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Matthieu Ricard on Happiness

Matthieu Ricard brilliantly weaves together his scientific training with his spiritual leanings to bring us 'Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill'.

If you've ever wondered what a person with a PHD in molecular genetics does when he grows up, how about: becomes a Tibetan Buddhist, a world renowned photographer, and dubbed the "happiest person in the world" by popular media.

That's the correct answer if you are talking about author Matthieu Ricard. Those different interests may seem an unlikely combination when you first hear it, but once you learn more about Matthieu and his work, it seems perfectly normal.

Ricard's 'Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill' is one of the rare self help books that illustrate how well western thought marries together with eastern philosophy.

Ricard begins the journey to happiness by laying down basic ground rules required if you aim to acquire authentic happiness:

  1. In order to discover how to be happy he states you must understand what happiness is. And... what happiness is, is a way of interpreting the world.

  2. Your happiness is an inside job.., it's your mind that can make it or break it.

  3. Your key to happiness can be acquired through introspection and contemplation. This can include mind training and meditation

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Then he goes about fleshing out these ideas and offering you exercises to strengthen inner conditions that are pivotal for happiness. He guides you to form new patterns of thought that integrate you with the larger world.

Matthieu Ricard uses this step by step approach through more than 25 chapters, offering insight and pointing out stumbling blocks on topics such as:

  • Sadness due to thoughts rather than events - for example; in times of war (difficult events), suicide (related to sadness) often declines
  • Emotions and how to manage them - the Author delves into 3 ways to manage emotions:

    1. Counteract them with the opposite emotion

    2. Realize there is no substance to the emotion and release it

    3. Look at the way you identify and cling to an emotion, and find a positive way to use that negative emotion
  • Altruism - learn to extend your sense of belonging to all beings
  • Humility versus Pride
  • Optimism and Pessimism
  • Time - be aware of how precious your time of consciousness on earth is and imbue every moment of existence with value

Not only has Matthieu written one of the most richly informative keys to happiness books, but his poetic delivery is also wonderful. The author paints great pictures through the use of metaphors to illustrate his concepts. These assist in clarifying the material, as well as making it so very enjoyable to read.

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