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The Ancient Laws of Bhutan


In 1616, the modern founder of Bhutan, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel arrived from Tibet in Bhutan as prophesized by Guru Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche. Zhabdrung unified Bhutan under one governmental system.

Guru Rinpoche foresaw the building of the Punakha Dzong by "a person named Namgyel (who) will arrive at a hill that looks like an elephant." Before the building of the Punakha Dzong, a Small Dzong or Dzong Chu was built.


According to history, Zhabdrung ordered his architect, Zowe Palep, to sleep in front of a statue of the Buddha at Dzong Chu. From the architect's dream and vision the design for the new and much larger Punakha Dzong came forth. In 1637, the important Punakha Dzong (fort) was built.


Zhabdrung ruled Bhutan for about 35 years. During his rule he established a dual system of government known as Chhosi Nyidhen that was created during his important cloistering and retreat in 1651 at the Punakha Dzong. The dual government system included joint rule by a temporal leader and a Manyahana Buddhist religious leader. Punakha Dzong, due to being in a warmer climate, is still used as the winter resort of the Zhung Dratshang or Central Monk Body and the Je Khenpo or chief monk. Zhabdrung's body is still preserved at the Punakha Dzong.

One important element of Zhabdrung's legacy is the creation and establishment of Bhutan's first legal code. This first legal code, also known as "The Golden Yoke of Legal Edicts" was crafted to prescribe proper conduct by state authorities. No known paper copy (is yet) available of this legal code. However, between Dzong Chu and Punakha Dzongs stands a small house of worship. Etched in large black slates is the only known copy of Zhabdrung's original legal code.


A subsequent update of Bhutan's original legal code known as "The Pure Mirror of the Two-Fold System" referring to religious and temporal law is mentioned in a 1720 text but so far no known copy has been found. A third version and expanded legal code created by the 10th Druk Desi (Regent)--Mipham Wangpo is preserved in an appendix to a 1759 text on the history of Bhutan by the 10th Desi Tenzin Chogyal.

Posted by mgivel 00:25 Archived in Bhutan Tagged educational Comments (0)

Gross National Happiness Redux


In 1972, Bhutan's fourth hereditary King Jigme Singye Wangchuk proclaimed that Gross National Happiness (GNH) was more important than Gross Domestic Product, http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/bhutan/gnh.html. This proclamation, which did not focus primarily on traditional economic measures to gauge societal progress was made in response to modernization and economic globalization changes and pressures on the relatively pastoral and isolated primarily Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan. These modernization pressures could have significantly changed Bhutan's unique identity. As a result of this proclamation, GNH has become one of the primary national public policies guiding and regulating development in Bhutan.

Since 1972, an ongoing process has been occurring to describe and tease out in further detail what GNH means and how to measure it. Two primary institutions in Bhutan are currently involved in this effort. They include the Centre for Bhutan Studies, http://www.bhutanstudies.org.bt/main/index.php a non-governmental organization in Thimphu and the Gross National Happiness Commission, http://www.pc.gov.bt/ a government agency that was formerly called the Planning Commission. The process of further delineating GNH has already included four important international academic conferences to discuss what GNH means. A fifth international conference is now scheduled to take place in Brazil in late November 2009, http://www.bhutanstudies.org.bt/main/highlight_detail.php?id=47

Happiness under GNH is not defined as individual happiness such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as we know it in the U.S. Rather happiness under GNH is a holistic idea that balances the material with the spiritual for the benefit of the greater society. In more specific terms GNH has been described as having four mutually balanced general pillars including: sustainable development, maintaining cultural values, preservation of the natural environment, and good governance. Recently, this has been further subdivided into nine core dimensions, http://grossnationalhappiness.com/gnhIndex/intruductionGNH.aspx including:

1. Psychological Well-being
2. Time Use
3. Community Vitality
4. Culture
5. Health
6. Education
7. Environmental Diversity
8. Living Standard
9. Governance

These nine core dimensions now have 72 numeric indicators, http://grossnationalhappiness.com/gnhIndex/gnhIndexVariables.aspx. These indicators are weighed equally together to come up with a final calculation of the general happiness of Bhutan, http://grossnationalhappiness.com/gnhIndex/intruductionGNH.aspx The indicators are determined through national surveys. Of course, not everyone in the country is happy for a variety of reasons and issues.

In the days to come I will continue to dig much deeper through careful research of first-hand and original sources into what the four pillars and nine core dimensions mean from a theoretical and philosophical perspective to provide a nuanced description of GNH and also how it links to Bhutan's current ban on tobacco use.

Posted by mgivel 08:10 Archived in Bhutan Tagged educational Comments (0)

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