MATTHIEU RICARD who is often called the world’s happiest man was recently interviewed by the New York Times on his views about happiness, compassion, and delusion. REENA SINGH gives us a glimpse into his thoughts

After spending years with the Dalai Lama, an infectious bundle of laughter, himself, is it any wonder that his French interpreter, Matthieu Ricard, who spends hours with His Holiness, the fourteenth Dalai Lama, should himself be termed as the world’s happiest man?

How did this come about? It wasn’t a term coined by the Dalai Lama, but by the media when results of an experiment performed at the University of Wisconsin found that Matthieu Ricard’s brain produced an excess of gamma waves – those waves that are usually linked to learning, attention and memory. As a result, and much to his surprise, he got to be termed as the ‘world’s happiest man’, a phrase that often reduces this PhD in cellular genetics-turned-monk, into good-natured laughter.

Here are some of his views published in the NYT weekend magazine:

We cannot know the level of happiness through neuroscience. It’s a good title for journalists to use, but I cannot get rid of it. Maybe on my tomb, it will say, “Here lies the happiest person in the world.”

14th Dalai Lama

Anyway, I enjoy every moment of life, but of course there are moments of extreme sadness — especially when you see so much suffering. But this should kindle your compassion, and if it kindles your compassion, you go to a stronger, healthier, more meaningful way of being. That’s what I call happiness. It’s not as if all the time you jump for joy. Happiness is more like your baseline. It’s where you come to after the ups and downs, the joy and sorrows. We perceive even more intensely — bad taste, seeing someone suffer — but we keep this sense of the depth. That’s what meditation brings.

He also quoted the wisest thing ever that the Dalai Lama said to him:

“In the beginning, meditate on compassion; in the middle, meditate on compassion; in the end, meditate on compassion.”

Reproduced below, are some more of his witty and thoughtful sayings:

Compassion is to remedy suffering wherever it is, whatever form it takes and whoever causes it.

Reena Singh

Delusion is a cause of suffering. If you could get rid of that, that will alleviate suffering in many forms.

The interviewer asked him what he can suggest to people that might be helpful to them as they go through life’s challenges. Here’s his reply: 

If you can, as much as possible, cultivate that quality of human warmth, wanting genuinely for other people to be happy; that’s the best way to fulfil your own happiness. This is also the most gratifying state of mind. Those guys who believe in selfishness and say, “You do that because you feel good about it” — this is so stupid. Because if you help others but you don’t care a damn, then you won’t feel anything! Wanting to separate doing something for others from feeling good yourself is like trying to make a flame that burns with light but no warmth. 

Reena Singh has more than 39 years’ experience in senior editorial positions in The Times of India (TOI) and Genpact. She was Deputy Editor with TOI’s spiritual newspaper, The Speaking Tree, where she spent more than nine years.

Featured Image: Matthieu Ricard (Photo courtesy: Wikipedia/Jon Schmidt)

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