October 1, 2006

Seeking Happiness

I have writen on the topic of happiness some time back, but this week I picked up a really interesting book at the library - Happiness - A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill by Matthieu Ricard. I'll read the book soon but reading the book flap and praise for the book by others made me want to blog about it.

Matthieu Ricard, is son of the famous French philosopher,
Jean-François Revel (who died earlier this year) & Yahne Le Toumelin, a contemparary French painter and later Buddhist nun herself. After or while completing his Ph.D. at the Institut Pasteur under the Nobel laureate, Francois Jacob, in the then upcoming field of molecular genetics, Matthieu undertooktook a trip to India in 1967, which changed the course of his life, leading him to "a future in which seeking inner happiness took precedence over all other pursuits." Since then, for the past 35 years, he has spent his life residing at the Shechen monastery near Kathmandu in Nepal as a Buddhist monk, working on various humanitarian projects in Tibet and Nepal.

Here is an excerpt from the book flap:
"In the book, 'he makes a passionate case for happiness as a goal that deserves at least as much energy as any other in our lives. Wealth? Fitness? Career success? How can we possibly place these above true and last well-being? Drawing from works of fiction and poetry, contemporary Western philosophy, Buddhist thought, current psychological and scientific research, and personal experience, Ricard weaves an inspirational and forward-looking account of how we can begin to rethink our realities in a fast-moving modern world."
A chapter excerpt can be read here. And here are some gems from blurbs with praise for the book!
"Happiness is to be found in controlling the mind, not circumstances." - Daniel Kahneman, Princeton University, winner of Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002 for "having integrated insights from psychological research into economic science, especially concerning human judgment and decision-making under uncertainty." (Aside: read this interview with Kahneman)

You may not find happiness in a book, but if reading a book can precipitate a tectonic shift in your life and mind toward robust, genuine, deeply rooted happiness, this would be the book." - Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Coming to our senses

how preoccupation with the self leads to the detrimental urges, thoughts, and feelings that present barriers to genuine liberation." - Aaron Beck, MD, author of Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders, 1976.

..to change the individual is also, ultimately, to change the world." - George Soros

Wow.. me thinks much happiness may come by reading the book! I hope to update with a review of book after I read it... (Disclaimer: I've promised book reviews before and not delivered!)... but in the meantime read this review and reader's responses at the amazon.com link to the book. Better still - read the book itself! ;)

Per Wired magazine, in 2002 "Dr. Richard Davidson, director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin and a conference presenter, used an fMRI machine to map the brain of monk Matthieu Ricard. While Ricard, a monk with over 30 years' experience in contemplative practice, engaged in what Buddhists call compassion meditation, Davidson measured the activity in his brain. The pictures showed excessive activity in the left prefrontal cortex (just inside the forehead) of Ricard's brain."

Related Links:
  1. A blog post on The Art of Happiness by Vikram Karve
  2. Columns and articles by Matthieu Ricard via Beliefnet.com
  3. Mind Over Matter: At the Eighth Mind and Life Conference, the Dalai Lama and Western scientists debate the true nature of negative emotions
  4. State of Disunion: China's stranglehold onTibet tightens, even as dissenters in Beijing call for negotiation.
  5. Pilgrimage to the Diamond Throne: Tens of thousands of Buddhists recently traveled to Bodhgaya to hear the Dalai Lama speak on compassion.
  6. This book by Ricard's philosopher father may also make for interesting reading: The Monk and the Philosopher: A Father and Son Discuss the Meaning of Life by Jean-Francois Revel

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