March 20 2020

International Day of Happiness: Cultivating altruism

Today we celebrate together the International Day of Happiness. In these difficult and exceptional times, our thoughts go especially to the people who are suffering and to the medical personnel who are more than ever mobilized in this unprecedented fight. Let us remember that one of our freedoms and riches is this precious existence that animates us. Let us rejoice if this is the case and address our compassionate thoughts to those who are suffering. More than ever, inspired by Matthieu Ricard, we carry the message of altruistic love loud and clear.

The Karuna-Shechen team

Happiness is difficult to define, but it is nevertheless a goal, a quest for all sentient beings of this world. Matthieu Ricard expresses it well: “Who wants to suffer? Who wakes up in the morning wishing: “May I feel bad about myself all day long! » ?”.

What is Happiness?

“Happiness is an acquired state of plenitude underlying every moment of existence and which lasts through the inevitable ups and downs that mark it out. (…). It is also a state of wisdom, free from mental poisons, and of knowledge, free from blindness to the true nature of things.” – Matthieu Ricard, Happiness : A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill

Happiness is above all a state of mind. It is the state of mind that experiences every moment of our existence, that perceives things, creates emotions and our responses: thoughts, words or deeds. Depending on our mind, we will therefore (re)act towards happiness or towards suffering. Happiness is therefore defined by a certain vision of reality: a clear-sighted mind that sees things as they are, without altering appearances. Wisdom” is the term that corresponds to this state where the mind is trained to benevolence, emotional balance, freedom and inner peace.

Moreover, it is important not to confuse happiness with euphoria or pleasure. While happiness is a state of lasting inner well-being, pleasure is linked to external actions in most cases and represents a very ephemeral semblance of “well-being”.

Fortunately, by nature, the mind is not fixed and immutable, we make it evolve, consciously or not, throughout our existence. It is possible to regain control over our mind, by training it. Neuroscience has also linked the plasticity of the human brain to “training the mind to develop greater compassion, inner peace and awareness of the world around us. Thus, we have the power to transform the way we perceive reality in order to achieve our own happiness and that of others. By training the mind, we cultivate happiness.

Meditation to cultivate Happiness

Training the mind is the very definition of meditation – getting familiar with our mind – and opens us to a better understanding of our mind and reality. One approach is to recognize the interdependence between self and others. Our happiness is the happiness of others. In the Buddhist sense, altruistic love is defined as “the wish that all beings can find happiness and the causes of happiness”, and compassion as “the wish that all beings are free from suffering and the causes of suffering”. Altruism and happiness are therefore inseparable!

In his book The Art of Meditation, Matthieu Ricard invites us to meditate on altruistic love, to cultivate our own happiness and that of others.

Let us imagine a young child who comes close to us and looks at us joyful, confident and full of innocence.

Contemplating him with tenderness and taking him in our arms, we feel unconditional love and kindness. Let us allow ourselves to be fully imbued by this love which wants nothing but the good of this child. Let us remain for a few moments in full awareness of this love, without any other thought.

We can also choose any other person towards whom we feel great tenderness and deep gratitude, our mother for example.

Let us wish wholeheartedly that she finds happiness and the causes of happiness, then let us extend this thought to all those who are close to us, then to those whom we know less, then gradually to all beings. Let us thus embrace all beings in a feeling of unlimited love.

We can all act for this happiness

in addition to meditation, reading inspiring authors such as Matthieu Ricardhis master’s or his friends Christophe André and Alexandre Jolien can help us on our personal journey. We must also practice altruism in our daily lives. Let’s start by applying it for ourselves and our loved ones, before extending it more widely to all sentient beings.

Altruism is the value that guides Karuna-Shechen’s actions. For 20 years, inspired by Matthieu Ricard, we have been providing vulnerable populations in India and Nepal with sustainable solutions that promote their empowerment and fulfilment. We find our motivation in the world around us, the smiles, the nature…

These actions, made possible by the expression of your altruism, take on their full meaning when those we help share their happiness with us! Memsang Ghalan, a 12-year-old student in a school supported by Karuna-Shechen says it very well:

“I like to dance. I feel so free and happy when I dance. I feel like a bird that flies wherever it wants to go.”

Karuna-Shechen supports the girl’s school and develops extra-curricular activities there, promoting local culture and in line with the students’ aspirations. Helping each child to have access to quality education is also a tool to develop their development and cultivate happiness.

Together, let’s continue to put our altruism into action and cultivate happiness!