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Lions Roar : July 2015
I N A TENT made of woven yak hair, a thirteen-year- old girl was stirring cheese in a cauldron over a clay hearth as blue smoke from the fire escaped through an opening in the roof. Her father had died the year before, and now her mother had tuberculosis of the bone. She was so sick and frail that her eyes—too big for her gaunt face—had an oddly fixed look. Unable to afford the necessary life-saving medicine, the girl’s elderly grandmother was praying in a corner. Matthieu Ricard, a French-born Buddhist monk and the founder of the non-profit organization Karuna-Shechen, came across this heartbreaking scene when he was visiting the nomadic communities of Eastern Tibet. Fortunately, he and his Karuna-Shechen team were able to help. They gave the family a year’s supply of medicine, and—as they explained how to administer it—the young girl listened carefully with both disbelief and hope flickering in her eyes. When the team returned a year later, they found the girl beaming. Her mother was still using makeshift crutches, but she’d recovered and was no longer skeletal and bedridden. Karuna-Shechen, founded in 2000, has been the recipi- ent of every penny of the royalties from Ricard’s books, as well as any money he’s earned from giving conferences or selling his fine-art photography. Ricard himself lives on a shoestring—he’s slept in the same sleeping bag for thirty years and his retreat hut in Nepal has no central heating— but it’s estimated that he’s given one and half million dol- lars to Karuna-Shechen. Other philanthropists have also contributed, and to date the organization has initiated and managed more than 140 humanitarian projects in Tibet, Nepal, and India. These include emergency relief to victims of the recent earthquake in Nepal, training illiterate village women in solar engineering, installing rainwater-har- vesting systems in drought-prone regions, establishing a kitchen-garden program to combat malnutrition, and building new schools and improving existing ones. Matthieu Ricard’s Journey to Compassion Scientist, monk, best-selling author, humanitarian—how Matthieu Ricard discovered that caring for others is the only answer. By ANDREA MILLER Matthieu Ricard shows his photography to children in one of the remote villages in Bihar, India, that are helped by his humanitarian organization, Karuna-Shechen. PHOTOBYSHAMSULAKTAR SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2015 39