Matthieu Ricard: 2019, a year dedicated to altruism

- through Francois Leclercq

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Effective selflessness is central to Buddhist teachings. Our whole life is concerned with altruism. In our relationships with others, with nature, with animals; in terms of ethics, science, education… Contemplative paths like Buddhism try to help bring something beneficial to society. It is in this sense that the Dalai Lama advocates compassion and secular ethics.

As a meditator, I have participated for twenty years in research programs with scientists, which prove the impact of meditation on the brain. The structural and functional changes it induces show that it is possible to develop altruism and prosocial behavior in people, reduce stress, strengthen emotional balance and the immune system, and increase attention. The Silver-Santé research program, based in Caen, has also highlighted the benefits of meditation on aging. A pilot study found that a group of seasoned meditators over the age of 65 had significantly "younger" brains, structurally and metabolically, than the average population of the same age.

How to cultivate altruism in our individualistic societies?

This question keeps coming back. Many feel the need without knowing how to go about it. In reality, everyday life is full of opportunities to practice altruism et kindness. Each relationship with others, with animals, with nature should lead us to adopt non-violent, altruistic and benevolent behaviors. It is also possible to show generosity, to your extent, to NGOs, to relatives, to those who are in need. We must also appreciate the “banality of good”, the fact that apart from certain barbaric and aberrant behaviors, most of the time, a majority of the seven billion human beings behave decently towards each other.

On a personal basis, outside of my daily practice, I donate all of my income, copyrights, conferences, photographs, etc. to the humanitarian projects of the organization we created, Karuna-Shechen. As a monk, I have no house, land or car, and my favorite mantra is “I don't need anything”. Karuna-Shechen's first project was a clinic in Kathmandu. It now treats more than 40 patients annually. It was then a school, and very quickly, in twenty years, the projects multiplied. Today, we have carried out more than 000, in India, Nepal and Tibet, and help 300 people each year. I have considerably reduced my public activities, but hope with all my heart that this beautiful work can continue to benefit as many people as possible over the years, especially within a foundation that we are in the process of creating.

The absolute necessity of promoting altruism in our societies

Buddhism and experimental psychology have confirmed the existence of altruism and kindness to human beings. We now need to promote altruism in our societies. We are still at the beginning, but this capacity must be cultivated, because it is fundamental for the future of the planet and the fate of the generations to come.

“Becoming better human beings is the greatest adventure we can take. »

There are encouraging signs. In 2017, in his opening speech, the founder of the World Economic Forum in Davos placed the meeting under the sign of compassion and cooperation. I have been invited to talk about the nature of consciousness with scientists and philosophers. Did this impact the decision-makers who were present? I don't know. I obviously hope so, but a fatal inertia reigns in politics. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, confessed: “We politicians know very well what to do. But what we don't know is how to be re-elected if we do! As we can see, altruism and wisdom in politics, in economics, are essential to move the lines.

Becoming better human beings is the greatest adventure we can take. Without this, we will not be able to establish a lasting harmony; we will not be able to live in harmony with others and with the planet. I hope that we will rise to this challenge and that the 2019st century will be the century of altruism. As Victor Hugo wrote: “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come”. I wish you a happy new year XNUMX and may altruism reign in your hearts!

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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