Frédéric Lenoir is the author of fifty books (essays, novels, encyclopedias) translated into twenty languages, and sold seven million copies. He was even ranked in 2016 by the GFK institute as the French intellectual who sold the most books in the previous five years. Behind this journey hides a child who had the joy of growing up in the countryside in Essonne, surrounded by his three brothers and sisters, and his parents offering him an education marked by Catholicism. It was around the age of sixteen that the young boy, already very much in love with philosophy since reading the Banquet of Plato, begins to take an interest in Eastern spiritualities, as if to flee Catholic dogma and morality. Deeply marked by the first teachings of the Buddha – impermanence, interdependence and emptiness – he decided to draw inspiration from his ethics to build his life according to right thought, speech and conduct. "Much later, I got closer to that of Spinoza who introduced the notions of desire and joy", he specifies.
At nineteen, reading the Gospels represents a real shock auguring a turning point in his life. He then began studying philosophy in Friborg in Switzerland and tasted monastic life for a little over three years. His spiritual quest also led him to stay in India, notably in Dharamsala, where he learned to meditate with Tibetan monks. A few years later, having become an associate researcher at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, he completed a doctoral thesis on Buddhism and the West. He says that the great detonator to begin it undoubtedly came from the British historian Arnold Toynbee who, to the question "What is, according to you, on the scale of the history of civilizations, the most important event of the XXth century ? replied: “The meeting of Buddhism and the West”, without explaining why. Frédéric Lenoir will endeavor to explain that Buddhism, based on a universal rationality, is, in Eastern thought, what is closest to Western thought.
At the crossroads of three great wisdoms
In his book Socrates, Jesus, Buddha, the sociologist of religions tells how these three historical figures became his main masters of life. Socrates first introduced him to philosophy, Buddha to a spiritual practice and a wisdom of life, and Jesus to a mystique of love. By their complementarity, these three great spiritual paths deeply nourished his inner quest. A quest that has led him to practice meditation for over thirty-five years. “Meditating helps me distance myself from my emotions and achieve greater detachment in life,” he says. In 2018, he published Meditate with open hearts, a book accompanied by guided meditations with or without music, in which he introduces the notion of universal love. The prolific author and outstanding lecturer also ran the magazine for nine years The World of Religions and produced for seven years the show The Roots of Heaven on France culture.
“Meditating helps me distance myself from my emotions and achieve greater detachment in life”
Since 2016, Frédéric Lenoir has offered the practice of meditation to children by secularizing it, through its SEVE Foundation (Knowing how to be and living together). He thinks it is important to educate the younger generations in discernment and responsibility. With this in mind, the foundation, which to date has already trained 4000 facilitators, teachers and non-teachers, organizes mediation and philosophy workshops with children in schools in France and other French-speaking countries. “Philosophy leads them to ask themselves the right questions while creating a collective thought. And meditation offers a time of full presence, during which they are invited to let go of the mind. Being present to their body, to their breathing, to their feelings, calms them down and allows them to be much more receptive to lessons,” stresses Frédéric Lenoir, who is convinced that the key to changing the world is education.