The World’s Happiest Man Is a Tibetan Monk | Smart News | Smithsonian
Current Issue
October 2014 magazine cover
Subscribe

Save 81% off the newsstand price!

Keeping you current

The World’s Happiest Man Is a Tibetan Monk

Matthieu Ricard, a 66-year old Tibetan monk and geneticist, produces brain gamma waves never before reported in neuroscience

smithsonian.com

Matthieu Ricard, the world’s happiest man. Photo: François à L’Imprévu

Matthieu Ricard, a 66-year old Tibetan monk and geneticist, produces brain gamma waves—linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory—never before reported in neuroscience, leading researchers to conclude that Ricard is the world’s happiest man. The secret to his success in achieving bliss? Meditation, he claims.

Meditating is like lifting weights or exercising for the mind, Ricard told the Daily News. Anyone can be happy by simply training their brain, he says.

To quantify just how happy Ricard is, neuroscientists at the University of Wisconsin attached 256 sensors to the monk’s skull. When he meditated on compassion, the researchers were shocked to see that Ricard’s brian produces a level of gamma waves off the charts. He also demonstrated excessive activity in his brain’s left prefrontal cortex compared to its right counterpart, meaning he has an abnormally large capacity for happiness and a reduced propensity towards negativity, the researchers say.

During the same study, the neuroscientists also peeked into the minds of other monks. They found that long-term practitioners—those who have engaged in more than 50,000 rounds of meditation—showed significant changes in their brain function, although that those with only three weeks of 20-minute meditation per day also demonstrated some change.

To spread the word on achieving happiness and enlightenment, Ricard authored Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill. Proceeds from the book go towards over 100 humanitarian projects.

“Try sincerely to check, to investigate,” he explained to the Daily News. “That’s what Buddhism has been trying to unravel — the mechanism of happiness and suffering. It is a science of the mind.”

More from Smithsonian.com:

We Have No Idea What Makes Us Happy 
Murder in Tibet’s High Places 

Tags

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus