Spirituality and Life Philosophy 3

By Matthieu Ricard on March 28, 2013

During the conference on ‟Change Yourself, Change the World”, organized by Emergences in Brussels last September, Pierre Rabhi, a French thinker and pioneer in organic farming, and Matthieu Ricard discussed their views on life. Here is a selection of their answers to questions from this dialogue. You can find photos of these talks in a documentary on Pierre Rabhi that is part of the ‟Empreintes” TV series (available in French to be aired by France 5 in the beginning of 2013.

Forgetting the Elderly

Matthieu : I am staggered by the way Westerners treat the elderly. In Europe, 40% of old people live alone. I am shocked to see that in the West, grandparents are often abandoned in nursing homes when their role should be to give children their love and support. In Tibetan culture, grandparents are very important. They are the ones who give love and pass down their wisdom to children whose parents are often too busy working.

Pierre : Abandoning the elderly is just as unimaginable in my own culture. Grandmothers fed us, took care of us, loved us. In return to put them in nursing homes where all they have to do is watch time go by until their end comes is horrible. And to think that we have so much to gain by sharing with them! When something is important to you, you want to pass it on to those around you. If we care about the world, we should also care about the children we leave to the world.

Action in the Face of Violence :

Matthieu : We must break this vicious cycle of revenge. The Buddha said that ‟if hate begets hate, then hate will never end.” On the other hand, as Martin Luther King explained, the passivity of good people is just as bad as the actions of the bad. However, hate and greed are, in reality, only illnesses. They are not permanent and are not inherent to our true nature. This is actually what makes the death penalty inadmissible: it renders any transformation impossible.
I sometimes hear people say that we can't love everyone, but look at the sun: it shines for us all. Some people get more warmth from it because they are closer, but not at others' expense because we all enjoy its rays. Our own happiness depends on the happiness of others, we cannot be happy at the cost of others' unhappiness. Selfish happiness is a recipe for failure. At my own humble level, I often draw strength in my hermitage in order to be as human as possible and to be able to serve others.

Pierre : I have often felt angry, wanting to rebel, but have never resorted to violence. In the choice between fighting with bombs and fighting using compost, which nourishes and maintains life, I have chosen compost! I practice organic farming for the future generations, for the world. The land is what ties me to people. The land is my mother, she nourishes me, and, as her son, I nourish her in return. She is also like my wife in the love that I have for her.
I am also fighting to support the existence of small stores and markets. They help keep the ties between people; supermarkets only produce robots pushing carts. I am tolerant regarding human beings. I feel that we all need to follow our own paths, that we all have our own conscience to uphold us, and I do not wish to judge anyone.

Excerpts from scenes taken by Vincent Feragus for a documentary that is part of the ‟Empreintes” collection (available in French), edited by Pascal Greboval and Lucile Vannier.