Born in Nepal in 1975, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche is the youngest son of the eminent meditation master Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, and received the same kind of rigorous training associated with previous generations of Tibetan adepts. In his new book, The Joy of Living(Harmony Books), Mingyur Rinpoche recounts how he used meditation to outgrow a childhood beset by fears and extreme panic attacks. From a very young age, he also displayed a keen interest in science; he has pursued this curiosity and how it relates to Buddhist teachings on the nature of mind through countless conversations with neurologists, physicists, and psychologists. In 2002, he participated in experiments at the Waisman Laboratory for Brain Imaging and Behavior in Wisconsin, to investigate whether long-term meditation practice enhances the brain’s capacity for positive emotions.
In The Joy of Living, Rinpoche’s investigations into the science of happiness are woven into an accessible introduction to Buddhism. Today Mingyur Rinpoche divides his time between Sherab Ling Monastery, in Northern India, and teaching engagements throughout Asia, Europe, and the Americas. I spoke with him this March in California at a program sponsored by the Yongey Buddhist Center.
What is the value of using scientific technologies to validate the benefits of meditation? If you already have a developed meditation practice, you have no need to rely on science. But science can be useful for understanding the same meaning from a different perspective.
For people engaged in “analytic meditation,” you examine everything that is going on with the mind and you develop trust from reason. For this kind of meditation, every tool is useful. So science can be used as a new tool, a new perspective, a new way of developing trust through reason.
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