Bhutan’s GNH Center

Dr. Saamdu Chetri1

Bayul Dewaling, Bhutan’s Centre for Gross National Happiness, will be situated on 46 acres at an altitude of 2,835 metres in Bumthang’s sacred Choekhor valley in central Bhutan. The blue pine forested site is bounded by the Chamkar River to the west and south and by mountain slopes to the southeast, and sits at the southern entrance of the 4,914 sq km Wangchuck Centennial Park – Bhutan’s largest national park.

The Centre’s purpose is to manifest in living practice Bhutan’s balanced development philosophy of Gross National Happiness (GNH), which seeks to integrate equitable and sustainable socio-economic development with environmental conservation, cultural promotion, and good governance.

Thus, the Centre will embody and model the principles of GNH in every aspect of its design, functioning, activity, and human interaction, manifesting simple and sustainable living in harmony with nature and other beings. It will attract Bhutanese from all walks of life to learn and experience how to bring GNH values and practices fully into their daily work and lives and thereby to serve their families, neighbors, and country at large with genuine purpose, compassion, joy, and effectiveness.

Catering to about 300 participants, the Centre will offer educational, leadership, and intercultural programs, meditation practice, nature experiences, entrepreneurial and skills training, work programs, and short courses — all deeply embedded in GNH principles.

The GNH Centre will be developed with donor contribution, but eventually become a self-supporting non-governmental entity with its own board of governors.

The design and construction of the Centre will also embody GNH values. Building design and location will be harmonized with natural site features and ecological principles, using renewable energy, passive solar heating, and a zero waste regime. No motorized vehicles will be on site. Traditional and sustainable building methods such as rammed earth will be used. And by harnessing local skilled labor, sourcing natural local materials, and leveraging local supply chains, the Centre will support the economy of the region and highlight the rich human resources in the Centre’s vicinity.

The design plan draws on several organizational models — using natural site features and a combination of ‘concentrated’ and ‘dispersed’ structures in a village/campus network. A ‘procession’ of structures proceeds from the most outward functions of the community building near the Park headquarters across the river to the more intimate residential and classroom functions. There will be a 150-person meditation hall and small meditation huts, with five open classrooms and small group meeting rooms, a studio and workshop, a sports and assembly field, a range of residential options, a water garden, landscaped gardens like wellness garden, contemplative garden, river walk and informal nature walk garden, trails, and one bridge linking the Centre with the national park.

$7 million in funding is currently sought to realize this dream, which will provide great benefit not only to Bhutan but to a world seeking a viable alternative to the dominant materialist, consumerist model of development. If funding allows, architectural, design, and construction plans will be finalized by August, 2012; construction will begin in the spring of 2013 and during the course of the same year activities will start at the Center; and the GNH Centre will be fully operational by the fall of 2016 -2017 depending on the fund flow.

The writer is Director of the GNH Center in Bumthang 

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  1. Tshering Gyelsten


    • Yangchen Lhamo

      Tshering Gyelsten. Why is it that you put up such comments, which is a total criticism based with total lack of understanding. Opportunity and false promises, do you even know the real meaning of truth and valid facts? Have you gone through all the reports of the government? What? Did you want futuristic infrastructure, skyscrapers and skyrocketing planes and transport that was promised at the time of election? Have you even collected facts to put up such comments? People like you are a total HYPOCRITE. Hollow gnh? So great of you to call it HOLLOW, GNH that was propounded by our Fourth Druk Gyalpo. Or do you even need a full time lesson course on GNH? And FYI, a man with such caliber has had invitations from all around the globe to join great companies and institutes. As your name states you may be a Buddhist, but you have flushed your morals and ethics down the toilet to bring out such issues and talk about family matters. Be ashamed. If you want to make the world a better living place, contribute your time on giving and supporting the country with good deeds not criticizing and making fun out of your own country and people.

      • I totally agree with Yangchen.
        Tshering Gyletshen is a joker and a idiot who have the nerve to comment on GNH.
        GNH is our vision of Fourth Druk Gyalpo and this vision will soon be completed by Dr. Saamdu.

        • Dear Tenzin wan
          You being the supporter, follower and acquiring knowledge of GNH throws such obscene language i.e jocker/idiot or these are mandate of GNH, please explain.I think 70% of bhutanese are less educated than me. So we r in same pit.
          How should Bhutan and Bhutanese look like, if GNH is sucesful?

        • We all know that GNH is the Principle of development of our country started by Our Forth King but our govt. always keep on giving speech of GNH. If you think that the vision be soon achieved by Chettri i will bet you that you are wrong. Your goal might be achived by these Chettri but not GNH.Take a ride away from Thimphu and visit each and every village.

      • Hi Yangchen Lhamo, very nicely said. I feel to Tshering Gyeltshen Jocker Chhetri is another name for GNH or he has not understood GNH properly like most of us. I can see him attacking Joker Chhetri with such a beautiful weapon called GNH instead of dangerous AK-47. We want learn more about GNH, and not about the anti GNH elements, GNH is calculated on gross level and not based on individual views. Lets help spreading knowledge of GNH and not personal problems

  2. my prob with the DPT is they have put all their party underlings in every conceivable post. They have effectively politicised the bureaucracy as well as these non-government set ups. The next new government will have no choice but to kick them all out and replace them with neutral individuals or worse, their own underlings. The precedent has been set after all.

    • Apkado,
      Are u a failed politician of the Dead PDP who has started another party called the druk nyamrup?

  3. Lets not talk about non national spouses, for that matter lyonpo UT’s wife is from Italy, The Speaker Jigme tshultrim’s wife is a Tibetan from Darjeeling. By the way, non national wives of people in power can get  Bhutanese citizenship without problem, whereas spouses of other ordinary Bhutanese do’t get citizenship despite of being married for decades. Their children are F4 or F5 whatever, it is so frustrating.

    • Dema, I concur with you fully that it is much easier for the spouses and children of people in high places to get Bhutanese citizenship, for other mere mortals, if you go through the immigration act and the formalities one is requred to fulfill to become a naturalized citizen of Bhutan, even in two life times, it would not be possible. In simple english, just don’t wate your time. The people responsible for such a sad state of affairs should hide their faces in shame.

      In regard to the Speakers wife, I am aware that she is from Darjeelng but she is a Bhutanese from Darjeeling and not a Tibetan as you allege. Even the Opposition leaders wife is a Bhutanese from Darjeeling. Whether the two of them and their children have received Bhutanese citizenship, of that I am not aware.

  4. The GNH centre is a good grand idea but isn’t raising such an huge amount of money, that too in a foreign currency, totally against the spirit of a supposedly home grown organic GNH. I bet that $7m will come from the cream of consumerists and capitalists that GNH is trying to distance itself from. It would be exemplary if the advocates of GNH would put their own money and time to build it organically. Then, perhaps, such money is necessary for what sounds like a newagey GNH land.

  5. The GNH centre is a good grand idea but isn’t raising such an huge amount of money, that too in a foreign currency, totally against the spirit of a supposedly home grown organic GNH. I bet that $7m will come from the cream of consumerists and capitalists that GNH is trying to distance itself from. It would be exemplary if the advocates of GNH would put their own money and time to build it organically. Then, perhaps, such money is necessary for what sounds like a newagey GNH disney land.

  6. GNH centre being lead by a greedy and most ambitious and self declared Dr.! Did chettri really do an undergraduate and/or masters course before obtaining his doctorate degree?

    • Tsewang if u so much interested in his qualification why don’t u go n check huh?
      without knowing a thing about some1 u should not comment.
      how about u? did u even complete 10th standard?
      People like u r a burden to our country n to the world too.

      • I really support GNH and hope to contribute something to Design and Installation related to using of renewable energy and passive solar heating. Bhutan is the place with lots of small stream water flow 24 hours everywhere, which can be used as alternate source of energy. Others are Wind and Sun which can also be designed and put it to practical uses. During construction of GNH Centre if capable Bhutanese are involve executing some works related to one’s experience and capability i am sure that even capital investment will be reduced to some extend proportionally. I must say a preference for practical expressions must be given to every Bhutanese citizen irrespective of Education level because i believe that no one can weigh the knowledge of some one. Any ways all the best…

        • dear karsang dorji
          I am really dull about GNH, those who support does not have concrete reasons as far as am concern.Now i want start abcd of GNH
          Question: In your para above, if you put GDP instead of GNH, what would be sense or sentences will be wrong?

    • Tshering Gyelsten

      he did he correnspondence course in M.Com from west bengal univeristy and P.hd i think from chapra univerisity in Bihar…. he is frend of Dr. C.T Dorji

  7. Gross National Happiness is a term coined by His Majesty the 4th Druk Gyalpo and since K4 voluntarily abdicated from his position as King and handed the reigns of the power to a democratically elected government, it is only right for the PM and his party to continue to spread the message of GNH to the world, which the PM seems to be doing with great success. Now that the PM has become the ambassador of GNH to the world, his detractors are suddenly up in arms, when all he is doing is merely carrying His Majesty K4s message forward to the world.

    So all of you out there who are against the PM for propogating GNH to the world are in many ways doing HM K4 a great disservice, though I wonder if these idiots would actually understand what I am trying to say.

    • Tshering Gyelsten

      Monk , we are not saying GNH is not good, we saying the people who try to loot this nations in the name of GNH are the problems…

      • Please substantiate your claims about people looting the nation in the name of GNH, why don’t you give concrete examples instead of just making an ass of your self. And then nitpicking like a girl about someone elses qualifications.

  8. oh…this is where JYT has purchased land i beleive

  9. Ching Chang Fu

    Alas! When will people understand that happiness is not an external thing to be sought from, and that it comes from the understanding of the true nature of our Mind.

  10. Dont debate with ppl like Tshering Gyeltshen. This guy is a real idiot

  11. This website is the reincarnation of the previous

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