If you are reading this blog, chances are you are not a monk or a nun living in a monastery, or a hermit in a cave practicing austerities. Every day you face challenges — traffic jams, a demanding job (or lack thereof), an overbearing boss, disturbing news in the media, just to name a few. Small wonder many of us feel stressed and anxious most of the time. But what can we do? We can’t control the environment, the boss, or the economy. How do we handle these pressures? If you are looking for an answer to this question, Joyful Wisdom by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche is the book for you. In it, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche talks about the foundations of Buddhism; explains and clarifies some Buddhist terms, whose nuances might have been lost in translation; and provides detailed and clear instructions on meditation practice. Using examples from his own experience and that of his students, he shows how to deal with disturbing emotions, such as anger, fear, anxiety. He suggests that instead of resisting or trying to get rid of them, we should welcome them as focus for our meditation that will help us get acquainted with the nature of the mind and its infinite power.
Throughout the book, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche tells stories of the Buddhist tradition. My favourite one is about a group of hermits who lived in seclusion in the mountains. They spent most of their time in meditation. But because their existence was so peaceful and offered little by way of difficulties or challenges, every once in a while they would go to the nearest village and acted as if they were crazy. Such silly behaviour provoked the villagers, who expressed their displeasure, sometimes in physical terms. But the hermits welcomed these experiences as supports for their practice. Lucky for us, our lives are replete with such supports — no need to agitate the good villagers.
I especially enjoyed the parts of the book where Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche talks about his childhood experiences: how he was overwhelmed by anxiety and struggled with the practice, and about the fears that he had to overcome to achieve his present state of calm and relaxed mind and the ability to help others. This was like a revelation to me, because I always pictured Buddhist teachers and masters as perfect, born into this world with inherent knowledge and wisdom of the masters that came before, and, therefore, superior and distant, like stars. I don’t question inherent knowledge and wisdom, but at least now the distance between them and me seems a bit shorter.