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Gross National Happiness, an Essential Ingredient for Sustainable Development: Vice President

Vice President of India Shri Mohd. Hamid Ansari presenting a memento to the Prime Minister of Bhutan, Mr. Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley at the 4th Prof. Hiren Mukerjee Memorial Annual Parliamentary Lecture in New Delhi. Also seen are Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh and LS Speaker, Smt. Meira Kumar.

Amidst discussions, debates and the unavoidable walkouts, the Parliament House today had a rendezvous with the idea of “happiness” as a measure of the country’s success, growth and prosperity. And to get across the idea, the Prime Minister of the very country that has spearheaded the concept, was himself present with much enthusiasm. Prime Minister of Bhutan, Mr. Lyonchhen Jigmi Y. Thinley was the invited guest at the 4th Prof. Hiren Mukerjee Memorial Annual Parliamentary Lecture in New Delhi today and he chose to present his lecture on the theme “Gross National Happiness: A Holistic Paradigm For Sustainable Well-being”. The Kingdom of Bhutan has pioneered in the concept of using Gross National Happiness (GNH) as an indicator of measuring the country’s growth.

Speaking on the occasion, the Vice President of India highlighted the importance of such a system and even advocated the pursuit of happiness as an essential ingredient of a holistic approach to sustainable development. Following is the text of the Vice President’s inspiring speech on the occasion.

“Today, we have gathered to honour the memory of Hiren Mukherjee, a great parliamentarian of what is rightly known as the golden era of Indian democracy. His passion, ideological commitment and intellectual intensity remain an inspiration to those in public life who wish to do public good. Our distinguished speaker today has chosen happiness as the theme of the Fourth Hiren Mukherjee Memorial Lecture. He is eminently placed to do so since thinking people everywhere appreciate and commend the noble initiative of His Majesty the King of Bhutan in drawing the attention of the world to the criticality of happiness in the promotion of human wellbeing.

This is evident from the overwhelming support given by the international community in July this year to General Assembly Resolution 65/309 advocating the pursuit of happiness as an essential ingredient of a holistic approach to sustainable development. Many in this audience would recall Lord Buddha’s dictum that the path to happiness starts from an understanding of the root causes of suffering. He attributed suffering to the human desire for craving which, in turn, emanates from ignorance and said each of these can be eliminated by following the Middle Path of attaining virtue.

Nor was Lord Buddha alone in considering happiness as an essential ingredient of virtue. The philosopher Aristotle devoted one of his treatises on ethics to the examination of four ingredients of virtue, namely goodness, friendship, pleasure and happiness. He considered happiness the highest of virtues, an end in itself, to be desired for itself and to be attained through contemplation. And yet, as the human mind continues its quest for the receding horizons of perfection, there can be no finality to these ideas.”

The term “Gross National Happiness” was coined in 1972 by Bhutan’s then King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who had opened Bhutan to the age of modernization, soon after the demise of his father, King Jigme Dorji Wangchuk. The phrase was used to signal his commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan’s unique culture based on Buddhist spiritual values and has only gained more popularity since then.

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This article has been written by a member of the Delhi Greens Blog's dedicated team of writers and researchers from across Delhi NCR, India and the world.

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