THIMPHU, Bhutan — As a downpour settled into a thick fog outside, Dasho Karma Ura let his eyes flicker at the ceiling of a wood-paneled conference room and began expounding on the nature of happiness.
“People feel happy when they see something ethical,” he said. “When you think you have done something right and brave and courageous, when you can constantly recharge yourself as a meaningful actor.”
“And lastly,” he added, thumbing Buddhist prayer beads, “something which makes you pause and think, ‘Ah, this is beautiful. Beautiful, meaningful, ethical.’ ”
Mr. Ura, 55, is perhaps one of the world’s leading experts on happiness, at least as seen through the lens of development economics. It has been something of a preoccupation for more than two decades as he has developed and fine-tuned Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness indicator, a supplementary, sometimes alternative, yardstick to the conventional measure of development, gross domestic product.