Bhutan, a tiny landlocked country at the eastern end of the Himalayas, measures prosperity not by the pace of its economic growth but by the level of happiness of its people.
But how does one achieve happiness?
A well-known and deeply respected spiritual teacher from that remote kingdom came to Hong Kong last week to give a seminar on the subject.
His Eminence the Ninth Gyalwa Dokhampa, also known as Khamtrul Rinpoche Jigme Pema Nyinjadh, believes that meditation holds the key to achieving a restful mind, and therefore, peace and happiness.
“Everyone in Bhutan is aware of the fact that they don’t exist as individuals, so they would express their love to the people around them,” says Nyinjadh.
“Villagers would come by and take care of the elderly lady who lives alone in the village, for instance.”
In Bhutan, 90 percent of the people practice Buddhist teachings while the remaining 10 percent follow Hinduism.
Bhutanese people believe in karma and its principle of causality; they look before they leap.
Does that mean Bhutan is crime-free?
“The crime rate remains low but it used to be non-existent. There might be only one isolated case in two decades,” says Nyinjadh.
Thanks to the internet and foreign television channels, Bhutan households can now access information from around the world.
“Advertisements keep promoting the idea that you are not good enough, your skin is not good, your car is no good, and you should do more shopping,” he says. “People start to do more comparisons between themselves and others.”
Then how is Hong Kong in the eyes of the spiritual master?
“In the Asian financial hub, people in general live under lots of pressure. Parents overwhelm their children,” Nyinjadh observes.
“However, there are many ways to succeed and it need not be achieved through academic excellence.
“The same applies to relationships. When one ends, another one will come. If you give up on life, opportunities will all be gone.”
In his latest publication, The Restful Mind, Nyinjadh says technology is a source of anxiety, making the mind of a modern person restless.
Nyinjadh is not advocating for people to stay off the internet to achieve a carefree mind.
He himself owns a smartphone and a tablet, but he strongly advises people to use them wisely and not to get addicted to such devices.
Once you get addicted to something, be it the internet, a relationship or food, it becomes something bad, he warns.
How should we avoid getting trapped into addictions?
“First you have to admit it. For example, if you look for your Facebook as soon as you wake up, that’s addiction for sure. You shouldn’t be too concerned over the number of ‘likes’ you have.
“If you care too much about what others think of you, you become a follower and you lose control over your own life.”
Nyinjadh believes that people shouldn’t over-think about what may happen and should instead focus on the present.
People can try to do breathing exercises or meditation to achieve a restful mind.
Take in the positivity around you with the deep breaths and release the negative thoughts along with the air you exhale. Such a simple exercise can instantly put the anxious soul at ease, he says.
The best time for meditation is in the morning. Take a seat at a place where you can see the sky.
Start off by spending 10 minutes on meditation each day, and increase it to 20 or 30 minutes after three or four months of practice.
Posture is quite important.
First, cross your legs and bend the left leg until the sole rests on the inside of the right thigh. Keep the back upright. Relax both shoulders. Tilt the neck slightly forward.
Keep your eyes gazing at the floor about a meter in front of you.
Open your month slightly and keep the tongue tip in touch with the upper palate.
Then rest both palms together on the legs, where the right palm is placed on top of the left and two thumbs touching each other.
After getting the posture right, you can start imagining that there’s a cloudy pond in front of you.
Wait patiently until the pond becomes calm and clear with the sand and mud settling at bottom.
“It applies to our hearts. You can only start to understand it when it is at rest,” says Nyinjadh.
The master regards expectation as the greatest source of fear and anxiety. People look at the future and hope their dreams can come true.
But when their dreams are achieved, they start to be afraid because they fear they might lose what they already have.
How should people overcome the fear of being alone?
“Best to transfer the fear into an energy for caring for others, and then people will care for you, too,” Nyinjadh advises.
“Media often describe aloneness as bad. But aloneness also means you can exercise your freedom. Whether it is good or bad depends on how you perceive it.”
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 13.
Translation by Darlie Yiu
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