“IN THE THUNDER DRAGON KINGDOM, adorned with sandalwood, the protector who guards the teachings of the dual system; he, the precious and glorious ruler, causes dominion to spread while his unchanging person abides in constancy, as the doctrine of the Buddha flourishes, may the sun of peace and happiness shine on the people.”
(Text from the national anthem of Bhutan).
The Kingdom of Bhutan enters the 21st Century with a pristine environment and its thousand-year-old Buddhist culture and traditions well preserved. Reverence for nature has always been an integral aspect of this culture: Bhutanese believe that all things are interconnected, that all life is to be revered, and that each of us bears responsibility for the future. This is reflected in Bhutan’s unique goal: Gross National Happiness, interpreted as a blend of material and spiritual wellbeing for the people who live in close harmony with the environment. Just four decades after it emerged from centuries of self-imposed isolation, this rugged land of 634,982 people believe that they have found a development philosophy, which transcends the traditional notion of economic development. The vision, inspired by His Majesty King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, emphasizes an existence where happiness is a stated goal, sustained by a distinct cultural identity and a pristine ecology.
Bhutan’s isolated location, late start in development and strong conservation ethic has shielded the country from many of the detrimental side effects of poorly planned or haphazard development. As a result, while most of the Himalayan region has seen its culture and natural resource base severely compromised through modernization, deforestation, soil degradation, erosion and pollution, Bhutan’s culture and natural patrimony of extensive and varied forests, limited yet fertile and productive farmland, and pristine water and air remains largely intact.
The principle of sustainability pervades Bhutanese policies and thinking on all aspects of the future development of the kingdom. The concept of happiness as a development goal emphasizes sustainable livelihoods – a way of life, which characterizes Bhutan’s past and present. This is a challenge that has caught the imagination of today’s material world.