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Ricard, Matthieu 1946-

Ricard, Matthieu 1946-


Born 1946, in Paris, France; son of Jean-Francois Revel (a philosopher). Education: Institut Pasteur, Ph.D., 1972.


Home—Shechen Monastery, Nepal.


Writer, editor, translator, interpreter, photographer, and Buddhist monk. Works as interpreter for the Dalai Lama.


Les migrations animales, R. Laffont (Paris, France), 1968, published as The Mystery of Animal Migration, translated by Peter J. Whitehead, Hill & Wang (New York, NY), 1969, published as Les migrations animales. Un immense va-et-vient autour de la terre, Gerard (Verviers, France), 1971.

(And photographer) Journey to Enlightenment: The Life and World of Khyentse Rinpoche, Spiritual Teacher from Tibet, with a remembrance by the Dalai Lama, translated by the Padmakara Translation Group, Aperture (New York, NY), 1996, published as The Spirit of Tibet: The Life and World of Khyentse Rinpoche, Spiritual Teacher, Aperture Foundation (New York, NY), 2000.

(With father, Jean-Francois Revel) Le moine et le philosophe: le Bouddhisme ajourd'hui, NiL (Paris, France), 1997, published as The Monk and the Philosopher: A Father and Son Discuss the Meaning of Life, translated by John Canti, Schocken Books (New York, NY), 1999.

(With Trinh Xuan Thuan) L'infini dans la paume de la main: du Big Bang a l'eveil, NiL/Fayard (Paris, France), 2000, published as The Quantum and the Lotus: A Journey to the Frontiers Where Science and Buddhism Meet, Crown Publishers (New York, NY), 2001.

(Translator) The Life of Shabkar: The Autobiography of a Tibetan Yogin, edited by Constance Wilkinson, with Michal Abrams and other members of the Padmakara Translation Group, foreword by the Dalai Lama, Snow Lion Publications (Ithaca, NY), 2001.

(Photographer) Olivier Föllmi, Buddhist Himalayas, photographs by Olivier and Danielle Föllmi, with a contribution by the Dalai Lama, Harry N. Abrams (New York, NY), 2002.

(Editor) Rainbows Appear: Tibetan Poems of Shabkar, calligraphy by Jigmé Doushe, Shambhala (Boston, MA), 2002.

(Photographer and author of text) Monk Dancers of Tibet, translated by Charles Hastings, Shambhala (Boston, MA), 2003.

Plaidoyer pour le bonheur, NiL (Paris, France), 2003.

La citadelle des nieges: conte spirituel, NiL (Paris, France), 2005.

Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill, translated by Jesse Browner, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2006.


Matthieu Ricard is a writer, editor, photographer, translator, and Buddhist monk who often serves as French interpreter for the Dalai Lama. A monk for more than twenty years, Ricard initially seemed headed toward a scientific career. He studied for his doctorate degree at the Institut Pasteur in Paris, but while doing postgraduate work in genetics, he became interested in Tibetan Buddhist religion and philosophy. In 1967 he traveled to India to study Buddhism, and by the time he completed his doctoral dissertation in 1972, he had decided to abandon his promising career in genetics and molecular biology to become a monk.

One of Ricard's earliest teachers was Khyentse Rinpoche, and he pays tribute to his mentor in Journey to Enlightenment: The Life and World of Khyentse Rinpoche, Spiritual Teacher from Tibet. Richly illustrated with photographs by Ricard, the book combines pictures and text taken from Rinpoche's autobiography to create a book that stands not only as a "readable biography" but also an "intriguing introduction to the religion itself," noted Terry McMaster in Library Journal. Ricard also served as Rinpoche's assistant, and the book is infused with his firsthand knowledge of Rinpoche and his life.

The Monk and the Philosopher: A Father and Son Discuss the Meaning of Life is structured as a dialogue between two powerful intellects: Ricard himself, and noted French philosopher Jean-Francois Revel. Throughout the course of the book, the reader learns that Ricard is Revel's son. "Although Revel and Ricard had remained close over the years, they never discussed the finer points of Buddhist theory until a French editor suggested the idea," noted Daniel A. Bell in Political Theory. The book consists largely of Revel's thorough interrogation of Ricard and the monk's measured, patient responses. Even so many years later, Revel still expresses disappointment at his son's career choice. In response, Ricard discusses why he turned away from science but explains that he applies the concepts of the scientific method to his study of religion, Buddhism, and Tibetan language and culture. His conversion occurred when he "became convinced of the truth of Buddhist doctrines," Bell related, and he explains this and other elements of his decision and spiritual practice to his still-skeptical father. Father and son discuss a wide range of issues, covering topics such as whether Buddhism is a religion or philosophy, Buddhist concepts of death, how Buddhism and psychoanalysis are connected, and much more. In the end, Revel admits to learning much from his spiritually minded son, but he has not been moved from his position as an agnostic. Ricard, for his part, expresses his deep conviction regarding Buddhism and the reasons behind his personal spiritual journey. Library Journal reviewer David Bourquin observed that Ricard presents himself as "articulate and well informed, and his answers are a marvelous introduction to Buddhist thought." He is "an articulate spokesman for Buddhism, and he even makes such theories as reincarnation seem plausible," observed Bell.

The Quantum and the Lotus: A Journey to the Frontiers Where Science and Buddhism Meet is also structured as a conversation. Ricard and coauthor and astrophysicist Trinh Xuan Thuan discuss issues related to Buddhist and scientific cosmology and compare the two disciplines' approaches to considering such fundamental questions as the origin of the universe, the possibility of multiple or parallel universes, and the basic nature of reality. The authors "excel at bringing the fundamental elements of each perspective to the lay level," noted Andy Wickens in Library Journal, and even when their philosophies and training do not agree, they offer clear explanations for their positions that result in better understanding of Buddhist thought and scientific theory. The book offers "few original insights but provides a good general introduction to science-and-religion issues representing two notably different Buddhist perspectives," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer.

In Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill, Ricard has produced a "readable, though not succinct, guide for general readers to the Buddhist psychology of happiness," observed Lucille M. Boone in Library Journal. Ricard notes that temporary, transient sensations are not the true source of happiness. Instead, happiness is developed through individual effort, through meditation, personal discipline, and a genuine interest in the well-being of others. Happiness, Ricard asserts, can be achieved even though suffering, at some point, is inevitable. Moderation and meditation are two techniques he suggests for minimizing suffering and enhancing one's own happiness. Ricard provides practical advice and guidance on the types of meditative exercises that can help bring about happiness. A Publishers Weekly reviewer observed that Ricard "imbues these reflections with his own deep sense of happiness and verve."



Booklist, November 15, 1998, Ray Olson, review of The Monk and the Philosopher: A Father and Son Discuss the Meaning of Life, p. 546.

Christian Century, May 5, 1999, Leo D. Lefebure, review of The Monk and the Philosopher, p. 511.

Library Journal, February 15, 1997, Terry McMaster, review of Journey to Enlightenment: The Life and World of Khyentse Rinpoche, Spiritual Teacher from Tibet, p. 132; December, 1998, David Bourquin, review of The Monk and the Philosopher, p. 115; July, 2001, Andy Wickens, review of The Quantum and the Lotus: A Journey to the Frontiers Where Science and Buddhism Meet, p. 119; April 1, 2006, Lucille M. Boone, review of Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill, p. 112.

Political Theory, August, 1998, Daniel A. Bell, review of Le moine et le philosophe: le Bouddhisme aujourd'hui, p. 557.

Publishers Weekly, July 23, 2001, review of The Quantum and the Lotus, p. 71; February 13, 2006, review of Happiness, p. 76.


Beliefnet, (December 10, 2006), biography of Matthieu Ricard.

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