Matthieu Ricard on Happiness

What is happiness, and how can we achieve it?

Happiness can’t be reduced to a few agreeable sensations. Rather, it is a way of being and of experiencing the world—a profound fulfillment that suffuses every moment and endures despite inevitable setbacks.

Thus spake Matthieu Ricard in an article on happiness in Yes Magazing. He talks about basic meditation.

It is not difficult to begin. You just have to sit from time to time, turn your mind within, and let your thoughts calm down. Focus your attention on a chosen object. It can be an object in your room, your breath, or your own mind. Inevitably, your mind will wander as you do this. Each time it does, gently bring it back to the object of concentration, like a butterfly that returns again and again to a flower.

In the freshness of the present moment, past is gone, future is not yet born, and—if one remains in pure mindfulness and freedom—disturbing thoughts arise and go without leaving a trace. That is basic meditation.

Compassion is a by-product of meditation. Which is why compassion is at the core of Indic philosophy. Ricard puts it thus:

But meditation also means to cultivate basic human qualities, such as attention and compassion, and new ways of experiencing the world. What really matters is that a person gradually changes. Over months and years, we become less impatient, less prone to anger, less torn between hopes and fears. It becomes inconceivable to willingly harm another person. We develop a propensity toward altruistic behavior and the cluster of qualities that give us the resources to deal with the ups and downs of life.

Go read the full article.

I am pleased to report that I met Matthieu one evening in Berkeley about ten years ago. I recognized a fellow traveler and a remarkable human being.

Here’s Matthieu at TED taking about “the habits of happiness.”

What I especially like is his sense of humor and his acute sense of the absurd. Pay close attention to that when watching the video. And now stop wasting time and go listen to the man.