist.

A beautiful landscape of Bhutan

The measurement of GDP is done by aggregating a country’s all of private and public consumption, government outlays, investments and exports less imports. Indirectly, GDP is related to the income of the individuals of a country because the more a person earns, the more he or she can consume. Conventionally, economists look at GDP to understand a nation’s economic development. When the GDP of a nation is going up, the economy is good and the nation is advancing (Lisa). On the other hand, the notion of GNH involves sustainable development taking a holistic approach towards the concept of progress. In GNH, equal importance is given to the non-economic form of well-being. The measurement of GNH contains nine domains: psychological wellbeing, health, education, time use, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, ecological diversity and resilience, and living standards. The domains here measure the well-being of the Bhutanese people, where well-being means accomplishing all the conditions of a ‘good life’, if not a monetarily wealthy life (Bhutan GNH Index).

According to David R. Loy, economists in present days live in a world of statistics and equations where human value does not exist (1). While comparing between nations, we just look at different data, like GDP, that indicate which nations earn more and consume more. Eventually, ranking of the GDP shows for different countries set them off for a race where they compete to increase their GDPs. As GDP has no upper limit, there is no finishing point of this race and the race keeps on going. Being so engrossed in the race, nobody notices that their lives are not at a state of well-being. The race is also devoid of human value, which makes a human being ‘human’. It lacks religious values too. Loy says, “Increasing our ‘standard of living’ has become so compulsive for us because it serves as a substitute for traditional religious values — or, more precisely, because it has actually become a kind of secular religion for us” (6). It also takes away people’s mental peace as they always think of increasing their wealth. The desire for wealth preoccupies us and shadows our life with the fear of poverty (Loy 8).

On the contrary, the limit of GNH is just to be happy. A person is considered happy even if he or she does not have adequacy in all of the domains because individuals having adequacy in at least six of the nine domains are considered happy. In pursuit of the nine domains to be happy, people end up having a healthy and prosperous life. For example, under the domain of ‘Psychological Well-being’, they acquire spirituality, life satisfaction, positive emotions, and avoid negative emotions, like anger, fear, worry, jealousy, and selfishness. This reduces people’s craving for material well-being. According to Lyonpo Jigme Thinley, Bhutan’s home minister and ex-prime minister, material well-being is only one component that does not ensure that people are at peace with their environment and in synchronization with each other. This is actually a concept that is based on Buddhist Philosophy (Revkin 2). Buddhism values nonattachment to material needs and upholds the virtue of having less wants, but that does not mean that it encourages poverty. In Buddhism, poverty is measured through the lacking of fundamental needs to lead an adequate life. In fact, it is a “clever way to enjoy your life,” said the Vietnamese teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, as mixing up the quality of life and the quantitative standard of living is considered foolish (Loy 5). Lord Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, has also instructed that satisfaction with whatever you have is the greatest wealth (Loy 4). This relates back to the domain of ‘Psychological Well-being’ where life satisfaction is achieved. So, in terms of Buddhist philosophy, a person satisfying that domain is not considered as poor even if he or she does not earn a lot. Thus, GNH is more important in people’s lives because it teaches us the need for self-limitation and self-satisfaction, instead of GDP that renders us a monetarized society.

GNH also ensures equality in the society. We emphasize more on the GDP and let it trigger the competition of earning more wealth. While competing, we do not look at those countries that have a lower GDP than us and feel happy by ourselves for having a higher GDP. We tend to look at those that have a higher GDP and push ourselves to earn even more. We tend to follow every possible way, legal or illegal, to increase our assets. In this competition, the poor fall behind because they cannot join or survive. We use up all the resources and do not leave anything for the poor in this competitive environment. That’s how they become deprived. Lack of resources and infrastructure make their lives miserable and definitely a miserable life with no sufficient food or adequate shelter is not a happy life. On the other hand, those who are using up all the resources in trying to make themselves richer and richer cannot call themselves happy either because they are never mentally satisfied. They always want to increase their income and accumulate GDP. This creates disparity between the rich and the poor. According to the United Nations Development Report for 1998, the three richest people on the planet have assets that exceed the combined Gross National Product of the 48 poorest countries (Loy 8). Loy states, “Three-fifths of the 4.4 billion people in developing countries lack basic sanitation, one-third have no safe drinking water, one-quarter are inadequately housed, one-fifth undernourished and one-fifth lack access to modern health services” (Ibid). Development agencies like World Bank try to help those countries, but unfortunately, it is usually the wealthy class of the country that is benefitted by this help while the poor remain poor.

Now, suppose a person in Bhutan has a job that pays him an adequate amount of money. He has a nice little home to live in with a nice family; he is able to meet the needs of his family; he has good neighbors; he does voluntary activities. On the whole, he leads a healthy and peaceful life. So, on the basis of the nine domains, he is a happy man. And it is the GNH index that shows him that he is happy, rather than showing him that there are other people in the world whose living standards are higher than his own, which GDP does. So, when the man finds himself happy, he will not desire for more. He will not hanker after wealth, so there will not be any competition of earning more wealth. Thus, he will just stay happy with whatever asset he has. In this way, he is just using up the resources that are allocated for him. Therefore, everyone gets an equal access to the resources. As a result, the poor also get a chance to better their condition by accessing resources and that creates equality in the society, not only on the basis of happiness, but also on the basis of livelihood.

Happiness is all you need
Happiness is all you need

One might say that emphasis on GNH will make people less ambitious as people will remain satisfied with what they have and will not have craving. But the point to be noted is GNH does not discourage non-economic achievements. Suppose the same person I have mentioned earlier, who is happy already, has invented a new technology after a lot of hard work. He had the ambition to invent such technology that inspired him to be successful. But for his achievement he will not expect any monetary reward because in pursuit of the nine domains, he is already devoid of craving for wealth. Earning money was not his intention behind the invention at all. His intention might be serving his nation with a new technology or the welfare of the mankind. Thus, GNH only promotes resistance to cravings for wealth, not a craving for other non-economic achievement.

This is also true that we cannot avoid GDP totally as it has been counted for a long period of time and has some significance also. But if we take a deeper look, we will be able to figure out whether it is really serving its purpose. As GDP shows the economic health of a nation, looking at the GDP, economic-decision makers make policies and development planning (“GDP and Its Importance”). But does GDP portray the actual economic condition of a country?

The measurement of GDP does not include the production of the products that are not purchased. It doesn’t count if someone grows his own food, but if someone likes to watch TV and buys one, GDP would count that (“Macroeconomics”). Moreover, even if GDP shows economic development, sometime it underestimates it too. The reason is it does not count the income gained from the black market (Pettinger). A number of nations earn much money through black markets, but still they might show a lower GDP, which misrepresents the economy of those nations.

Also GDP is submissive to oligarchy. For example, South Africa is in top 40 countries that have higher GDP, but 50% of the population in this country lives in poverty (“Three Limitations”). Thus, higher percentage of GDP is actually owned by a smaller but powerful group in this country. The greater number of people in poverty might not be able to access different infrastructure, which is important for economic development, but GDP is not used to improve that (Pettinger). So, GDP cannot actually represent the original living standard of nation’s population. Finally, GDP overvalues negative externalities. This is the bad effects that occur when consumption of production increases. When GDP increases, negative externalities, like air pollution and water pollution, increase too (“Three Limitations”). Living in a polluted environment affects the health of the people badly and we cannot expect development from a nation having an unhealthy population, no matter how high the GDP is of that nation.

All the reasons stated above indicate that the measurement of GDP does not serve the purposes it is supposed to serve; the purposes for which it is given so much importance. So, why GDP is worthy of measurement? And why should it not be replaced by GNH?

The world is full of sufferings that are generated from different cravings. We cannot heal all the sufferings even if we turn all the resources into consumable products because people’s craving is endless. At the same time, if the measurement of GNH is promoted everywhere, we will learn how to save ourselves from the craving that will lessen our suffering. Thus, according to Tibetan Buddhist analogy, we will learn to make shoes to save our feet from the thrones of the world rather than paving the whole ground. Paving the ground is a stupid attempt taken by “our collective technological and economic project” in effort to make us happy (Loy 6). In conclusion, making the measurement of GNH prevalent everywhere will bring happiness and equality and a world like this is indeed a better place to live in.

Work Cited

Loy, David R. “Buddhism and Poverty.” (n.d.): n. pag. Rpt. in Global Justice Course Packet. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Revkin, Andrew C. “A New Measure of Well-Being From a Happy Little Kingdom.” (n.d.): n. pag. Rpt. in Global Justice Course Packet. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Dickinson, Elizabeth. “GDP: a brief history”. Retrieved 10 December 2012.

Smith, Lisa. “High GDP Means Economic Prosperity, Or Does It?” Investopedia. Investopedia US, A Division of ValueClick, Inc., 20 Dec. 2009. Web. 13 Dec. 2012. <;.

“BHUTAN GNH INDEX.” Gross National Happiness. Centre For Bhutan Studies, n.d. Web. 07 Dec. 2012. <;.

“GDP and Its Importance.” Flame Knowledge Center Gdp_importance. IIFL, n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2012. <;

“Macroeconomics – Limitations of GDP and Alternative Measures.” Investopedia. Investopedia US, A Division of ValueClick, Inc., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2012. <;.

“Three Limitations of Using GDP as a Measure of Welfare Between Countries.” Dalias Economic Blog. N.p., 25 Apr. 2010. Web. 13 Dec. 2012. <;

Pettinger, Tejvan. “Does GDP Measure Economic Development?” Economics Help. N.p., 24 May 2007. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.


2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 4,100 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 7 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Beauty of Rangamati: Her Landscapes and My Haikus

Beauty is harmony

Where the earth meets the water,

And sky hugs the earth.

Green discs placed parallel
Standing on the green fluid
That glitters facing sun
Mother have wide chest
Kids play all day around her
On her head and arms
Treasure is on valleys
In the form of greenery
Gems gleam neath water

Sturdy hands dangling
That moves around all day long
Feed the mouth at night


Photo Credit: Author

Eternal Love

I loved you when you combed my hair…

I loved you when you solved my math problems…

I loved you when you dropped me to school by your bike…

I love you when I go outside with friends and you slip some money on my hand so that Maa doesn’t see…

I love you when you discuss politics with me as if I am your friend…

I love you when you pretend that you forgot my birthday and at the end of the day bring a cake home to surprise me…

I will love you when you will retire and wait for me at home to have dinner altogether…

I will love you when I will take you to long drives on weekend and you will scold me for driving fast…

I will love you when I will take you to shopping and you will ask me to buy you this and that…

Pappa, you are the prince charming of my life, I loved you, I love you, and I will love you forever and ever…

Kalpadesh: A Country with Individuality

From Teknaf, the southern end point of Bangladesh, if you go 444 miles south, you will find a small circular island called Kalpadesh. It is a sovereign country with an area of 317 square miles near the Andaman Sea. The country doesn’t belong to any continent. It is near to the South Asian countries; this is why it has a moderate climate similar to them. Being surrounded by the sea, the country has a very healthy weather.

The country is neither a monarchy nor a democracy. The head of the government is a king, but he is observed by someone called Rakshak, who is selected by the people through election. He keeps an eye on the king and checks whether he is up to any kind of corruption or crime or not. If the Rakshakaccuses the king of any crime, he has to prove it; otherwise he himself will be penalized. If he is able to prove, the king will be penalized. But till now, there has not been any problem like this. The country is very isolated in terms of relation with other countries. It has never signed any kind of treaties, but it has import and export business with the South Asian countries. The country was never colonized by Europeans, maybe because it was not noticed by them, or because it has a very strong army. Permanently migrating to this country from other countries is impossible, but if you want to pay a visit here, you can get a visa of maximum two weeks, which is enough to travel over the whole country.

An imaginative Landscape of Kalpadesh

There is nothing called gender inequity in this country. While filling out a form, there is no such category where you have to select your gender. Men and women are treated equally and are different only in terms of physical appearance and their outfits. Since childhood, people are brought up in such a way that neither of the sexes considers themselves greater than the other.

Most of the people in Kalpadesh are either agnostic or atheist. Even the king himself is atheist. If someone wants to follow any religion—like Hinduism, Islam, Christianity—he can, but he can’t preach the religion to others or force others to follow him. Having no religion in the country doesn’t mean people have no morals there. Most of the people have high morals and ethics. There is no police force there as there is no crime at all. In case anyone commits any crime, he is punished by the army. Now you might ask how this is possible. Well, that is possible because of proper education with moral lessons. Kalpadesh has 100% literacy rate. It doesn’t have a lot of educational institutions, only two or three, and not everyone gets a chance to study there. The educational institutions are a combination of school and university. So, a student gets admitted there in 1st standard and leaves it only after graduation. After graduating, a student has to teach 10 people who haven’t got the chance to study there in his community for five years. For this service, they also get salary from government. A graduate can get a job or pursue post graduation only after this five year’s service. So, it is very obvious how this country has 100% literacy rate.

The people of Kalpadesh are very firm about their traditional dress. Even when visitors come to their country, they have to borrow the traditional dress from the hotels where they stay and wear it the whole duration of their journey. But I don’t think a visitor would mind wearing their traditional dress as it is very beautiful and comfortable. In the country, men wear loose fitting trouser with lots of girth and frill. On the top, they wear long shirts having different length of sleeves and with closed collars. Women wear skirts with vast circumference and frills, and blouses with collar that reach to their navel. They also tie colorful scarves around their waist. People are allowed to design their clothes according to their wish, but they are not allowed to bring any kind of change in the lengths of the clothes. On different occasions, men and women in Kalpadesh wear colorful and gorgeous dresses and lots of accessories. During physical activities or sports or being in the armed force, people wear different kind of dress which is same for men and women. The dress looks more like a ninja dress with tight trouser and tunic, but brown in color.

People in Kalpadesh mostly eat fish, which is their staple food. They also love seafood and coconut. In different occasions, they make sweets with coconut and various kinds of drinks with coconut water. The main attraction of this country is coconut jam. They import coconut jam to different parts of the world and even today nobody can discover how they make it. When you visit there, you must try flat breads with coconut jam in breakfast and once you try it, you can’t stop yourself eating more and more. There are lots of hotels and restaurants where you will only get their traditional dishes, not Chinese, Thai, or other European delicacies. The most popular and the biggest hotel here is “The Kalpa Inn”. The restaurant of this hotel is mainly popular for its fish items. It serves hundreds of different kinds of fish items and your whole trip might get finished while tasting those dishes. If you can’t taste each and every dish, you should at least taste the grilled pomfret fish with coconut sauce. This is a dish that you won’t forget in your lifetime. Surprisingly, though the hotel is very famous and also big, the prices are not very high. A full course dinner or lunch will only cost you approximately 7-8 USD and if you want to take a buffet dinner, it will cost you 10 USD per head.

The most interesting thing about Kalpadesh is it is void of any kind of globalization. So, you can taste the pure Kalpadeshi culture without any adultery of other culture. Practice of other culture is totally forbidden here. It means, when you visit there, you also become a Kalpadeshi for a couple of weeks. There is no cable network there, but you won’t be missing it. You can entertain yourself with their drama, music, and dance. The cultural dance of Kalpadesh is a spectacular thing. Girls dance wearing skirts of vibrant colors and holding the end of their skirts gracefully. Their dramas are also full of comedy and romance and guess what: all the actors and actresses speak in English!

Now you must be dying to know how to get there. As I have mentioned before, you will only get a visa of two weeks. To get visa of the country, you have to endorse at least 800 dollars per head. Travelling to Kalpadesh is also an attraction. There is no airport there, so you have to get there by ship. You have to fly to India, Bangladesh, or Sri Lanka. You can take the ship from southern coasts of any of these countries, which will take you 1-2 days. Though Kalpadesh doesn’t let other cultures enter, it is very hospitable to visitors. And you will want to return to this destination again and again.

(The  “illogical” description given above is just my imagination. There is no such country named Kalpadesh. But I wish there was……..)

“Turn off the tap…”

Back in 1998, I used to live in the older part of Dhaka, which is basically known for its crowd and congested neighborhoods. It’s also known for crisis of various facilities like—electricity, water, and gas. Amongst all these, crisis of water used to prevail most at that time.

Often during the day time, there was no water and I used to get an excuse of not taking bath. To solve the problem, WASA, a government-run company for water supply in Dhaka, used to come in the neighborhood with trucks carrying big tanks of water.

Women collecting water from the WASA tank

Women used to carry different sizes of containers from their home and hold it in front of the pipes which came from the tanks. It was the end of my making excuses. To carry a bucket of water for bath from the road to the bathroom was quite laborious and it also used to waste water because water used to spill from the bucket while taking. So, what my mother used to do is, send me with our maid to the tank and make me take bath there, on the street. Let me mention, I was only 6-7 years old then.

The next year we moved to the new part of Dhaka, where there was no scarcity at all, be it water and be it electricity. There was plenty of water and also plenty of wastage of water. Then I got to understand, as people here are wasting water, we had not been getting water there. As I grew up, I also got used to waste. Whenever I waste water, my mother reminds me of those days in old Dhaka. Thinking about those days, I try to save water as much as possible.

When I am applying face wash on my face or brushing my teeth, I keep the tap turned off. May be the drops of water I would save here, will add to their jar who are suffering from water scarcity. So, when you are not using water, turn off the tap. Keep an eye on the container you are filling with water, so that you can turn it off timely.

In my religion, it is said, “If you waste, Satan is your brother.” And I don’t think Satan would make a good brother. So, if you don’t want to make him your brother, don’t waste! TURN OFF THE TAP!!!!

Cover Letter: Letter to My Professor of Journalism Class

Dear Ma’am,

If I am told to compare my experiences in the course “Introduction to Journalism” with something else, I would compare it with a long roller coaster ride. Before taking the ride, I was excited and nervous at the same time. When the ride started, it was so fast that I didn’t even notice when it ended. The times when the presentation and other articles were due, was like the extreme slants of the roller coaster!

In a short period of time, I got to learn a lot of things about journalism. I loved the book Inside Reporting, which is I guess the most interesting course material I have ever been through. It has got valuable tips and processes of writing different types of article. Even I think it will be a good idea to keep a copy of that book with budding journalists like us all the time. I had never thought that there are different kinds of writing style in journalism. But the most valuable thing that I have learned is the ethical issues of journalism. Newspaper can built and destroy someone’s career at the same time. According to Napoleon Bonaparte, “Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.” Newspapers raise awareness among people and resist the criminals from doing wrong things. At the same time, it can spoil someone’s reputation who is innocent or even a victim. In this case, journalists need to watch out before reporting something. Journalism is about bringing out the truth, not ruining someone’s life who is not even a criminal.

Each time, when I was assigned to write an article, I used to wonder what to write. I used to feel like totally lost. With your guidance, and tips from Inside Reporting, I used to get started and somehow finish the writing. Though I never got ‘publishable’ in any of the article, I am happy that at least I have been able to write. From my mistakes, some minor and some major, I have learned too. A recurrent mistake that I have done is using weak verbs like—is, are, was, and was. I have tried my best to correct the mistake and I promise I will try my best avoiding this mistake. The ethical issue presentation was somewhat challenging. I was not happy with the topic I was given at first. I was wondering what to present and what not. But getting your and my other group mates’ assistance, the presentation was much easier. At the end, after getting appreciation from you and other classmates, I believe, I and my group mates have accomplished the assignment adequately.

At first I used to think that writing an article for journalism and a paper for other subject is totally different. I even used to go through difficulty because for journalism class I had to make paragraphs more concise, but in academic paper for other subject, I had to elaborate the topic as much as possible. So, I used to think these two types of writing quite contradictory. But in the last week of class, when you made us to do that activity of comparing journalism writing and academic writing, I realized the skills can help me in writing papers for other classes as well. All the skills, elements, and genres of journalism have more or less similarities and differences with academic writing. Most of all, I have always wanted to write articles in magazines and papers, but after taking the class I could find the differences between the journalistic writing and general writing. Following your advice and tips, I might be able to write on magazine some day.

Above all, through this course I have learned how to bring out the truth and raise voice against crimes and violence. It also taught me to be ethical. These valuable things will definitely help me to shape my life and become a better human being, no matter I seek my career in journalism or not.

At the end of the course I am feeling just like the way I would feel after a roller coaster ride: happy, relishing, and sighing with content. Thank you ma’am, thank you for everything!


Farah Moriam