It is fascinating how reasoning is at times so skewed that one can argue to prove both sides of a praxis.
Take for instance the whole GNH, desire and Buddhism argument.
Our National Policy is Gross National Happiness. It is a noble goal no doubt. What could be the pinnacle of human achievement but that everyone is happy?
It is not surprising that Bhutan came up with the GNH idea, we are told. After all, we are a Buddhist country. Buddhism provides the answer to the root cause of all unhappiness: desire.
Hence, stop people from having desires, and then they are happy.
We could perhaps ban advertisements so that our poor uneducated villages never get to know what is desirable and aspirational, and therefore they will never crave for all that…
! What a way to achieve GNH!
And then, to top off this great reasoning, let us add a hackneyed quote or two. Like “Ignorance is Bliss.” Or “Money can’t buy you happiness.”
Hopefully you are convinced.
No? Do you have that niggling doubt that somewhere something is wrong with this whole argument?
Firstly, Buddhism is about achieving enlightenment. It is about gaining control over yourself, not being swayed by the desires of the world in which we live. It is personal.
“Control your own desires,” the Buddha said. Not “Control everyone’s desires for them.”
So while it is rather nice of us to want to see our fellow citizens happy, let’s not practise their religion for them.
Another problem that peeks out of this argument is that while we, the ‘enlightened’ educated lot realise that it is when our desires get the better of us that we are not happy, we assume that our rural folk have no minds of their own.
Economic Development, one of the four pillars of GNH, is conveniently forgotten by many who argue that money is not happiness.
Just half that sentence is true. Yes, money cannot buy you happiness. But the full sentence must go thus, “Money cannot buy you happiness, after a point.”
Money can buy happiness for those people who do not have food, who do not have clean drinking water, nor electricity, nor education and medical care.
We like to imagine that our farmers are happy in their poverty and ignorance; we write ‘feel good’ stories about how the poorest people go about with the biggest smiles on their faces.
Yes, it justifies our lives. So what if we are the ones with the big pay checks and bigger cars, so what if we live in the capital where there is a huge hospital, lots of schools and even more teachers.
We are in search of some spiritual bliss, we are the main characters of a novel, whose blurb tells us “so and so has everything in life and yet they cannot find happiness, etc.”
But if the rural people are indeed happy, why are the villages getting emptier by the day?
When the majority is living in poverty, we cannot afford to think about spiritual joy