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Lions Roar : July 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2008 85 Evaluating Eckhart A NEW EARTH Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose By Eckhart Tolle Penguin, 2008; 313 pp., $14 (paper) THE JOY OF LIVING Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness By Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche Harmony Books, 2007; 272 pp., $13.95 (paper) REVIEWED BY GAYLON FERGUSON REVIEWS OLD KIPLING WAS CLEARLY WRONG. I mean, of course, Rudyard Kipling, the Victorian poet and novelist who famously wrote: “East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” Globalization, with its constant, whizzing, cross- cultural flows of people, ideas, and material goods, has rendered that statement nonsense. Consider these two books—one by a young Tibetan Buddhist meditation master, and the other by a German- born, English-educated popular spiritual teacher—as further evidence of the intertwining of Eastern and Western cultures. Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche was born in Nepal in 1975, the youngest son of the renowned Dzogchen master Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. Mingyur Rinpoche’s brothers, Tsokyni Rinpoche and Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, are both well-known in the West as Buddhist teachers. Mingyur himself was recognized as a tulku, a reincarnate lama, and formally enthroned shortly before his twelfth birthday as the compassionate rebirth of the first Yongey Mingyur. One of the most charming aspects of The Joy of Living is the frank recounting of the ups and downs of his early years learn- ing the traditional practices of Tibetan Buddhism. He trained diligently, first with his grandfather and later with his father, and then during a lengthy retreat in India he entered at the age of thir- teen. “I’d like to say that everything got better once I was safely settled among the other participants in the three-year retreat at Sherab Ling,” he writes. “On the contrary, however, my first year in retreat was one of the worst in my life. All the symptoms of anxiety I’d ever experienced—physical tension, tightness in the throat, dizziness, and waves of panic—attacked in full force. In Western terms, I was having a nervous breakdown. In hindsight, I can say that what I was actually going through was what I like to call a ‘nervous breakthrough.’ ” This breakthrough was so successful that, at the end of three years, Mingyur Rinpoche’s teacher appointed him the medita- tion master for the next retreat. As he notes with confident hu- mility, “From that point on, I haven’t experienced a single panic attack. ... I take no personal credit for this transformation in my experience, because it has only come about through making the effort to apply directly the truth handed down by those who’d preceded me.” He directly connects his transformative experi- ence with the tradition of spiritual practices handed down in an unbroken lineage for centuries. Mingyur Rinpoche’s thorough grounding in tradition began when he was a child, as did his encounter with Western neuro- science. Francisco Varela, the Chilean biologist, traveled to Ne- pal in the 1980s to study Buddhist teachings and meditation with Mingyur Rinpoche’s father. When they weren’t studying or practicing, Varela began instructing the young Mingyur in modern scientific views. Other Western students visiting Nepal also began informally tutoring him in physics, chemistry, biol- ogy, and psychology, and this led to a lifelong interest in the ongoing conversations between Western scientists and Buddhist practitioners. Mingyur Rinpoche tells the story of his delight and interest in the talks given at the two Mind and Life Institute conferences he attended in 2000 and 2003. These dialogues with, Eckhart Tolle discusses A New Earth on Oprah Winfrey’s online book class. More than ten million people have watched or downloaded the webcasts. JULY 78-99.indd 85 JULY 78-99.indd 85 4/25/08 12:05:19 PM 4/25/08 12:05:19 PM