It is strange and unnatural to write your memoirs when you have devoted a large part of your life to turning away from a self-centered vision and individualism. I have always had altruistic love as a horizon, and ego could not lead to it. That is why this text is less an autobiography in the traditional sense than the testimony of a life inspired at every moment by the spiritual masters I have met.

The book of a lifetime

At the age of 21, Matthieu Ricard, then a researcher in genetics at the Pasteur Institute, gave up everything to live in the Himalayas. His life follows the course of meditative retreats in the most inaccessible places and fascinating journeys in the footsteps of his teachers. Thirty years later, the unexpected international success of the book The Monk and the Philosopher, co-written with his father, the philosopher Jean-François Revel, plunged the peaceful monk into a maelstrom of conferences around the world. He then put his work as an author and his talent as a photographer at the service of his message of altruistic love and his humanitarian commitment. Since the beginning, he has dedicated all of the income from his activities to Karuna-Shechen.

Today, Matthieu Ricard presents his new book, Carnets d’un moine errant, published by Éditions Allary. In it, he recounts the life of a wandering monk, in the original sense of the word – to wander, from the Latin iterare, meaning to walk, to travel, to be in search. He thus walks without material or geographical attachment, always on the way to self-actualization and the well-being of others. The book looks back at Matthieu Ricard’s life journey, from his discovery of the scientific world to the inspiring encounters that changed the course of his life. Initially trained as a scientist, he chose to follow his instincts, which led him to the Tibetan summits, where he exchanged with spiritual masters. This hermitage proved to be a rebirth for Matthieu Ricard, marking his projects and reflections for the years to come.

Matthieu Ricard and Altruism

Throughout these pages, Matthieu Ricard reveals his vision of altruism, and how he committed himself to putting this value into practice by creating Karuna-Shechen in 2000. For Matthieu, altruism is not necessarily limited to our loved ones or to the human species, but must extend to all living beings and to nature. It is also “the only concept that naturally links these three time scales – short, medium and long term – and harmonizes their requirements.” To achieve an altruistic approach to daily life, one must first demonstrate empathy, i.e. enter into resonance with the other, and then transform the emotion felt into compassion in a benevolent manner. This approach leads to meaningful actions that are more inclusive of the needs and feelings of the beneficiaries.

To better understand Matthieu Ricard’s vision of altruism, see our About page or our Engage page to watch the video created with Minimento