Born in Aix-les-Bains, Savoie, France, he is the son of the late Jean-François Revel (born Jean-François Ricard), a renowned French philosopher. His mother is the lyrical abstractionist painter Yahne Le Toumelin. Matthieu Ricard grew up among the personalities and ideas of French intellectual circles.
He worked for a Ph.D. degree in molecular genetics at the Pasteur Institute under French Nobel Laureate François Jacob. After completing his doctoral thesis in 1972, Ricard decided to forsake his scientific career and concentrate on the practice of Tibetan Buddhism.
He lived in the Himalayas studying with the Kangyur Rinpoche and some other great masters of that tradition and became the close student and attendant of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche until Rinpoche's death in 1991. Since then, Dr. Ricard has dedicated his activities to fulfilling Khyentse Rinpoche’s vision.
Ricard’s photographs of the spiritual masters, the landscape, and the people of the Himalayas have appeared in numerous books and magazines. Henri Cartier-Bresson has said of his work, "Matthieu’s spiritual life and his camera are one, from which springs these images, fleeting and eternal."Template:Citation needed
He is the author and photographer of Tibet, An Inner Journey and Monk Dancers of Tibet and, in collaboration, the photobooks Buddhist Himalayas, Journey to Enlightenment and Motionless Journey: From a Hermitage in the Himalayas. He is the translator of numerous Buddhist texts, including The Life of Shabkar.
The dialogue with his father, Jean-Francois Revel, The Monk and the Philosopher, was a best seller in Europe and was translated into 21 languages, and The Quantum and the Lotus (coauthored with Trinh Xuan Thuan) reflects his long-standing interest in science and Buddhism. His 2003 book Plaidoyer pour le bonheur (published in English in 2006 as Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill) explores the meaning and fulfillment of happiness and was a major best-seller in France.
He has been dubbed the "happiest person in the world" by popular media. Matthieu Ricard was a volunteer subject in a study performed at the University of Wisconsin–Madison's on happiness, scoring significantly beyond the average obtained after testing hundreds of volunteers.
A board member of the Mind and Life Institute, which is devoted to meetings and collaborative research between scientists and Buddhist scholars and meditators, his contributions have appeared in Destructive Emotions (edited by Daniel Goleman) and other books of essays. He is engaged in research on the effect of mind training on the brain, at Madison-Wisconsin, Princeton and Berkeley.
He received the French National Order of Merit for his humanitarian work in the EastTemplate:Vague. For the last few years,Template:When? Dr. Ricard has dedicated his effort and the royalties of his books to various charitable projects in Asia, that include building and maintaining clinics, schools and orphanages in the region. Since 1989, he has acted as the French interpreter for the Dalai Lama.
Matthieu Ricard has lived for over thirty five years in the Himalayas, studying under the guidance of Kyabje Kangyur Rinpoche, Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and other precious spiritual masters. He is is part of the Padmakara Translation Group and has acted as the the French interpreter of the Dalai Lama since 1989. He is part of the Mind and Life Institute, which is devoted to meetings and collaborative research between scientists and Buddhist scholars and meditators and is engaged in the research on the effect of mind training on the brain conducted at various universities.
He lives at Shechen Monastery in Nepal, under the guidance of Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche and devotes much of his time to the preservation of the Himalayan cultural heritage and to managing humanitarian projects in Tibet, Nepal India, Nepal and Bhutan.
Selected Bibliography in English (these titles have also been published other languages)
Translations from the Tibetan:
- The Heart Treasure of the Enlightened Ones, teachings by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche on Patrul Rinpoche’s verses (Shambhala Publications) - Hundred Verses of Spiritual Advice, teachings by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche on Padampa Sangye’s advice to the people of Tingri (Shechen Publications, New Delhi, 2003 and Shambhala Publications, 2004) - The Wishfulfilling Jewel, teachings by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche on the Longchen Nyingthig Guru Yoga, (Shambhala Publications) - The Excellent Path to Enlightenment, teachings by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche on Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s preliminary practice (Snow Lion Publications) - The Heart of Compassion, teachings by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche on the Thirty-Sevenfold Practice of the Bodhisattva (Shechen Publications, forthcoming 2006) Photo Books - Journey to Enlightenment (Aperture, New Yokr, 1996, reprinted in 2001 as The Spirit of Tibet) - Buddhist Himalayas (Abrams, New York, 2002, with Olivier and Danielle Follmi) Monk Dancers of Tibet, (Boston, Shambhala Publications, 2003) - Tibet, a Compassionate Eye (Abrams, forthcoming 2006). Other books - Animal Migrations (Hill and Wang, 1969). - The Monk and the Philosopher (Schocken, 1999), with his father J.F. Revel. - The Quantum and the Lotus (Crown Publishing, 2002), with the astrophysicists Trinh Xuan Thuan - Happiness, A guide to Developping Life’s Most Important Skill (Little, Brown and Co, New York, forthcoming 2006. - La Citadelle des Neiges (NiL Editions, 2005) Scientific Publications
- Antoine Lutz, Lawrence L. Greischar , Nancy B. Rawlings , Matthieu Ricard and Richard J. Davidson, “Long-term meditators self-induce high-amplitude gamma synchrony during mental practice” PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), November 16, 2004, vol. 101, no. 46.
- Official website
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- Mind and Life Institute
- Karuna-Shechen website - fundraiser for Ricard's humanitarian projects in Tibet, Nepal, and India
- 'The Happiest Man in the World?' at The Independent
- "Change your Mind, Change your Brain: The Inner Conditions for Authentic Happiness" - video of a lecture given at Google in 2007
- "Matthieu Ricard on the habits of happiness" – TED talk
- "The Elements of Metaphor" interview with ascent magazine
- Shambhala Sun Magazine interview conducted by Richard Gere
- "The world's happiest man" at Ode Magazine