His Majesty, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, the king of Bhutan, is the founder of this philosophy – Gross National Happiness. This philosophy inherently is based upon the proposition that there is something inbuilt phenomena which can promote the happiness of the people not only through material comforts but also through shared spiritual values. It is a non-quantifiable ultimate objective of every human being. In Bhutan this philosophy is used as the fundamental political thought and objective in governance while other economic variables and material elements are used as tools to either increase or achieve it. It tries to strike out the balance between the happiness achieved through material benefits and the spiritual satisfaction. This balance can be as a result of the experiences and belief that increased modern material comfort has not increased the happiness proportionately. If progressed made by the economic prosperity can be used as the yardstick of development, the non-quantifiable spiritual happiness can also be used as the indicator of development and progress.The development in Buddhist philosophy can be attributed to the ‘individual enlightenment’, which can be attained by creating a harmonious psychological, social and economic environment.It believes in the minimization of self-concern and constructing a happier web of human relationships and transforming man into a less intrusive and destructive force in the natural environment.In nutshell Gross National Happiness follows a holistic and multidimensional-approach to progress, aimed to maintain a balance between the material and spiritual reconciliation.In any case Gross National Happiness presupposes that there is something called ‘happiness’ once there is a balance between material longings and spiritual values.
Although happiness is a common value of humanity but one rarely finds the ‘happiness’ focused-objective of human progressive realization. Instead in the saga of governance and administration, often one particular objective is set to achieve.Often times, people tend to believe that this philosophy was propagated to contain the material and cultural invasion of the outside world within Bhutan. When the very basis of this philosophy is universal in nature, there is no reason why it should be perceived as a shield against the outside-world influence.It does not negate the scientific, technological and economic benefits but it merely asks how these benefits will in fact increase the happiness of the human being. It tries to focus on the material benefits and the spiritual satisfaction.
Where does this philosophy stand in the midst of the other western philosophies? Hegel and Marx believed that the evolution of societies would end when mankind had achieved a form of society that satisfied its deepest and most fundamental longings. Presumption is that the happiness is automatic once objective is fulfilled. But will there be an end to the human wants and longings? It is very doubtful if one has to analyze within the paradigm of objective reality. For this reason one has to focus on the fundamental element of ‘spiritual value’, which can limit the human want and achieve happiness. Of course even Hegel believed that there is non-materialist account of History, based on the ‘struggle for recognition.’ According to him, there can be happiness once all human beings are recognized on par. It is the desired to be recognized as a human being with dignity that drove man at the beginning of the history into a bloody battle to the death for prestige.According to Friedrich Nietzsche, once the man is content with his happiness, he is unable to feel any sense of shame for being unable to raise those wants, the last man ceases to be human. Interestingly, he says that ‘liberal democracy’ produced him ways to satisfy a host of petty wants through the calculation of long-term interest.
Literally, there seems to be a close similarity between the Gross National Happiness and Jeremy Bentham’s theory of utilitarianism wherein he emphasized on the ‘sacred truth’ that men inevitably pursue pleasure and avoid pain, and “greatest happiness of the greatest number is the foundation of morals and legislation.” Presumption here is that whole of morality could be derived from ‘enlightened self-interest.’ His idea was that the greatest happiness of the greatest number should govern judgment of every institution and action and this brings very close to the theory of development from the Gross National Happiness perspective.
Of course the difference between these two philosophies being that former is too logical and mechanical rationalization of facts while latter believes in the spiritual values too.
Some believed that Gross National Happiness would be achieved in the state “where everyone cares enough and everyone shares enough so that everyone has enough” other wise it is merely a utopian concept best suited for intellectual brain-storming.