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Mingyur Rinpoche’s “Science of Happiness:” Buddhism, brain scans, and quantum physics collide

The paperback edition of Mingyur Rinpoche’s The Joy of Living (Three Rivers Press, just released) is about to hit the NY Times bestseller list at #12, and everyone at my office is super excited (and conditionally happy). What better book to sell a million copies than this? It was originally pitched as “The Buddha, the Brain, and the Science of Happiness,” a descriptive title if not catchy, and that’s essentially what it is: a young Tibetan monk explains the amazing similarities between ancient Buddhist practice, quantum physics, and 21st century neuroscience — and what it all means for achieving happiness, for ourselves and sentient beings everywhere.
As a kid, Mingyur Rinpoche suffered from what we in the west would call an anxiety disorder. Through years of meditation practice — he entered his first three-year retreat at 13 — he mastered his own mind to such an extent that neuroscientists at the Waisman Laboratory in Madison, WI, thought their EEG equipment might be broken when Rinpoche’s readings for happiness went off the charts. So begins this book — with the young Rinpoche’s fascination with modern science, including his willingness to submit to fMRI scans, and the fascinating parallels to Buddhist philosophy he discovers along the way. The core message isn’t new: meditation can change the brain, and through practice we can teach ourselves to be happy — but the book itself is something special: written in language you or I can understand, anchored in the science we westerners revere as gospel, and wrapped up in an entirely charming package. Who doesn’t want to learn from the happy monk? I’ll end with that — I’m an enthusiast, neither a reviewer nor a critic — and simply tell you to go get your copy now — and bump this one up to #1 on the bestseller list the week after next.

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Ethan Nichtern

posted June 13, 2008 at 9:14 am

That’s a really good dharma book, one of the best in recent years.
I’m actually not such a fan of the dharma book genre (seriously), but Rinpoche’s personability and intelligence is clear as a bell.
Peaceful Friday.
El Ethan Nichtern

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posted June 13, 2008 at 10:00 am

You’re not a fan of dharma books? I smell a blog topic in that!

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posted June 13, 2008 at 10:57 am

I’m curious. And I’d be curious on why rigden, author of one such be, isn’t a fan. That would be an awesome blog. On the other hand 300 years from now I w
onder if the dharma will b e happy it glommed on to our rediculous backwards theories of the mind and science. Do we want Blathgar and Memmnark flying around in their hybrid organic coppermobiles in 2300 saying “Those silly buddhists, they believed in quantum physics when we now know tiny Gremlins move around the subatomic particles at the whim of the Gremlin king! Muwahahahahaha! Oops, time for our protien capsules.”

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Ethan Nichtern

posted June 14, 2008 at 8:59 am

I will blog not this Monday but next about what I think is limiting about the dharma book genre.

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posted June 23, 2008 at 1:06 pm

This is a good book indeed. I think he’ll be one of the most accomplished Tibetan teachers of his generation. He already is in many ways.
Interesting video of him talking about the panic attacks he got when he was younger and how he worked with that:

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posted June 23, 2008 at 2:08 pm

Nice! Thanks for posting that link!

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Ethan Nichtern

posted June 23, 2008 at 2:26 pm

Great video by Mingyur Rinpoche. Can always count on GZA to dig in the crates and come up with a multimedia gem!

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