Christophe Richard: “Spirituality makes it possible to give meaning to our world. »

- through Sophie Solere

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In a time when everything is going very fast, what can a spiritual practice bring? Christophe Richard, an early Buddhist practitioner and professor of philosophy, explains the benefits of kindness, patience and listening. And, how does spirituality differ from religion, philosophy or personal development.

How do you define spirituality?

It is all about the life of the spirit. Specifically self-improvement by directing one's mind rather than being controlled by it. There is a world for bees, one for ants, one for sperm whales, yet another for humans. And, within each species, each has its own world. One can modify the latter by transforming his mind. That doesn't mean that the tangible things aren't there, but that I can change the way I welcome them, feel them, live them, because that's up to me. I can lose my son, but it's not up to me. On the other hand, my attitude towards this event will depend only on me. This is what spirituality teaches me, whatever form it takes. Religions do not have a monopoly on spirituality.

How can meditation change our way of perceiving the world?

Meditation brings together all the practices on the mind that allow us to modify our way of perceiving existence. It is not exercised only while sitting – we do it at first to get used to it -, but in all the postures and moments of daily life. Most of the time, our mind is conditioned by a whole host of biological, historical, social, family, psychological factors... We experience the mental and we forget that we can have a hold on it, even if it may take years of practice. Working on the mind helps to develop patience, compassion, benevolence. Intention is not enough. There are many techniques that promote this learning; if we practice them as often as possible in the street, at work, when we are with the family, our mind ends up getting used to generating these positive emotions and it becomes more and more easy and spontaneous.

Why is the transmission by a competent person, a master, a guide, important to succeed in conditioning our mind?

There are a multitude of practices. Buddhist texts say there are 84 different ones, a symbolic number. Some were developed by Buddha, others by sages depending on their environment and the era in which they were teaching. The benefit of having a spiritual guide, is that he knows us well and chooses what is most suitable for us. He is an adviser, a good friend.

To aim for happiness, should we focus on the essentials?

For Buddhists, following the path of the Buddha allows them to stop identifying with moral suffering and physical pain, and to gradually put an end to the cycle of rebirths. For my part, as I do not believe in the latter, I find it exciting to try to improve myself.

“The advantage of having a spiritual guide is that he knows us well and chooses what is most suitable for us. He is an adviser, a good friend. »

I start from the principle that my life has no meaning, no pre-established direction. This is why I give him the spiritual direction of my choice. Of course, I set goals for myself, like learning to control the mind, but you also have to know, at times, to stop wanting to obtain anything. A Japanese Zen expression says that one must act “without purpose or idea of ​​profit”. It is a tremendous openness to what is. It has to do with the notion of emptiness, with the fact that nothing exists in and of itself, and with the reality of impermanence.

In your opinion, do personal and spiritual development differ?

Personal development is beneficial when you want to do yourself good to get out of unhappiness. Everything is dissatisfaction: that was the Buddha's starting point. At the beginning, our approach is personal and turned towards oneself, then very quickly, we understand that being well implies that others, our loved ones in particular, are also well. Under these conditions, personal development can lead to spiritual development. Provided you follow an authentic path. Personally, for example, I prefer to engage with guides who have received a centuries-old transmission, because it seems to me more solid, more serious and safer. And, I have the feeling of wasting less time and energy.

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Sophie Solere

Sophie Solère is an economic and social journalist who has been interested for years in the environment and interdependence. She works for Buddhist News, a media platform dedicated to Buddhist spirituality and wisdom. By practicing yoga and meditative dance, Sophie discovered the power of spiritual journeys, which offer so many paths to (re)find yourself. She is dedicated to sharing inspiring stories and valuable advice on spiritual practice and the environment with Buddhist News readers.

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