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Travelers in Search of Happiness

posted May 12, 2012, 3:10 AM by Bhutan Jurmii   [ updated May 13, 2012, 11:01 PM ]

As travelers in Bhutan we have the truly exceptional opportunity to experience and be part of a living culture that the rest of the world would be wise to watch and learn from. There is a magic here that is literally beyond words and all it takes for us to get a glimpse of this magic prepared to be surprised. Before you know it you are “boldly going where no one has gone before” – if you are not familiar with this legendary quote please let me explain. Its originates from a sci-fi TV series from the 1960s called ‘star trek’. This quote has been used profusely across the world as a catch-phrase to signal innovation, exploration, human evolution and visionary actions by enlightened leaders.

Taking this quote out of its original context and applying ti to a journey in Bhutan should give you a hint that traveling in Bhutan is really like nowhere else in world. Why? Well, to start with there is Bhutans development philosophy, which measures its progress not by comparing GDP but instead measures the levels of happiness of its people. This development approach is what you hear affectionately referred to in Bhutan as ‘Gross National Happiness’ or GNH. This visionary philosophy is advocated by His Majesty the king, political leaders and thought-leaders in Bhutan and is blossoming in its application by being systemized as part of government decision making, in private sector business operations and within the education system throughout Bhutan.

Much of the application of GNH in government and business, shares may elements of Sustainable Business and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Programs across the world. The CSR approach is fast being discovered by many corporations around the world as a new business model, which advocates the sentiment of ‘doing well by doing good’. Most companies however focus on easy or obvious aspects of ‘greening’ the business and on community contributions but they often miss the most important aspects of CSR today-the human dimension of sustainability and the work that we need to do on ourselves as people.

This is where we can learn a great deal from Bhutan and its GNH values and what they mean for us as human beings. It’s time that sustainability focuses on our actions and behaviours as human beings and not just on the things that we can influence outside of us and can be tweaked with technology. The time has come to ask ourselves the rather perplexing questions about how sustainable our thoughts, emotions, actions, reactions and behaviors really are, how sustainable are our minds and the words and intentions that we share with the world around us? If you are prepared to even contemplate these questions, you are as a GNH Travelers, about “to boldly go where not many have gone before”!

Exploring the nature of mind is probably the most stimulating and thought provoking topic to be immersed in while you are traveling in the Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan. If this is something that you are interested in, you are definitely in the right place. There will be many opportunities for your guide to arrange to meet the Buddhist teachers to ask the questions that might arise for you from reading this article and from your journey in Bhutan.

As a GNH Traveler, one of the key questions to explore is whether our actions and behaviours every moment of the day actually increase or decrease the collective levels of happiness of our society? To really grasp the importance of this question we need to understand one of the Buddhist principles, which assumes that our actions and emotions are part of an endless cycle of cause and effect and that they are always connected, inevitable and leave an impression behind. The beautiful way to get started on the journey of being GNH Traveler in Bhutan is to visit a school, a monastery or a nunnery and watch what happens in your mind and the natural reaction that comes up of wanting to contribute and help in some way. When we realize that transforming our minds, will contribute to the transformation of the world, then we have created the beginnings of a GNH society.

I wish you an amazing journey as a GNH Traveler in this magical Buddhist kingdom and that it may take you to places in your mind where you had not gone before.

ISABEL SEBASTIAN.