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Williamsburg Buddhist Meditation Group Message Board › Matthieu Ricard on the Habits of Happiness

Matthieu Ricard on the Habits of Happiness

Eva B.
Eva.B
Williamsburg, VA
Post #: 9
Click on this link to see the video: http://www.ted.com/ta...­

Here is the first part of the transcript (limited to 7500 characters by meetup). The video contains a link to the full transcript.

So, I guess it is a result of globalization that you can find Coca-Cola tins on top of Everest and a Buddhist monk in Monterey. (Laughter) And so I just came, two days ago, from the Himalayas to your kind invitation. So I would like to invite you, also, for a while, to the Himalayas themselves. And to show the place where meditators, like me, who began with being a molecular biologist in Pasteur Institute, and found their way to the mountains.
So these are a few images I was lucky to take and be there. There's the Mount Kailash in Eastern Tibet -- wonderful setting. This is from Marlboro country. (Laughter) This is a turquoise lake. A meditator. This is the hottest day of the year somewhere in Eastern Tibet, on August 1. And the night before, we camped, and my Tibetan friends said, "We are going to sleep outside." And I said, "Why? We have enough space in the tent." They said, "Yes, but it's summertime." (Laughter)

So now, we are going to speak of happiness. As a Frenchman, I must say that there are a lot of French intellectuals that think happiness is not at all interesting. (Laughter) I just wrote an essay on happiness, and there was a controversy. And someone wrote an article saying, "Don't impose on us the dirty work of happiness." (Laughter) "We don't care about being happy. We need to live with passion. We like the ups and downs of life. We like our suffering because it's so good when it ceases for a while." (Laughter)
This is what I see from the balcony of my hermitage in the Himalayas. It's about two meters by three, and you are all welcome any time. (Laughter)

Now, let's come to happiness or well-being. And first of all, you know, despite what the French intellectuals say, it seems that no one wakes up in the morning thinking, "May I suffer the whole day?" (Laughter) Which means that somehow -- consciously or not, directly or indirectly, in the short or the long term, whatever we do, whatever we hope, whatever we dream -- somehow, is related to a deep, profound desire for well-being or happiness. As Pascal said, even the one who hangs himself, somehow, is looking for cessation of suffering -- he finds no other way. But then, if you look in the literature, East and West, you can find incredible diversity of definition of happiness. Some people say, I only believed in remembering the past, imagining the future, never the present. Some people say happiness is right now; it's the quality of the freshness of the present moment. And that led to Henri Bergson, the French philosopher, to say, "All the great thinkers of humanity have left happiness in the vague so that they could define -- each of them could define their own terms."

Well, that would be fine if it was just a secondary preoccupation in life. But now, if it is something that is going to determine the quality of every instant of our life, then we better know what it is, have some clearer idea. And probably, the fact that we don't know that is why, so often, although we seek happiness, it seems we turn our back to it. Although we want to avoid suffering, it seems we are running somewhat towards it. And that can also come from some kind of confusions.

One of the most common ones is happiness and pleasure. But, if you look at the characteristics of those two, pleasure is contingent upon time, upon its object, upon the place. It is something that -- changes of nature. Beautiful chocolate cake: first serving is delicious, second one not so much, then we feel disgust. (Laughter) That's the nature of things. We get tired. I used to be a fan of Bach. I used to play it on the guitar, you know. I can hear it two, three, five times. If I had to hear it 24 hours, non-stop, it might be very tiring. If you are feeling very cold, you come near a fire, it's so wonderful. Then, after some moments, you just go a little back, and then it starts burning. It sort of uses itself as you experience it. And also, again, it can -- also, it's something that you -- it is not something that is radiating outside. Like, you can feel intense pleasure and some others around you can be suffering a lot.

Now, what, then, will be happiness? And happiness, of course, is such a vague word, so let's say well-being. And so, I think the best definition, according to the Buddhist view, is that well-being is not just a mere pleasurable sensation. It is a deep sense of serenity and fulfillment, a state that actually pervades and underlies all emotional states, and all the joys and sorrows that can come one's way. For you, that might be surprising. Can we have this kind of well-being while being sad? In a way, why not? Because we are speaking of a different level.

Look at the waves coming here to shore. When you are at the bottom of the wave, you hit the bottom. You hit the solid rock. When you are surfing on the top, you are all elated. So you go from elation to depression -- there's no depth. Now, if you look at the high sea, there might be beautiful, calm ocean, like a mirror. There might be storms, but the depth of the ocean is still there, unchanged. So now, how is that? It can only be a state of being, not just a fleeting emotion, sensation. Even joy -- that can be the spring of happiness. But there's also wicked joy, you can rejoice in someone's suffering.

So how do we proceed in our quest for happiness? Very often, we look outside. We think that if we could gather this and that, all the conditions, something that we say, "Everything to be happy -- to have everything to be happy." That very sentence already reveals the doom of destruction of happiness. To have everything. If we miss something, it collapses. And also, when things go wrong, we try to fix the outside so much, but our control of the outer world is limited, temporary, and often, illusory. So now, look at inner conditions. Aren't they stronger? Isn't it the mind that translates the outer condition into happiness and suffering? And isn't that stronger? We know, by experience, that we can be what we call "a little paradise," and yet, be completely unhappy within.

The Dalai Lama was once in Portugal, and there was a lot of construction going on everywhere. So one evening, he said, "Look, you are doing all these things, but isn't it nice, also, to build something within?" And he said, "Unless that -- even you get high-tech flat on the 100th floor of a super-modern and comfortable building, if you are deeply unhappy within, all you are going to look for is a window from which to jump." So now, at the opposite, we know a lot of people who, in very difficult circumstances, manage to keep serenity, inner strength, inner freedom, confidence. So now, if the inner conditions are stronger -- of course, the outer conditions do influence, and it's wonderful to live longer, healthier, to have access to information, education, to be able to travel, to have freedom. It's highly desirable. However, this is not enough. Those are just auxiliary, help conditions. The experience that translates everything is within the mind. So then, when we ask oneself how to nurture the condition for happiness, the inner conditions, and which are those which will undermine happiness. So then, this just needs to have some experience. . . . continued
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