Meeting The Happiest Man in the World

by Aaron J JacksonCrabb,, 06/03/2011

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When K4E asked me to interview Tibetan monk, Mingyur Rinopoche, I knew I was going to have to ask why he is called ‘the happiest man in the world’. 

When I arrived at Jogyesa Temple, the room was packed – not a seat left. Retreating into the back right corner of the hall, I set up camp, pulling out my notepad, pen and camera.
“I will teach you meditation. You have two choices?” These words and a smile that became infectious laughter, Mingyur began his talk. His laughter never ceased over the next two hours.  In meditation, the two most important things are “body” and “mind.” Breathing is the most important thing in meditation. In order to breathe properly, you must sit straight. The second part is to relax all your muscles. “I call this 100% relax. Do not relax 200%. If you’re doing 200% you’re shaking and your muscles become tight, too tight.”

He then spoke about how to relax the mind. To show how easy it is to do he asked if anyone had ever hiked a mountain. “When, you hike, it’s a little difficult and slow at first. But you feel happy when you reach the top. As you rest at the top in a grass field or sitting on a stone, you breathe in deeply.” This is the point when your mind is completely relaxed.  “Rest like that,” he smiles. “Like after a long project is over. You are at completion. You are happy. Rest like that.” Then he asked the audience to give another example of such a moment. “After I finish meditation”, cried out a woman. She laughed. Mingyur, also laughing, replied “Me too!”

As I checked my watch, surprised to discover that he had already been speaking for 55 minutes, he offered to tell us the secret of meditation as long as we told no one. “Only if you promise will I tell you the secret.” Laughing, he went “but it’s already in my books.” Seeing the audience’s rather bewildered reaction, he laughed again, saying “You are all very serious!” And then, “Remember to relax and listen to the silence; practice relaxing and that is meditation.”

His next six-words confused everyone, “None meditation is the best meditation.” Two points to remember “One, if the mind were lost this would be the same thing as if you were normally conscious. Two, none meditation has awareness. Addressing the Koreans present, he asked, “Do you know the term ‘get lost’?” “No? I will explain. To ‘get lost’ means no awareness. You forget to breath. No awareness. No mind.” Simply put, in order to meditate you must be aware and to be aware means you cannot be lost within your environment.

Following the talk on meditation, Mingyur was available to meet each person, impart a piece of wisdom if asked, shake hands, take a photograph, autograph a book or card, or go through the motions of the Tibetan gesture of Kata. Kata is a long silk scarf where one person gives it and another receives it. Then upon departure the silk scarf is then returned. It’s an act of giving and receiving between people. Over the next hour, Mingyur greeted everyone, always with a deep, reassuring smile.

On the way to the restaurant, I was able to have a one-on-one conversation with him. I had to ask the question. “So, I heard this thing about you being designated the “world’s happiest man’? How do you become the world’s happiest man?” Without skipping a beat, he replied, “Marijuana.” It took a second to realize what he had said. “Marijuana!” I couldn’t help laughing. To my “Are you serious?” he replied, “Doesn’t it make everyone happy?”

At the restaurant, I and a journalist were invited to sit with Mingyur and his translator. As I sat down, a monk in his early fifties sat down beside me. I noticed that all the Jogye monks from the hall had come along, too.  This indeed was turning out to be a special luncheon. Then I took a moment just to relax myself into the peaceful environment before the conversations and food arrived on the table.

During lunch, the journalist asked Mingyur how he had become ‘the world’s happiest man’. Before he could answer, I started laughing. “See. He knows my answer. Why, don’t you tell her what makes me the world’s happiest man?” Somewhat nonplussed when I said “Marijuana”, she continued her questioning, asking about the tests done on his brain to prove that he is ‘the world’s happiest man.” Each word rich in sarcasm but always smiling, he replied “Every year a group of scientists hold a contest and every year the participants and I do these competitions. But I am always the winner.” Eventually, Mingyur’s broad smile and the chuckles around the table clued her in that this was another joke.

When I asked him about the possibility of Tergar meditation helping children with ADD or ADHD his face never stopped smiling but his tone became more serious. "Children all over the world can benefit from being taught meditation. It helps calm the mind. Meditation will help the children confront their disorder. By confronting the disorder, they will befriend it. And once they befriend it, it will no longer bother them.” As he had explained to us earlier, this is how he had dealt with the debilitating anxiety disorder he had as a child. He added, "Children can only be taught properly by their parents. The parents need to learn proper meditation themselves to enable them to teach their children. It can only work if they are both involved. Because then, neither can derail the other."

Following the two hour lunch, I walked back to the temple alongside Mingyur watching him impart his compassion, genuine kindness and warmth to everyone who approached him. After we said goodbye, my being felt uplifted as I wandered off into the warm afternoon sunshine.

* Attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

K4E Note: Meditation classes are offered, free of charge, every Saturday in Insa-dong.

Photo by Aaron J JacksonCrabb

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