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Lions Roar : July 2015
reality, leads to a win-win situation. We flourish, and at the same time we are of benefit to all those around us. MATTHIEU RICARD HAS BEEN the Dalai Lama’s French interpreter since 1989, and he recalls how, a few years ago, he was preparing to go on retreat in the mountains of Nepal when His Holiness gave him this advice: “In the beginning, meditate on compassion. In the middle, meditate on compassion. In the end, meditate on compassion.” To meditate on altruistic love and compassion, Ricard offers these simple instructions. “First you think about someone close to you,” he explains. “You give rise to unconditional love and kindness toward them. Then you gradually extend this love to all beings, and you continue in that way until your whole mind is filled with love. If you notice this love diminishing, you revive it. If you become distracted, you bring your attention back to love. “For compassion,” he continues, “you begin by thinking of someone close to you who is suffering, and you sincerely wish for that person to be free of suffering. Then you proceed as you did for love.” Concern for others is a natural part of being human, says Ricard, yet it’s also a skill we can cultivate. In Altruism, Ricard brings our attention to a pro-social game created at the Uni- versity of Zurich, which gives people the opportunity to help another participant surmount an obstacle but at the risk of earning a lower score for themselves. I T IS OBVIOUS that, for those deprived of basic means of subsistence and who struggle to feed their children, the act of doubling or tripling the resources available to them could change everything and provide them with an undreamt of feeling of satisfaction. But, once the threshold of material comfort has been crossed, increasing wealth does not lead to a corresponding increase in quality of life. People in Nigeria consider themselves as happy as people in Japan, despite their GDP per capita being twenty-five times lower. According to Richard Layard, professor at London School of Economics: “This paradox applies just as well to the United States as it does to England and Japan. ... We have more food, more clothes, more cars, bigger houses, more central heating, more foreign holidays, a shorter working week, nice work, and, above all, better health. Yet we are not happier... If we want people to be happier, we really have to know what conditions generate happiness and how to cultivate them.” Plenty of other factors are as, if not more, important than wealth. Trust in all its various forms is one of them. Denmark is, according to numerous studies, one of the countries where people are most satisfied with their living conditions. It is not one of the world’s wealthiest countries, but there is very little poverty and inequality. This satisfaction can be explained, among other things, by the high level of trust that people feel toward each other, including toward strangers and institutions: people’s natural instinct is to think that a stranger is kind. This How to Feel Like a Million Dollars Money doesn’t buy happiness, says MATTHIEU RICARD—unless you give it away. Above left: Karuna-Shechen’s medical outreach programs in the Himalayas serve thou- sands of people in remote and under-served communities. Photo by Matthieu Ricard. Above, right: The Dalai Lama with Ricard, his official French interpreter, at a public conference in Toulouse. Ricard also translates Buddhist texts into English, such as The Life of Shabkar: The Autobiography of a Tibetan Yogin. PHOTO:REUTERS/JEAN-PHILIPPEARLES SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2015 42