GNH Center master plan changed, to be completed next year

Sketch of meditation center at Baeyul Dewaling

Prime Minister, Lyonchen Jigmi Y Thinley’s vision is finally taking shape.

The construction of Baeyul Dewaling or Gross National Happiness (GNH) Center at Bumthang’s sacred Chhoekhar valley will start by the end of the year and is scheduled to be completed by 2013.

However, the master plan for the GNH Center has  been changed.

Before, the plan was to construct the colonnade center with community and meditation centers at one go but now the priority is to construct the community and meditation centers during the first phase of construction.

“The construction of the center is not as important at this stage as more priority will be given to the curriculum/community centers first which will  be open to everybody to come and participate, contemplate and live GNH,” said the Project Director, Dr Saamdu Chetri.

In mid-November last year, around 12 national and international experts worked on developing the project master plan which has been finalized.

“The design is finally ready; the designer was selected globally among 100 applicants along with a Bhutanese architect,” said Dr Saamdu Chetri.

He added that the authorities approached a “great” architect and “hopefully he will come up with a design so that we can start working accordingly.”

The center is being constructed with the help of DANIDA; funds have also been donated by a participant at the GNH workshop via Druk Holdings and Investment (DHI).

The project will seek funds from Asia, the US, South Africa, and Europe, but mostly from Japan, Denmark, Switzerland and Australia.

“The budget was estimated to USD 20 mn looking at the colonnade construction but because of the new master plan, the budget has decreased to USD 7 mn,” said Dr Saamdu Chetri.

The purpose of the Center is to educate people on what really matters in self-sufficiency, empower them with knowledge, the ability to contemplate and come up with ideas and services to change themselves and others.

The construction is to be on a very limited area retaining a large part of the forest with five wellness gardens and community facilities.

Dr Saamdu Chetri also said that the money has been received to start the work and the most important construction to be developed first is the curriculum and meditation centers.

Around 50-60 meditation huts will be constructed along the mountain ranges and the river side for longer retreats.

“The entire community will be involved in this construction; the benefits of the GNH center must spill over to everyone who visits it and the visitor should feel rejuvenated,” said Dr Saamdu Chetri.

The construction will start by the end of the year in three to four phases.

Facilities in the GNH center will be provided free of cost to the Bhutanese.

About Sonam Choden

12 comments

  1. While this center is a good idea it seems to be based on weak foundations, I say this because this center is being built to “educate people what really matters in self suffiency” but the center itself is being funded by other people’s aid/grant. should we not have based on the principal built what we can afford as self sufficiency should also be the principal on how we build this center. If we build this center based on aid/grant as we do everything in Bhutan then we actually never learn the real meaning of self suffiency. It is high time we included National economic security when we define GNH as without this pillar Bhutan in going to build a GNH nation with a VERY weak foundation? 

  2. Make another blunder Jigme thinley,,, one time we talk about ruppee crunch and same time,,, this baldy is creating another hole in the pocket…. What reason is needed to make this center,,,, R WE REALLY GNH…. corruption in gyelposhzing,,, ministers,,,,,,,,, think bullshit……  GNH center will benefit only rich people and ministers,,, who will get opportunity to buy trucks, trippers, bulldozer to lease int his construction and ordinary bhutanese have no gain in this….

  3. making this center in the midst of the rupee crunch is not feasible. people are hard pressed now and the GNH may not be the GNH anymore. we need essential things in place and not the centers.

  4. Meditation center!!!, crazy. how this is related to GNH. 

  5. justanotherbhutanese

    With faith, and without reason and logic, pepople want to do crazy things even in difficult times.

  6. My goodness. I cannot believe our PM using another USD 7 million to fulfill his personal initiative. PM we need that money for solving Rs crisis. For Kenchosum sake, please dont waste precious public money on meditation centers. It will be of no use to us. Our normal living environment is as pristine as meditation centers. We really don’t need that now. Please….don’t do that. We personally urge you.

  7. WoW! What of what?
    Is it an image of a person or failure of our government that has caused this trauma? Who else than an otherwise sane person go against construction of ”meditation center”?. We never recall our forestic nature when our boat is in 21st century but even the prime is blamed. Government doesnot work for moments and nothing within the nation is discrete, with this in mind imagine twenty thousand tourists rented for a week, just to hear buddhist discource; they will pay for the duration, place, resources and traditions of our land and such should be our strategies. This 7 million us dollars cannot save us from rupee crisis and i dont see any relation between rupee crisis of ‘now’ and the center of the future, i urge jyt to spend even 700 million on such approaches, but i could not understand why it would be built at Bumthang despite people of his constituency remaining improverished.
    May readers’ intellect be kindled, emotions be cleared, for our descendants to last till the very end.

  8. Do I understand that Bhutan means only PUENTSHOLING, THIMPHU, PARO, PUNAKHA, WANGDUE, BUMTHANG.
    The development indicators-good road, tourism, hotels, commitments of govt, funds are all targeted to these areas.
    Therefore, REST of the Dzongkhags could form another BHUTAN- called BHUTAN ALTERNTIVE; also DRUK ALTERNATIVE.

  9. Wai!!! what is GNH? who can define it? who will define GNH? GNH for whom? People of Bhutan do not know the term GNH? Here people of Bhutan are leaving hand to mouth. There is no GNH in Bhutan and can we talk GNH to outsider? There is no fire in Bhutanese oven and and we cannot set fire in some one’s oven. GNH from which perspectives? Mental perspectives? physical perspectives? Emotional perspectives? Spiritual perspectives? Intellectual perspectives?GNH center is a year a away, in that centre what are we going to teach? Religion of GNH so called four pillar and bla-bla

  10. dear friends,

    It is important to understand first what we are talking about before jumping the gun. GNH Centre, as I know would be a place of learning about the values of life and living through contemplation, living with nature, discourse and debates, and taking all the elements of GNH domains in consideration so that a person is enriched with knowledge to lead his/her own life of  value and humanity. As I also understood that this centre is primarily for people of Bhutan, for housewives, soldiers, students, teachers, civil servants, youths, farmers – really for all walks of life – see http://www.gnhbhutan.org

    The aim of the Centre is not to teach – but to learn through living and discourse/debates – the centre wishes to manifest in living all the principles and values of GNH and empower every participants with knowledge in sustainability and  sufficiency, so that anyone who walks out of the Centre goes with genuine purpose bringing humanity, compassion, and realisation in their service to family, community and the country.

    The question of sufficiency raised by one of the readers -I  fully agree – but we are not ready to contribute for free – Although the Centre will be using all the elements around them such as mud, stones, timber for a sustainable construction – it will not be done free -they will need to pay for labour. Further, there is no relation to rupee crunch because this Centre, as I know, will be build without any imports. I do not also see any hole in the pocket, as I understood, the expenditure is not through government budget – it is through willing global and local donors. We have realised that Bhutanese are ready to contribute such social cause yet. 

    Yes, we still need to alleviate the standard of living and that is why this government, I suppose, gave a great push to six minimum program as they called and they are road to every gewog, light to every house, telecommunication to every village, education for all, health accessibility to every person, water to every house – in addition to reaching public services to every gewog- there are more than 205 Community Centres being built in the country to help individuals obtain public services without having to travel to the local or district administrations.

    GNH is a new paradigm, as I read from http://www.apr2.org or http://www.grossnationalhappiness.com , for sustainable development. It is based on the believe that GDP or any economic model does not consider the finite resources on earth – excessive exploitation of earth is considered as growth. Today, the earth produces (according tot he UN studies) 1.5 times of what it can produce. Of this (or what the production in the world is including factories and industries that need natural resources), 86% is enjoyed by 20% of the world population (who pocket two third of the world’s income), while the 40% of poor only enjoy 1.3% of what is produced. There is no equality of distribution, nor does the economic model consider natural, human and social capital – the GDP model is failed.  For e.g. if all the Bhutan forest were to be cut down and sold – GDP will grow by 100% or more and it does not consider the environmental degradation. One more e.g. if medical cost due alcoholism, smoking diseases, bad living habits such as diabetic or hypertension increased the GDP increases – which are negative to GNH.

    Seeing this as a wrong economic development model, already 40 years ago, our 4th King propounded on “GNH is more important than GDP”.  He realised that the ultimate aim of every human being is happiness and to get to it one must balance spiritualism and materialism or the need of the body and that of the mind. To get the need of the mind, meditation is the best way including prayers, nature walk, and pilgrimage to holy sites. 

    I have realised that we pick the word only happiness and confuse ourself and often tag it to rich or power. This centre will be CSO meaning for the society- no minister or high ranking officer will profit. It will provide free living and learning space with, at the most, self supporting contribution in terms of ration that we bring along or contribution we make. 

    Further question of why in Bumthang- I understand that there will be satellite units in Urban areas for all those who cannot make it to the Centre. The Bumthang Centre will act as a guiding place – and they foresee development of many such centres in the world. 

    I write all these because I have read the GNH concept in the websites above including that of http://www.gnhc.gov.bt and understood how noble the idea is. The challenge, however, is how to bring the curriculum that can be learned through practice rather than teaching. This Centre is not like any campus, institute, religious practicing place, etc. that are specific to one learning – it is a unique place for contemplating what is life and living.

    If you have the time to read – let me add something more which I understood from the concept is that it tries to let people contemplate what is need, the community vitality, and sharing. Some people say oh, GNH would retard development but rather it would allow a mindful development. One e.g. on contemplation or mindful living would be- you have Coco Cola verses Bumthang apple juice. Because of advertisement we like to think such drinks are powerful to improve ones image or personality. In reality we do not think what its ingredients are and how it effects us and where does the money finally go? In case of apple juice from Bumthang, we know it is crushed from our home grown apples – a pure product and when we buy and drink, it not only quenches our thirst, but it is healthy and our money remains in the economy. etc. etc..

    Tashi-delek!

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