Gross National Happiness + ancient medicine from Bhutan
by Joel Einhorn, Founder of HANAH
A Founder’s Look: Deep in Bhutan
Last December I was contacted by a global experience-based travel group called BeVOYAGEUR. They were aware of the work HANAH had been doing in India, wanted to learn more and asked me to visit Bhutan. I didn’t know much about the country, so I turned to Dr. Venugopal, HANAH’s Ayurvedic practitioner, for his thoughts. He told me that according to ancient Tibetan and Himalayan medicine, Bhutan is “the land of herbal medicine.” This sounded interesting and definitely worth exploring.
After a bit of research, one of the things that really stood out about Bhutan was its “gross national happiness index,” or GNH. GNH is a development philosophy as well as an index that is used to measure the collective happiness of a nation. The concept is indigenous to the country of Bhutan, and was enshrined in the country's 2008 constitution, which says, "the State shall strive to promote those conditions that will enable the pursuit of gross national happiness." The term was inadvertently coined in 1979 during an interview at Bombay airport when the then King of Bhutan Jigme Singye Wangchuck said, "We do not believe in gross national product. Gross national happiness is more important.”
After spending a few weeks in India working on HANAH with Dr. Venugopal, I was prepped and ready to visit Bhutan, or “The Thunder Dragon Kingdom,” as it’s also known. I was extremely excited to visit this amazing country the size of Switzerland, largely unknown by the West, and tucked entirely inside the Himalayan mountain range.
An insider's tour
The week we spent exploring the landscapes of Bhutan is hard to describe. It’s the most majestic place I have ever visited. It felt as if we were on another planet. The trees are bigger than any I’ve ever seen and rivers are massively filled with Himalayan run-off. The animal life is extreme – beautiful Himalayan river dolphins along with dozens of other exotic creatures. To this day many of the inhabitants still believe in the Yeti, the large beast that is said to inhabit the Himalayan mountain peaks, many of which are over 7,000 meters high and have yet to be climbed.
Seventy percent of the land is covered in trees and the country is carbon negative. Oh, and they are still discovering remote villages that no one in our modern world knew existed. It’s a land of extreme possibility and inspiring people. I fell in love with Bhutan almost immediately.
We met many people while in Bhutan. This included members of the Royal Family who were incredibly passionate about protecting the country’s natural splendor and help foster progress with their citizens. I learned The Fourth King of Bhutan was heavily into herbal medicines, and as a result, it is something that still permeates their thinking today.
My hosts wanted to learn more about my experiences in India and how a mountain biking accident led me to the creation of HANAH ONE, an Ayurvedic herbal supplement. Bhutan is steeped in ancient herbal traditions, and it’s very important to the Royal Family to preserve them. While spending time in Bhutan, I realized just how important it is to harness this knowledge for the betterment of humanity both within and beyond its borders.
Happiness is a 268km mountain bike ride?
I was invited (and accepted) to return to Bhutan in September to race what is arguably the hardest one-day mountain bike race in the world – the Tour of the Dragon. It is a 268 km jaunt from one end of Bhutan to the other, and includes over four Himalayan passes climbing 18,000+ feet of altitude in a single day.
During these upcoming few weeks in Bhutan, we will further explore many of Bhutan’s herbal remedies, visit some of the ancient villages and learn more about their ancient traditions.
Bhutan is a country of ancient wisdom, the likes of which is almost unfathomable, and HANAH is extremely honored to be given a small glimpse into such a beautiful country and group of people. We are ready to explore.
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