Jul 17, 2009
The happiest man in the world
The New York Times today has an article by Daniel Goleman, most famous for his work, Emotional Intelligence, but who has also been involved with His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Mind and Life conferences and with Dr. Richard Davidson’s research into the effects of meditation on the brain. He writes about Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, who has apparently been described as the happiest man in the world. Usually I’ve seen that title reserved for another meditator, Matthieu Ricard, but maybe there’s been some kind of world championship laugh-off that I missed. Anyway, it’s an interesting article, even if most of the information is about studies published some years ago.
I recently spent an evening with Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, the Tibetan lama who has been dubbed “the happiest man in the world.” True, that title has been bestowed upon at least a few extremely upbeat individuals in recent times. But it is no exaggeration to say that Rinpoche is a master of the art of well-being.
So how did he get that way? Apparently, the same way you get to Carnegie Hall. Practice.
Yongey Mingyur RinpocheCourtesy of Crown Publishers Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Rinpoche a bit over the years, and always found him in good cheer. This meeting was no different. When I called him at his Manhattan hotel to arrange to get together before we were to discuss his new book, “Joyful Wisdom” at the 92nd St. Y, he told me he was in the middle of a shower – but not in the usual sense. The shower, he told me, had run out of hot water midway. When he called the front desk, he was told to wait several minutes and there would be more hot water. In this situation, I probably would have been peeved. But as Rinpoche told me this, he was laughing and laughing.
The only momentary glitch I’ve witnessed — a few years back — was slapstick: he sat down in an office chair with a faulty seat that suddenly plunged several inches with a thump. Once when this chair had done the same to me I cursed and groused about it for a while. But Rinpoche just frowned for a second — and the next moment he was his upbeat self again. Quickness of recovery time from upsets is one way science takes the measure of a happy temperament.