“I want to live in a world without money.”

Will the above sentence lead to a spiritual evolution? It may, for an individual, but where many are involved, a bit of paradise-engineering may be needed! Truth is that nirvana depends on individual happiness and well-being. Gone are the days when GDP and GNP ruled the roost – it is now the GWI that matters! GWI, for the uninitiated, is the ‘Gross Well-being Index’ and it has a lot of spiritual implications built into it. The basic tenets of the word ‘spiritual’ mean a planet full of happy people. It is true that care for human well-being is indeed paradise-engineering. This form of engineering involves a better comprehension of economic values, ecological concerns, political maturity, and inter-personal efforts. Happiness index thus depends not just on individual perception and acceptance, but also on tangible initiatives taken by the decision-makers at all levels.

The aim of individuals, families, organizations and even countries must be to promote a creation of conditions that are most likely to improve the quality of life in the most equitable way. Paradise-engineering is thus all about care for human-beings. It is an attitude that starts with an individual and must necessarily proliferate to infuse all others with the same perspective.

Significantly, it is the ecological efficiency with which human well-being is delivered around the world that has captured the attention of all. It is the first ever index to combine environmental impact with well-being to measure the environmental efficiency with which country by country, people live long and happy lives.

The term GWI was coined by Bhutan’s King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in 1972. The aim of GWI is be a beacon for the economic and development plans and generally serves as a unifying vision for the planning process. For Bhutan, the aim was to serve their unique culture based on Buddhist spiritual values.

Real evolution is based on the premise that true development of human society takes place when material and spiritual development occur side by side to complement and reinforce each other. The four pillars of GNH are the promotion of equitable and sustainable socio-economic development, preservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment, and establishment of good governance.

Thus human well-being consists of five dimensions:

1. Long lives in good health and a stable population base.

2. Wealth to secure basic needs and livelihoods as well as to promote enterprise and prosperity.

3. Knowledge to live sustainably and fulfill potential as well as a vibrant culture.

4. A community that upholds the freedom of members, has an open and clean government, and which is safe from violence and crime.

5. Benefits that are shared equally by males and females and shared equitably among all strata of society.

The idea that public policy should be more closely tied to well-being — how people feel about their lives — is catching on. “There is a growing interest in some policymaking circles in looking at these measures,” says Richard Easterlin, economics professor at the University of Southern California. He continues: “We have been misguided in dismissing what people say about how happy they are and simply assuming that if they are consuming more apples and buying more cars they are better off. There are efforts to devise a new economic index that would measure well-being gauged by things like satisfaction with personal relationships, employment, and meaning and purpose in life, as well as, for example, the extent new drugs and technology improve standards of living, but if used for a different purpose, it ca lead to addiction and only the california rehabilitation center will be able to cure it. To put in straight-forward and simple terms, the happiness index according to OPHI (Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative) will have these components:

1. Decent work

2. Physical safety

3. Empowerment

4. Measure of shame

5. Subjective humiliation

There are a few questions here that may be relevant while discussing the well-being index.

Does poverty mean a negative GWI?

Does a higher consumption of luxury goods mean a higher GWI?

Is the proliferation of religious institutions and dogmas related to GWI?

Will a higher GWI result in environmental damage?

The goal of life should not be limited to production, consumption, more production and more consumption. There is no necessary relationship between the level of possession and the level of well-being. Now when the question asked is ‘what is happiness’, the answer is that happiness is NOT to be equated with money!

“We have to think of human well-being in broader terms,” said Lyonpo Jigmi Thinley, Bhutan’s home minister and ex-prime minister. “Material well-being is only one component. That doesn’t ensure that you’re at peace with your environment and in harmony with each other.”

Let us all remember that GWI too needs the emotive strength of a phrase like: kar Ke Dikhayenge!

[Arvind Passey]
[July 2007]
Published in PrepTalk, July 2007