In Memoriam: E. Gene Smith (1936-2010)

By Matthieu Ricard on December 18, 2010

It is with immense sadness that we heard of the untimely death of our dear friend and mentor Gene Smith. Gene was one of those luminaries that come once or twice in a century, unbelievably learned, entirely dedicated, entirely selfless. At any time in history, he would have stood as the perfect example of an authentic, consummate scho...

The (modified) Proust Questionnaire — 1

By Matthieu Ricard on December 14, 2010

From an interview recently published in the French press. ‟What are the underlying principles of practicing meditation?” • Give rise to an altruistic motivation: transforming oneself in order to alleviate others' suffering. • Try to savor the freshness of the present moment, without dwelling on the past or imagining the future....

What does Buddhism mean by "Enlightenment"?

By Matthieu Ricard on December 07, 2010

Enlightenment is a state of perfect knowledge or wisdom, combined with infinite compassion. Knowledge in this case does not mean merely the accumulation of data or a description of the world of phenomena down to the finest details.  Enlightenment is an understanding of both the relative mode of existence (the way in which things appear to us)...

Knowledge and Moral Values

By Matthieu Ricard on December 01, 2010

The mere accumulation of knowledge is not enough. My teacher, Khyentse Rinpoche said: ‟If you amass intellectual learning just so that you will be influential and famous, your state of mind is no different from that of a beggar sponging off the rich. Such knowledge will bring no advantage either to yourself or to others. As the proverb goes: ...

An Arch of Light

By Matthieu Ricard on November 25, 2010

It is not easy to photograph through the window of a commercial airplane, since one must go through a double plastic glass, with a lot of reflections and frequent scratches. It is nevertheless possible as shown on this image taken recently above the Gulf of Thailand. (Canon Mark III Ds, 70mm, 50 ASA)

Praise and Criticism

By Matthieu Ricard on November 19, 2010

Craving praise and fearing criticism, these only trouble our mind needlessly. Such concerns, each in their own way, promote and reinforce our vulnerability to others' opinions and remarks. We yearn for praise because it flatters our ego, and we dread criticism, which threatens it. However, craving and an inflated sense of self-importance ...

Each to his own reality

By Matthieu Ricard on November 13, 2010

Our perception of an object as desirable or undesirable doesn't reside in the object itself, but in the way we perceive it. There's no inherent quality in a beautiful object that does the mind any good, nor anything in an ugly object that might harm it. If human beings were to disappear, the phenomenal world wouldn't necessarily disappear alo...

Fulfilling our deepest aspirations

By Matthieu Ricard on November 08, 2010

What might best fulfill human needs? Science? Spirituality? Money? Power? Pleasure? No-one can answer such questions without also asking themselves what mankind aspires to most deeply, and what the very purpose of life might be. Buddhism's answer to that question is to point out that finally what we all seek in life is happiness. But it is im...

Peace through war?

By Matthieu Ricard on October 29, 2010

A few days ago, the International Herald Tribune ran a revealing front page article : ‟Hitting Taliban hard to encourage peace talks.”* The article reports that from June to September this year, U.S pilots dropped 2,100 bombs during airstrikes against Taliban insurgents, a 50 percent increase over the same period last year. This effort, orc...

Three Key Indicators: Gross Domestic Product, Life Satisfaction (‟Gross National Happiness”), and Environmental Quality

By Matthieu Ricard on October 24, 2010

Initially intended as a means to manage the 1929 economic crisis, The GDP can be used to measure only one aspect of the quality of life. The combined scientific, technological, and industrial revolution, which has grown since the 19th century, has led to an improvement of living conditions (a considerable increase in life expectancy, improved...