Reflections of Prof. Dr. Erhard Meyer-Galow, Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of Bhutan in Germany, at the BHUTAN-DAY in Frankfurt on May 14th 2022
GROSS NATIONAL PEACE
Good Morning everybody.
As a token of my very special appreciation I would like to welcome Your Excellency Tshering Gyaltshen Penjor, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bhutan in Brussels.
First of all I would like to express my sincere thanks for the appointment to Honorary Consul of Bhutan to H.M. Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the fifth King of Bhutan. Additionally I thank the Excellencies Prime Minister Dr. Lotay Tshering and the Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Tandi Dorji. Furthermore I thank you, Excellency Ambassador, for your initiative and the execution of the appointment. I am looking forward to a friendly and awarding cooperation.
It’s a great honor to support your wonderful and mysterious country after almost 25 years of relation and support with Pro Bhutan e.V., which has invested in that period more than 5 Mio € in the health sector and I promise to do my best with all my Know How and experience. I Thank especially Dasho Pema Choden, the Honorable Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and previous Ambassador in Brussels. And last but not least my dear friend Harald Nestroy, the founder of Pro Bhutan 25 yearsa go, who inspired me for Bhutan, gets a special mindful thanks.
As a consequence of the GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS concept, which you all know, I will create now for the first time in the public, the GROSS NATIONAL PEACE concept, for which the GNH is a prerequisite. GROSS NATIONAL PEACE meets more the Spirit of the Time. This expression is not yet known when you google in the Internet. Today there is not only a desire for Happiness but for peace and safety, security and comfort.
I guess there is no further need to introduce myself, because it’s done in your Annual Journal THUNLAM. I prefer to share my reflections with you.
After some weeks executing my new responsibility I made 2 important experiences:
- In all my introducing meetings and talks about the needs in Bhutan after some minutes my partner of conversation wants to talk with me more about the war in the Ukraine, the Russian aggression, the NATO and the EU, the block cades and the request for a stop of the war. Before these issues the narratives were the climate crisis and the Corona crisis. The common factor in these crises is fear. We must realize that Bhutan is not in the focus and it is more difficult to bring Bhutan in the focus.
Consequence: We must make Bhutan more interesting beside all development in the world and take more action to explain how fear and anxiety will be reduced and how passion for all beings, serenity, empathy and love will grow when we understand and practice the GROSS NATINAL HAPPINESS as a concept which leads to GROSS NATIONAL PEACE.
Our communication content: Bhutan is a small country with a great message.
- Most of the people I talked to have a completely wrong understanding of HAPPINESS in Bhutan. They say: ”Oh wonderful! In Bhutan live the happiest people of the world.”Then I must correct that opinion: “Well, never anybody in Bhutan ever said that there are living the most happy people. May be in Finland, Denmark or Iceland as recently found out again but this ranking depends how you ask in the survey. According to an survey in 2010 41% of the Bhutanese people were happy and in 2015 43,4%.”
- But what is unique in Bhutan, is that the GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS concept is an obligation in the constitution under article 9 (2) and of course the Government has to follow and to be controlled by the GROSS HAPPINESS COMMISSION.
According to my understanding and my personal interpretation most of the people in the West have no idea what is meant with Happiness when H.M. Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the 4t King, said in 1979 that GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS is more important than the GROSS NATIONAL PRODUCT and since this expression is in the world. Bhutan is a Buddhist country and therefore Happiness arises out of the Buddhist tradition and spirit. It arises from inside and is not restricted to outside fulfillments of desires and well-beings. Many explanations are in the world; from Bhutan and from abroad. There is even an UN Resolution 65/309 dated January 16th 2013 titled “Happiness: towards a holistic approach to development.” Bhutan, France, Italy, Japan, Qatar and the UK added their interpretations. The 20st of March is each year the HAPPINESS DAY. I don’t think that all these initiatives have changed the world enough from a materialistic and egocentric focus, which creates even war, to a more holistic balance of inner and outer values to develop the power of wholeness, which achieves inner and outer PEACE:
We must explain more what real Happiness in Bhutan in fact in all three dimensions of wholeness means and how people can experience that in the West for their own advantage. The three dimensions which influence Happiness are:
- Happiness from Body and Mind
- Happiness from Soul and Psyche
- Happiness from Spirit
Well, how do I see my obligations and tasks to serve as Honorary Consul for Bhutan in Germany after these experiences and consequences? Obviously there is a need that I have to broaden my perspective. Western people are stuck in their mind only trying to understand happiness. They have no entry to the soul and spirit level and therefore cannot understand and experience happiness from these two higher levels.
- I will of course support the Bhutanese visitors in Germany in case they need my help.
- I will try to improve the relations between Bhutan and Germany in the areas of economy, health, culture, science, environment, education…just to name a few.
- I will explain the GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS from the perspective of Body and Mind, Soul and Psyche and additionally from spirit and I will give impulses to people in the West how they can not only try to understand the concept from Bhutan but how to experience happiness.
- I will explain the people in the West how PEACE arises from this three dimensional HAPPINESS concept and that therefore GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS is a condition for the GROSS NATIONAL PEACE.
What again is a good definition of GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS?
The Bhutanese Center for Bhutan Studies sums it up:
“Most educational systems, all over the world, are implicitly penetrated by the predominant economic ideology. As a consequence, competition is more valued than collaboration; one-sided intellectual knowledge is more rewarded than social, ethical, emotional, relational, artistic and spiritual skills.”
In the Journal BHUTAN (2012) A Short Guide to GNH Index it is said:
“In the GNH Index, unlike certain concepts of happiness in current western literature, happiness is itself multidimensional, not measured only by subjective well-being, and not focused narrowly on happiness that begins and ends with oneself; being concerned for and with only oneself. The pursuit of happiness is collective, though it can be experienced deeply personally.” …..”Gross National Happiness (GNH) measures the quality of a country in a more holistic way than does GNP and believes that the beneficial development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occurs side by side to complement and reinforce each other.” End quote
The happiness that comes from the subjective well-being of the egoistic individual can also be called hedonism.
This is the philosophical doctrine, founded in antiquity, according to which the highest ethical principle is the pursuit of sensual pleasure and enjoyment, and private happiness is seen in the lasting fulfillment of individual physical and psychological pleasure.
The opposite is the happiness called eudaimonia. Eudaimonic happiness is achieved through experiences of meaning and purpose and comes close to the happiness of Bhutan but is not identical.
In order to make us more comfortable in the West with the meaning of Happiness in the sense of GNH, Happiness is often explained with contentment in Bhutan. I prefer "resting satisfaction, serenity, compassion" in the highest degree also bliss" as opposed to material, external happiness.
In the Upanishads it is declared: SAT CHIT ANANDA. I would translate and interpret: BEING CONSCIOUSNESS BLISS. If we are with all our consciousness focused on the Being, then bliss may arise.
So Happiness arises from consciousness. There are two levels of consciousness:
- Representational consciousness
- Non-Representational consciousness
Representational consciousness is our limited day to day consciousness connected with objectives and the fulfillment of outer desires. Most people are on that level. If they are not extending their consciousness by spiritual or psychic exercises to the unlimited void of Non-Representational consciousness they will never feel the real meaning of Happiness, bliss, deep contentment or Ananda.
Why is it so difficult or even impossible for the people in the West to understand that?
There are two reasons:
- One cannot explain it by mind, with thinking and words:
Daio Kokushi may help us with his poem “On ZEN”:
“There is a reality even prior to heaven and earth;
Indeed, it has no form, much less a name;
Eyes fail to see it; It has no voice for ears to detect;
To call it Mind or Buddha violates its nature,
For it then becomes like a visionary flower in the air;
It is not Mind, nor Buddha;
Absolutely quiet, and yet illuminating in a mysterious way,
It allows itself to be perceived only by the clear-eyed.
It is Dharma truly beyond form and sound;
It is Tao having nothing to do with words.
Wishing to entice the blind,
The Buddha has playfully let words escape his golden mouth;
Heaven and earth are ever since filled with entangling briars.
O my good worthy friends gathered here,
If you desire to listen to the thunderous voice of the Dharma,
Exhaust your words, empty your thoughts,
For then you may come to recognize this One Essence”.
One cannot explain this reality with words or make it understandable to others with words, one can only experience it. After 40 years of ZEN meditation, I can personally confirm this. Happiness in Bhutan has its sources in the spiritual dimension of life.
To harmonize this spiritual experience with the outer materialistic goals is our life task, the meaning of our life. "Transparency for immanent transcendence" as Karlfried Graf Dürckheim, my most important teacher, always emphasized.
For these spiritual experiences Bhutan offers a fertile ground. Therefore, one should travel to Bhutan and learn to dwell in the HERE and NOW. This practice of mindfulness is the gateway to any kind of meditation. However, this is then followed by the practice of letting go, which may lead to serenity.
In order to make Gross Happiness understandable for us in the West, I too have now succumbed to the temptation to explain this kind of happiness in my own words.
In my experience, the Happiness of Bhutan is very often not understood because despite all efforts to explain it, the instructions on how to achieve it are missing.
The first step is always to practice mindfulness for the here and now, far away from all the noise of our time. There are many spiritual ways to do this, such as meditation, contemplation, imagination, dreams, prayer, recitation of mantras and sacred texts, yoga, aikido, etc., and archery, which is so popular in Bhutan. Experiences in nature, culture, music, love and meditative movements are also part of it. The second step for inner growth is the practice of letting go. From the emptiness that then arises, a liberation from the egoistic and egocentric ego is achieved and even enlightenment can emerge as a grace. The result is the happy human being who is not attached to the ego but is grounded in the Self, our inner dimension which is of divine origin.
One can always only set impulses for the healing of the suffering human being of the modernity and postmodernity. That is what I try to achieve as an author and speaker and now as Honorary Consul.
- The West has lost its background and it sources by the epochs of enlightenment, modernity and post-modernity.
The epoch of enlightenment concerns approximately the period from 1720 to 1800. The central development was the striving for freedom and reason. Every human being should use his intellect and thus free himself from his own lack of freedom.
Descartes (1596-1650) was the herald of the epoch of enlightenment when he stated: “Cogito, ergo sum!”……….” I think, therefore I am"!
Only mind is important. During this time we have separated us from our soul and spirit. The interconnectedness with nature was broken apart. The time of Romantic and Philosophy of Nature as expressed by Schelling, Böhme, Goethe, von Humboldt to name a few, is over.
The following epoch of modernity dated from 1880 to 1920, was a countermovement to realism (1848-1890) and naturalism (1880-1900) and was marked by major technological advances. New knowledge and developments caused a complete upheaval in numerous areas of life.
And now we are in the epoch of post-modernity.
We are in a dead end street in spite of all progress. The individual is in fear and anxiety, burn-out, depression, other psychological diseases. The collective is therefore in the same trouble of egoistic and egocentric behavior as the individual. War is all over in the world and now it is very close in the Ukraine.
Since the epoch of enlightenment the enchantment of nature is over and we live with the myth of Dis-enchantment. I am nevertheless optimistic that this myth is on the way to disappear and we enter an epoch of Re-Enchantment. Bhutan has kept this magic enchantment of nature and still is our role model.
This development is embedded in the predictions of the famous philosopher Jean Gebser, according to which we are currently in the final phase of Mental Consciousness and are now on the way to an Integral Consciousness. Bhutan is well prepared for this future, if disruptions of the western influences do not destroy too much the valuable experience of the past, as it has been the case in western cultures for a long time.
During the centuries passed Bhutan never had these epochs. They did not have all the technological progress but also not the disadvantages and all the suffering of the West. Bhutan was based for centuries in the wholeness of the Buddhist religion. With this experience in mind H.M. the fourth King developed the GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS concept.
This was the situation when I visited Bhutan for the first time in 1996. I have still the recommendation of Harald Nestroy in my ear when I told him that I practice ZEN Meditation for years:” Come with me to Bhutan and you will see Buddhism pure!”
And now we can see during the last 25 years how Bhutan has opened to the West with all the advantages and problems we face already for the last 150 years. It is a test for the resilience of our beloved Bhutan now. This development hits Bhutan completely unprepared with great speed and force. Bhutan is looking for the advancements of technology to develop the country and parallel they try to avoid the problems of the today’s western culture.
To support Bhutan within these two positive and negative trends is of course one major task of the Ambassadors and Honorary Consuls abroad.
During his speech on the occasion of the 114th National Day, H.M the Fifth King was unusually open about the problems of the country and called for increased efforts in all instances and at all levels.
An honest approach to GNH is important to me. One should not only praise this concept in Bhutan, but also talk about critical issues and problems in the country and thus point out the potential for improvement. H.M the King has done that. He is pushing the pace because the holistic understanding of happiness is a prerequisite for peacein the life of the individual and for peace in the world. He makes it very clear and he builds the bridge between Happiness and Peace
"There cannot be enduring peace, prosperity, equality and brotherhood in this world if our aims are so separate and divergent, if we do not accept that in the end we are people, all alike, sharing the Earth among ourselves and also with other sentient beings, all of whom have an equal role and stake in the state of this planet and its players."
In times of the Ukraine war, this realization is especially timely.
Therefore, we can all learn from Bhutan; a small country but a big great important message to bigger countries for happiness and peace.
GROSS NATIONAL PEACE
It starts within the individual and is then spreading into the collective and over the world.
Bhutan is the most peaceful country in South East Asia, but only No. 22 with a 1510 Global peace index in 2021. Well this ranking depends of course on the questions and evaluations. Inner holistic peace is not part of the ranking. If this would be included Bhutan would of course belong to the top ranks.
GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS and GROSS NATIONAL PEACE unfold in us their sustainable ethics and a believable and trustworthy morality that is urgently needed in our world.
In this sense I wish you a successful conference and many practical approaches to fill the project BUILD BHUTAN, pronounced by H.M. the Fifth King, with life.
I thank all those who have already committed themselves to it.