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The Monk and the Philosopher. Jean-Francois Revel and Matthieu Ricard.

This is remarkable dialogue between J.F Revel, an influential philosopher and political commentator who left academia to become a writer, and his son, Matthieu Ricard, a scientist-turned-monk. Despite having a very promising career in science, Matthieu decided to study with a Tibetan Master exiled in Darjeeling. It is quite clear that Jean-Francois is genuinely very curious to understand what drew his son to make such a profound change to his life.

So despite having taken such very different paths, their interest in and respect for each other’s world view culminated in a series of conversations in 1996 which were then published as this book. What makes it so interesting to read is that not only is Jean-Francois questioning in a way which enables Matthieu to elaborate on the very essence of Buddhism, but that he is able to do it within the context and framework of a Jean-Francois’ deep understanding and knowledge of Western Philosophy.

Contributed by Barbara

 

Why do we meditate at all?

Every so often I ask myself this question. Asking the question seems to be a source of motivation and keeps the practice of meditation fresh and alive. The answers have varied and developed over time. Here is my latest offering:

We meditate to gather and calm the mind in order to see clearly what is happening.

As humans we are in the habit of reacting to the conditions of life with craving, aversion and confusion. As a reaction to life’s inevitable pain these are failed strategies that simply serve to exacerbate our discomfort. Meditation is a practice that cultivates a way of being that is at ease with things as they are.

In meditation we therefore cultivate a capacity to be with experience as it is without the familiar and well worn tracks of reactivity that we have habitually cultivated over the years. It is an experiential training in letting go.

When we are less driven by reactivity we can respond with a greater freedom. From moment to moment we develop the capacity and ability to respond more appropriately (“wisdom”) and with qualities of empathy (“compassion”) to whatever arises.

Meditation enables an enduring well-being and a sustainable happiness that is not dependent upon self-construction, external conditions or endless consumption. Instead we are increasingly able to lean into life’s radical impermanence with nobility.

Contributed by Mike