94 of 99 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2010
Matthieu Ricard's warmth and caring seems to drench each page. If you are looking for someone to push you a bit, to motivate you a bit, to inspire you to do the hard lifting that is meditation, you will find this book very rewarding.
There is a CD included which is voiced by Matthieu. The CD covers most of the topics in the book. It is a good thing to have in the car to remind you of why it is so important to stop driving so much and just sit in meditation for at least some time each day.
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on June 16, 2011
Matthieu Ricard is a well-known Buddhist monk. Son of the famous French philosopher Jean-François Revel, Ricard was a dedicated student of biology when he became interested in Buddhism at age 21 during a sojourn in Darjeeling, India. Subsequent visits culminated in his conversion to Buddhism, but at the request of his mentor, Kangyur Rinpoche, he went back to Paris to finish his PhD in molecular biology in 1971 at the Institut Pasteur, under the guidance of the Nobel prize winner Jacques Monod. Because of his interest in science and Buddhism, he became an active participant in a series of gatherings called the Mind and Life Institute, a dialogue forum between the Dalai Lama and Western scientists. Ricard joined these dialogues in 2000 at their eighth meeting and had the opportunity to meet such prominent scientists as Daniel Goleman, Paul Ekman and Richard J. Davidson. Davidson was studying several emotional states such as joy, happiness, enthusiasm, and compassion from a neurological perspective. Davidson and his colleagues were the first to study meditation using modern scanning technologies (functional magnetic resonance imaging -fMRI and electroencephalograms -EEG) at the University of Wisconsin.
Ricard's book, Why Meditate? is a succinct but comprehensive introduction to the subject. "Meditation is a matter not of theory but of practice, just as it does not satisfy your hunger to read a restaurant menu if you are not going to eat something from it," he states. Ricard starts with the idea that meditation, like any other training requires to be practiced to see results. In support of this idea he reminds us that modern neuroscience talks about neuroplasticity and neurogenesis and finds that meditation produces anatomical effects in the brain. After talking about why to meditate and what to meditate about Ricard concentrates on a series of simple but effective techniques for achieving a mindfulness meditation, a state that consists of "full awareness of everything that arises within and around us from moment to moment - awareness of everything we see, hear, feel and think." To achieve such awareness Ricard summarizes various Buddhist devices such as concentration with or without an object, means to overcome obstacles, nine key methods for cultivating attention, and finally he makes a remarkable presentation of meditating on altruistic love as a way to achieve joy in the happiness of others. The book includes a 60-minute CD where Ricard presents the main points of the book in a clear language.
One of the interesting sections of the book is how meditation can help to deal with physical pain. Medical literature is increasingly giving importance to the role of placebos as part of healing. Placebos are effective because they create the expectancy that an inert substance will have a similar effect as the real drug and the brain is then ready to deal with it. But here, Ricard is going beyond that scheme; he rather suggests that we have to accept the pain and give it a particular meaning. We should observe the pain mindfully, by using mental imagery, and to try to transform the pain by awakening love and compassion: "Filled now with altruistic love, you stop asking yourself bitterly, "Why me?" but rejoice that someone else has been spared that suffering." In one of the final chapters, Ricard deals with a fascinating subject, the mind observing the mind. From his observations as a scientist familiar with modern neuroscience and as a Buddhist monk with more than 35 years of experience meditating, he brings fascinating insights about the nature of the mind, and particularly, how to deal with emotions such as anger and anxiety.
This book is a good illustration about how close are Buddhism and the classical yoga tradition in relation to the role of meditation as a tool to achieve deep personal transformation.
36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2010
Don't know if I was just ready to start meditating or this was the proverbial,"When the student is ready the Master will arrive." Bottom line; this book got me meditating, something no other self help book has done in over 30 years. The audio that comes with the book is excellent. The authors accent makes the CD a joy to listen to.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 13, 2013
It's not too often that one can say a book changed one's life. 'Why Meditate?' is one such book. While, I'm still learning and still trying to apply what Matthieu teaches, it has radically changed how I view my life, my emotions, my relationships and my world. I've learnt to let go (more often) negative emotions and it's bringing me one baby step closer to achieving inner peace.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 26, 2011
This book is the heart of a man, Matthieu Ricard, so humble and humane in a dignified way.
In addition to giving instructions for quietism, readers are guided in creating an active knowing based on discursive meditation.
This book is an intimate instruction that provides any person who wants to meditate regularly the tools of calming, objects/methods they will need to get their mindfulness back, and the traditional development of discursive meditations of altruistic love, exchange, stopping identification with defiled emotion, and bringing daily life and practice together. A sublime interchange of ideas and inspiration.
Matthieu backs you up the whole way. This is the only reference one needs in their shed. Completely simple and easy to understand, and to put into action.
Astounding breadth of narrative in a friendly conversation manner. "Why Meditate" requires readers to just try it and see.
Whether you are Buddhist, Catholic, Agnostic, or Jew, I recommend you buy this book.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2014
I sought help when my depression was getting too much to bear and nothing else seemed to be working. After some research, I stumbled upon meditation again, and I say that since I used to "meditate" during Tae-Kwon-Do classes when I was a kid. I figured it'd at least get me back in touch with it, as I do remember it helping.
I was amazed by the sheer amount of instruction this book contains. Matthieu Ricard makes a complete effort that addresses basically any question a beginner may have with what meditation is and how it works. First, he describes the practical ways (backed by scientific studies) it helps. Then, he gets more into the spiritual side, how it's supposed to work, and what you're supposed to do and expect. He does an excellent job putting a complicated thing like meditation into layman's terms without having it lose any of its deep meaning. He even includes some figures and examples to keep you on the right path (even if you haven't done it before) and make sure that you understand what meditation is.
The interesting thing is that I've taken real meditation classes as of recent in well-known places such as Tibet House and I'm pleased to say that everything they teach in these classes are basically the same principles the book has. I never thought a book could teach something so well. If you don't have access to classes, this is almost as good (or even the same in my opinion). If you follow the book and practice, you can also get Tibet House quality instruction. Fear not, for this is the real deal, but the book makes it so easy a caveman can do it. The CD (that comes with the hard copy of the book) is a nice recap of the teaching of the book and functions like an audiobook, so you can take it anywhere you want to meditate.
I wound up buying this book more than once for some of my friends when they needed help going through some tough times like I have. I find it as one of the best "self-help" books out there in order to find your true happiness.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2011
This little book is a primer on training the mind from who has been described as "the happiest man in the world." In WHY MEDITATE? Matthieu Ricard takes meditation out of the realm of the esoteric and puts it into the realm of the mundane. This is an altogether good thing.As Matthieu points out, we train ourselves to play the piano, tie our shoes, cook and clean, and do the laundry. Why not train ourselves to make the best use of our minds? The book comes with a CD, which makes excellent listening in the car or while you're busy with the ecstasy of the laundry.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2011
Just trying the attention exercises, have changed my life.
From my own experience, I practiced the atention exercises and I live my life conscious is like be always awake not in daydreaming all the time, and I fell free.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 16, 2014
This book doesn't gives techniques for rituals or show how to develop ceremonies. It's purpose is to answer the question "Why Meditate?". The answer is 2 part.
1) Because the mind has become quite Unstable. The Natural Emotions have been Highly Distorted. The mind bounces back and forth from fear to hope. It's driven by whims. It's hesitant and confused. The mind is Fragmented and weakened by Inner Contradictions. Finally because it's addicted to Inner Chatter and Background Noise.
2) With Meditation you can transform your mind. Meditation can Sooth Pain and Anxiety. Can provide an understanding of how the Ego deceives and misleads. Can culminate Inner Calm and Attention. With Meditation you can develop a Personal State of Mind, and a Private form of Spirituality.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2012
I purchased this book because I am a meditator. I have been meditating for 6 years and I enjoy reading about meditation, to keep me true to the practice. I find this book to be very good. I am always looking for a book that I can recommend for new meditators--nothing beats a live teacher--and I think that I will start recommending this one. If you are not familiar with the author, he is quite famous, and I appreciate his scientific, western background.