Be Happy. Don’t Worry.

Look around you at the faces of people on the other side of the street, the other side of the room … or anywhere outside the immediate radius of your own radiant presence.  Do they look happy?   If you’re in the United States, they probably don’t.  If you  happen to be in the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, it might be a different story.  Although Bhutan is definitely considered a Third World nation according to United Nations metrics of economic development, by Bhutanese standards it is the US that would probably rank as a ‘poster child’ underdeveloped country.  That’s because …

Bhutan’s model of GNH, or Gross National Happiness … measures quality of life by trying to strike a balance between the material and the spiritual.  This week the UN General Assembly adopted a non-binding resolution [proposed by Bhutan] that aims to make happiness a “development indicator.”  The resolution invites member states to draw up their own measures of happiness and contribute them to the UN’s development agenda.

“It’s basically an approach,” said Bhutan’s ambassador Lhatu Wangchuk. “Our initial idea was to bring the concept of happiness to the consciousness of the UN membership… because we know that GDP indicators [alone] are inadequate to address human needs.”

looks pleased ... not quite happy.

In Bhutan, where the Buddha is an ever-present life force that pervades every aspect of existence, there will be no shortage of people who can tell you that unhappiness arises from thwarted material desires.  The greater the material desires, the greater the unhappiness —because (for most people) many desires will never be fulfilled.  Happiness will almost always be found somewhere else than in the other.

But what if your worldly desire is to help other people experience happiness?  Should you feel thwarted if –despite your meager efforts– they still don’t feel happy?  It doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.  It may not be realistic to expect instant results, although lightning sometimes does strike.  Instead of focusing on a binary outcome (happy?/not happy?) it might be more satisfying to find your own reward in the approach, the process, the “narrow road to the interior.”  Random acts of kindness can be more than a bumper sticker slogan:  share a smile and make two people (briefly?) happy.  Reflect upon this deeply.

Now, of course Ambassador Wangchuk can afford to be happy: he’s a member of the royal family of Bhutan.  But Lunghu won’t hold that against him, because any nation governed by a Dragon King has a decent shot at happiness in both the material and spiritual worlds.


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