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Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill Paperback – January 5, 2007


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; Reprint edition (January 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780316167253
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316167253
  • ASIN: 0316167258
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,997 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For millennia, philosophers, writers and artists have sought the key to human happiness. A Buddhist monk and former cell biologist, Ricard offers his own musings about the nature of happiness and tips on how to attain it in his sometimes tedious, sometimes dynamic guide. Happiness, for Ricard, cannot be found in fleeting experiences of pleasure—the joy of a sunny day, the refreshing taste of an ice cream cone, the ecstasy of sex—but only in the depths of an individual's being. Happiness is not self-interested, but rather compassionate, seeking the well-being of others. If we are truly happy, writes Ricard, we can change the world because of our compassion for others and our desire to end hatred and bring happiness even to those we don't like. For Ricard, happiness is a deep state of well-being and wisdom that flourishes in every moment of life, despite the inevitability of suffering. Individuals can, however, learn to minimize suffering in life by practicing moderation in all things, as well as meditation. Meditative exercises that individuals can practice to achieve happiness appear in each chapter. Ricard (Tibet: A Compassionate Eye) doesn't have much new to tell us about his subject, but he imbues these reflections with his own deep sense of happiness and verve. (Apr. 12)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

'In a brilliant synthesis of 25 centuries of the wisdom of Buddhism with the neuroscience and cognitive psychology of the twenty- first century, Matthieu Ricard, who embodies both traditions, gives humanity a gift it desperately needs now: a vision of a po --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk who had a promising career in cellular genetics before leaving France to study Buddhism in the Himalayas 35 years ago. He is a bestselling author, translator and photographer, and an active participant in current scientific research on the effects of meditation on the brain. He lives and works on humanitarian projects in Tibet and Nepal.

Customer Reviews

It is easy to read and very well written!
Carlosffx
Few books clearly articulate the richness of Buddhist psychology for the general reader.
J. Devendorf
Best way I could describe this book is life changing for the better!
C. Gonzales

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

175 of 180 people found the following review helpful By Karen Elliot on April 15, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Review of "Happiness: A guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill" by Matthieu Ricard. Published by Little Brown.

What a joy to find such an intelligent and creative approach to the universal quest for happiness and well-being! Matthieu Ricard begins by examining our definitions of happiness and then leads us on a journey that explores the causes and conditions for happiness, our own inner mechanisms that do or don't create happiness, how to deal with death and difficulties, the sociology of happiness, and so on.

The book's emphasis is on how to develop inner resources for a sense of happiness and fulfillment that is not dependent on outer circumstances. There is real freedom in the knowledge that we can move towards an authentic sense of well-being by working with our ways of relating and processing the obstacles and circumstances that present themselves. This is all helped along by the short enjoyable exercises that lead the reader through a process of getting to know the mind and how it works.

Matthieu Ricard's voice is quite unique and I liked his use of metaphor to describe various emotional states and how to deal with them. I also found the sociology of happiness an interesting chapter, revealing the trends of our society, and I especially liked learning "first-hand about the work of neuroscience and the brain.
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172 of 178 people found the following review helpful By J. Devendorf on October 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Few books clearly articulate the richness of Buddhist psychology for the general reader. Few books can inspire the reader to live more skillfully and empower her with teachings and tools to cultivate true happiness. Sure there are any number of "self-help" books on "how to feel happy," etc., but Ricard's book teaches about a much deeper, transformative happiness, which is within the reach of every human being.

Buddhist psychology, developed over many centuries, is consistent with much that we have recently learned and continue to learn about our minds and our brains from neuroscience, cognitive science, and "western" psychology. Ricard, a Tibetan monk, is equally at home in Buddhist teachings and contemporary science--he was a scientist before his days as a monk.

In a world with so much violence, so much sadness, and so much negativity, Ricard teaches us how to cultivate happiness, not by blinding ourselves to reality or by looking to some other world above and beyond our own, but by looking upon ourselves and others with the loving eyes of the Buddha. And these teachings have nothing to do with believing any doctrines or even "the truth" of Buddhism. They are practical teachings to be applied in everyday life. The "truth" is in the practice. The Buddha did not want anyone to believe anything just because he said it. He invited people to see for themselves. So see for yourself.

Even if you are not and have no interest in "becoming a Buddhist," I highly recommend this book. I would not consider myself a Buddhist, but the values expressed by Ricard are values I cherish and aspire to embody in my day to day life.

The chapters are also relatively short, so each one can be read and fully digested before moving to the next. (Perfect for reading in bed or on public transportation.)

If taken to heart, this book will surely benefit you. I hope that it does.
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97 of 100 people found the following review helpful By makkumatre on February 8, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think a lot of the other reviews clearly explain why this is a wonderful book. It definitely has added a lot of perspective to my outlook on things. I believe as Ricard explains, that tweaks to the way we think and our attitude will definitely foster happier thoughts in our minds. There are some very memorable thoughts from this book - the one I liked most was the fact that happiness can never be based on external circumstances for they are fleeting. A loss of a loved one or a job can plunge a man from happiness to despair and darkness in an instant. If like Ricard, you believe that happiness can be a permanent state of mind, it has to be on the inside and all ephemeral, external circumstances will flutter the mind like lines written on water.

But there are limitations and not-so-great things about the book which could have been improved.

- Too much quoting philosophers and famous people
Almost every chapter is filled with various philosopher's take on things like happiness, emotions etc. I was more interested in Ricard's own experience and his Gurus' opinions (which were also there at places) rather than a big collection of differing thoughts of other philosophers.

- Lack of explanation on 'how to do'
There is a clear lack of explanation of how to deal practically with the issues Ricard brings up. His theory that negative thoughts like hatred need antidotes like patience is great, but there is not much detail on how to cultivate them. Ricard says the solution is meditation, but how and what to exactly meditate on is short in content.
A recurring theme is that when say, you are very angry, look at the anger itself without attaching it to the target of the anger and meditate, and it will melt away.
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129 of 139 people found the following review helpful By Sid Wagner on June 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Matthieu Ricard was born and raised in France. He had the makings of a stellar career in science, studying in his student days with a Nobel-prize winning scientist. But throughout his 20's, he shifted his interests more and more towards spirituality. For the past 30 years, he has lived and studied as a Tibetan Buddhist, in Nepal. He often serves as the French translator for the Dalai Llama.

Ricard is a man who knows science. And, as a Frenchman, is deeply familiar with pessimism. He says, in France, happiness is considered boring, while pessimism and misery is considered quite interesting. "Happiness is only for the naive" is a common Western mindset. However, Ricard says: "Not true."

Not only is happiness interesting - it is a skill, a challenging skill to be acquired only through intense practice. Pessimism, on the other hand, is boring - for it creates apathy, and a general lack of zest for life.

As a man deeply interested in science, Ricard knows what he's talking about. He explains amazing discoveries made by the Mind & Life Institute. Placed under MRI brain imaging, Tibetan monks have shown to experience far greater happiness and are more emotionally balanced than any 'average' person. Scientists can gauge happiness by the amount of activity in the frontal lobe related to positive emotions. (There's also a section of the brain related to negative emotion, and criticism, which remains relatively dormant.)

In one experiment, testing what's called a "startle" reflex - something that every human has (it's an uncontrolled flinch of one's facial muscles that occurs whenever a loud noise goes off) - a spiritually advanced monk was monitored for this reflex. When the loud noise went off, unlike anyone else ever tested, he did NOT flinch.
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