Monday, October 29, 2012

Buddhist monk declared world’s happiest man

As he grins serenely and his burgundy robes billow in the fresh Himalayan wind, it is not difficult to see why scientists declared Matthieu Ricard the happiest man they had ever tested.
The monk, molecular geneticist and confidant of the Dalai Lama, is passionately setting out why meditation can alter the brain and improve people’s happiness in the same way that lifting weights puts on muscle.
“It’s a wonderful area of research because it shows that meditation is not just blissing out under a mango tree but it completely changes your brain and therefore changes what you are,” the Frenchman told AFP.
Ricard, a globe-trotting polymath who left everything behind to become a Tibetan Buddhist in a Himalayan hermitage, says anyone can be happy if they only train their brain.
Neuroscientist Richard Davidson wired up Ricard’s skull with 256 sensors at the University of Wisconsin four years ago as part of research on hundreds of advanced practitioners of meditation.
The scans showed that when meditating on compassion,
Ricard’s brain produces a level of gamma waves — those linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory — “never reported before in the neuroscience literature”, Davidson said.
The scans also showed excessive activity in his brain’s left prefrontal cortex compared to its right counterpart, giving him an abnormally large capacity for happiness and a reduced propensity towards negativity, researchers believe. 
Research into the phenomenon, known as “neuroplasticity”, is in its infancy and Ricard has been at the forefront of ground-breaking experiments along with other leading scientists across the world....
Much more of interest in the full article.

The Raw Story
Buddhist monk declared world’s happiest man
Agence France-Presse

Kind of undercuts the assumption of "pursuit of happiness" in terms of maximum utility based on measurement of units of consumption, and the scarcity thinking on which neoclassical economics is based.

12 comments:

Bob Roddis said...

He's probably happy because he's not the victim of an attempt by the Predatory Keynesian State to artificially and immorally "stimulate" his economic activity.

Tom Hickey said...

Buddhist monks take a vow of poverty, like monks of other traditions. In other words, he's a drop-out.

StockManiac2008 said...

Bob,
You should try that too. It's better than banging your head against the wall to try to change the world, which according to you is spinning in the wrong direction. Only you seem to realize that.
We are all happy with this artificial & immoral stimulation.

Matt Franko said...

"The scans also showed excessive activity in his brain’s left prefrontal cortex"

This is right in line with Ignacio's data where, as opposed to this Buddhist fellow, with the morons among us, studies have shown that their neocortexes shut down.

This (neocortex) is where higher order brain functions happen (ie like mathematics and logic, ability to discern contradiction/hypocrisy, etc...)

So looks like these people are basically "unhappy" in addition to being morons... so they become "unhappy and stupid"...

interesting... rsp.

Malmo's Ghost said...

On a related note the healthiest people on earth live on the Greek island of Ikaria:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/28/magazine/the-island-where-people-forget-to-die.html?pagewanted=1&ref=magazine

It does not in any way shape or form resemble life as we know it in the states. It is the antithesis of consumerism. Edward Bernays would roll over in his grave after witnessing the non conditioned good life there.

Tom Hickey said...

So looks like these people are basically "unhappy" in addition to being morons... so they become "unhappy and stupid"...

This is the perennial teaching. Pursuit of maximum material utility leads to maximum spiritual disutility, spiritual "utility" being genuine happiness rather than transitory pleasure accompanied by underlying Angst.

Pursuit of happiness using ineffective means leads to greater suffering in the sense of deprivation of "that peace which the world cannot give."

Matt Franko said...

Maybe the left front is the "happiness" part of the brain (as evidenced by this Buddhist) and the right front is the "math/logic" area... somehow/something is like in effect shutting down the whole front of the brain on these people...

They are left not able to think or be happy... sad for them. rsp,

Anonymous said...

'Happiness' is an entity.

This can be verified by going inside (only).

Meditation is when the persona sits quietly and all of the attention is withdrawn inside. The persona trains itself as an instrument to perceive happiness ('Self').

Perhaps then, the effects of happiness may alter different attributes of the persona.

'Happiness' cannot be measured, divided, added to, subracted from; neither does it come in powers.

It is an ocean into which the persona may dive. It is a drop within each persona.

'Happiness' can be felt by getting wet.

All other happinesses (of the world) are conditional and temporary.

'Happiness' is simplicity itself.

Anonymous said...

Simplicity is the Key for Understanding

Without the Self, we have no-one.

The heart has no curiousity - the heart wants to know.

There is an inside and an outside - Knowledge is the tool to go within. Like a mirror it reflects you back to you: that is why it is called self-knowledge.

Passion for life is not learned, but discovered.

It is nice to see Happiness dawning in a person's eyes.

A human being is a door.

All is well!


Paraphrasing Desiderata:

Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they ae vexatious to the spirit.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you are here now - one day you will be gone forever.

Our opportunity is now ....

Andy Summers said...

good for him, another proof that money doesn't buy happiness. might take up meditation; I have only heard good things so far.

Tom Hickey said...

good for him, another proof that money doesn't buy happiness. might take up meditation; I have only heard good things so far.

The question is why and how meditation results in happiness. The answer is simple but not obvious because we don't ordinarily experience this and mosts people are not taught about it.

In ordinary waking consciousness we consider ourselves to be our experience, which includes perception of the world, thoughts and feelings, and self-awareness. The former we regard as objective and the latter subjective. All these experiences are of opposite values along a range. So we experience happiness and suffering, joy and sorrow, love and hate, etc. across the spectrum of feeling. Self-awareness we take to be our individuality and personality as we see ourselves.

All our experience takes place during waking consciousness "within the individual mind" which is limited, that is, has boundaries. We are confined within those boundaries, as well as within the hard boundary of the body. Due to this "cage" or "prison of the soul," we do not experience real freedom, which is what we ultimately desire as our real being, even though we don't know it yet. As the moment one experiences even a whiff of real freedom one knows this without any doubt.

Individual mind exists within awareness, which is not limited. Moreover, human awareness is reflexive, that is self-awareness. Meditation properly understood operates reflexively to take one beyond the limitation of mind and its experience to pure awareness, "self-knowingness," which is unbounded. In this state we become free, and that state is one of "transcendental joy" or "bliss," in that it is a state of fulfillment. This is a fourth state of awareness in addition to the ordinarily experienced waking, dreaming and deep sleep.

When the mediation period is over, we return to our ordinary state refreshed and energized, but we find ourselves within the boundaries of mind-body again, back in the "cage." But over time, the nervous system gets trained to maintain the state of unbounded awareness within the boundaries of mind-body functioning in the world of activity. This is a fifth state of awareness. It is called "enlightenment."

There are a number of stages in the development of the fourth and fifth states that are set forth in the literature of perennial wisdom and are now being explored in consciousness studies and transpersonal psychology. This is more the "new frontier" of exploration than outer space, although it is not yet very publicized.

Even a taste of the fourth state is "enlightenment" of sorts, in that this is a state that is not ordinarily experienced. Even a taste of the drop of the ocean is far superior to either not knowing about the ocean at all, or just hearing or reading about about it.

How to gain this? The means are the subject of perennial wisdom. There are different means, and meditation is one of them. There are also many types of meditation in addition to many other types of practice.

So once one knows about the opportunity that lies within, then the question becomes how to proceed. And it lies without also, since ultimately there is no real distinction. This marks the beginning of the quest, which is the way of the higher self. That knowledge is within, and one is guided by it to the degree that one is open to be guided by it. Everyone's course is different, although the destination is the same.

Bayazid Bastami once said, "Truth is not found by seeking, but only seekers find it."

y said...

He's probably happy because he's not the victim of an attempt by the Predatory Rothbardian Agenda to artificially and immorally "privatize" his entire universe.