From Wealth to Well-being and Finally Nibbana: A Bridge from Traditional to Buddhist Economics

Apichai Puntasen Apichai Puntasen


The idea of economic growth measured by GDP has long been the development objective of almost all nations. This idea of growth has resulted in the rapid depletion of natural resources and the deterioration of the environment. An alternative paradigm of Sustainable Development was formally proposed by the United Nations in 1987. Unfortunately, sustainable development within the framework of systems analysis, serves only as the output without a clear process and the subsequent outcome. The concept of GNH proposed by former King of Bhutan in the 1970’s and made known to the world also in 1987, could be used to serve as the outcome of sustainable development. Also, among the four pillars of GNH, “good governance” in the broadest sense served as the process leading to sustainable development and its outcome, GNH. This concept serves as the bridge linking the Western concept of sustainability to the Eastern
concept of “happiness” which is similar to that of “good life” or “moral life” of Aristotle during the Greek time. This concept of GNH has become increasingly popular globally within a short period of time. King Bhumibol Adulyadej of  Thailand advanced his concept of “Sufficiency Economy” in 1974. This concept complements that of the GNH as it completes the systems analysis approach to sustainable development. The concept consists of inputs, process output, outcome and impact, also within a Buddhist tradition of sukha that does not imply the word “happiness” in English. However, according to the Buddhist tradition, the ultimate sukha is the state of mind when it is completely liberated or free from all defilements. This is actually the ultimate goal of Buddhist economics, which is not widely known or clearly understood in the West. Therefore, sustainable development, GNH and Sufficiency Economy serve as the bridge for Westerners and those who claim to be Buddhists but do not clearly understand the essence of the teaching of Buddha, to gain deeper understanding of Buddhist economics that will lead the world to eternal peace.

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