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Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World Hardcover – June 2, 2015
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"Altruism is divided into short, cogent chapters, making it surprisingly accessible, despite its massive dimensions. Much of the book is derivative but nonetheless immensely useful, an encyclopedic synthesis of evidence and examples from current events, books, scientific papers and personal experiences.... The numerous individual stories [Ricard] recounts are inspiring and often downright gripping, such as the California man who fought off a lion to rescue a small child.... Altruism is a careful, detailed, hard-nosed assessment of what is needed both for individual happiness and for the welfare of the planet.... This book is so rich, so diverse and, yes, so long that it is best kept as an inspiring resource to be consulted over many years."―David Barash, Wall Street Journal
"Matthieu Ricard brings together ancient wisdom and scientific insights to put forth a truly compelling global vision for the 21st century, cutting through our endless distractions and asking, 'What is a good life?' At a time when we as individuals and as a society have largely abandoned that question, his voice, his message and his wisdom are greatly needed."―Arianna Huffington, founder of Huffington Post and author of Thrive
"Matthieu Ricard is an extraordinary human being, whose luminous presence and gentle voice have a surprising effect: they compel respect for his benign view of life and make routine cynicism impossible."―Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics and author of Thinking Fast and Slow
"Altruism is just what is needed to bring hope to those depressed by the violence, war, selfishness and corruption that surround us today. Matthieu Ricard provides convincing evidence based on both careful research and personal experience that altruism is an integral part of our nature with the desire to help others not only present in small children, but also in many animals. Altruism addresses how these qualities can be cultivated and enhanced in the individual and how a more altruistic society is not only possible but essential if we care about the future. Matthieu, thank you for writing this book."―Jane Goodall, UN Messenger of Peace, founder of Roots and Shoots, and noted author
"[A] life-changing volume."―Cherilyn Parsons, San Francisco Chronicle
"Matthieu Ricard is a genius for our times, a rare combination of scientific brilliance with the heart of a saint."―Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence
"Written with deep conviction and breathtaking scope, this is a must-book for anyone who wants to explore the human capacity for altruistic love and compassion, and the potential of this capacity to transform our lives. In conversation with Western philosophical and scientific perspectives, the book offers a Buddhist vision for extending altruism beyond its natural limits through carefully crafted meditation practices. The goal is, quite simply, to enable you and me, our society, and all sentient beings to experience less suffering and greater happiness. Could one desire more?"―Daniel C. Batson, author of Altruism in Humans
"Who better to tell us about altruism than a Buddhist monk and scientist, who has meditated so extensively on compassion that it has changed the left side of his brain? In a lively and personal account, Matthieu Ricard takes us through the origins of empathy and altruism, explaining how biology laid the foundation, whereas culture and spirituality permit us to expand its reach."―Frans de Waal, author of The Age of Empathy
"This remarkable book is an extremely well-documented and elegantly argued plea for altruism, kindness, and compassion in order to address the primarily human-inflicted suffering and sorrow in this world. What is usually unknown or ignored is that altruism is a cultivatable skill, a way of being that can and needs to be chosen to optimize our well-being as both individuals and as a species. If you doubt that, just read this book. Even little snippets will blow your mind and inspire you, as Matthieu puts it, to change yourself and the world."―Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Full Catastrophe Living and Coming to Our Senses
"Ricard's book, full of good behavior on the part of humans-and other animals-is of a piece with Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature in suggesting that we don't have to be rotten. Inspirational in all the right ways..."―Kirkus
"Matthieu Ricard brings a breadth and depth of reflection and research that offers hope for our global family. He never shies away from hard truth. This wonderful gift, as sweeping in its scope as it is precise in its analysis, illuminates our common humanity."―John J. DeGioia, President of Georgetown University
"What a magnificent masterpiece. I am inspired all over again! This is an important contribution to our conception of human nature."―Dennis Snower, President of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy
"Well known for the generosity of its welfare state, Europe is feeling a fair share of 'compassion fatigue' these days as a result of three crises on its doorstep.... Europe's current hand-wringing is, at heart, a lesson about its giving spirit.... In a new book entitled Altruism, French thinker Matthieu Ricard makes a case for acknowledging what he calls the 'banality of good,' or recognizing that behavior such as generosity is commonplace and punctuates the daily lives of people. The book is a timely message as Europe struggles with these big decisions."―Christian Science Monitor
"[A] tour de force [that] brings together science, religion and history to explore the nature of compassion."―Carolyn Gregoire, Huffington Post
"The idea that money and possessions do not make us happy has become the new common sense. Instead, people now seek experiences as well as a kind of spirituality-lite, such as the secular practice of mindfulness. No wonder the scientist and Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard's book Altruism has become a huge bestseller. The promise of its subtitle is that, by developing compassion, you can 'change yourself and the world.'"―Julian Baggini, New Statesman
"A careful collection of research, literature, and theory on altruism.... Altruism is the final domino that launches Ricard into view as one of the most notable, visible altruists of recent years."―Ashley Karlin, Los Angeles Review of Books
About the Author
Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk, author, translator, and photographer. He is the author of several books including The Monk and the Philosopher, a dialogue with his father; The Quantum and the Lotus, a dialogue with astrophysicist Trinh Xuan Thuan; Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill; and Why Meditate? His books have been translated into over twenty languages. He has lived, studied, and worked in the Himalayan region for over forty years. Four million people have viewed his TED talk on happiness.
Top customer reviews
From the first page, Ricard introduces the reader to the various forms of altruism and portrays “true love” as a supreme form of compassion. He recognizes that individualism, greediness, egocentrism, and narcissism are human forces that oppose altruism, and brings up the famous Groucho Marx quip, “why should I care about future generations? What have they ever done for me?” Nevertheless, through the entire book, he conveys an astonishing and varied amount of information, ranging from historical analyses, comparative biology, the role of the hormone oxytocin, the functioning of “mirror neurons,” and the effects of vagal tone on the parasympathetic nervous system, to explain that humans are social animals that have a natural tendency to cooperate; such a view is opposite to the well-known concept that humans are by nature competitive, selfish and behave like wolves. The book gives a particular emphasis to two central themes, the demonstration that altruism exists, and how to cultivate it.
The book arrives at a most propitious moment when the United Nations is holding negotiations to adopt a new strategy for the next 15 years, called “Sustainable Development Goals” (SDGs). It is also the time when many religious groups are intensifying their teachings about tolerance and cooperation to deal with the modern world, and particularly the affirmation that we have the moral obligation to act, as stated in the recent papal encyclical about climate change. Ricard expands the notion of altruism to deal with its social dimension and devotes many pages to explain the concepts of interdependence and interconnectedness, which are at the core of the yoga tradition. Based on solid scientific research, he brings the well-known concept of “planetary boundaries” to explain the magnitude of the current planetary challenges. The fifth part of the book is devoted to discuss the basis of a future altruistic society.
Altruism is a dense encyclopaedic and documented work that demands deep study and reflection. It has 1,769 references, printed in the last 131 pages as end-notes. It will remain for many years a major reference on the subject. We hope that in a new edition the publishers will include an alphabetical index of authors and subjects as this scholarly work will be an indispensable source of information. His major concluding remarks are a clear message: “We must dare to embrace altruism. Dare to say that real altruism exists, that it can be cultivated … and that the evolution of cultures can favour its expansion. Dare to teach it in schools. .. Dare to proclaim that altruism is not a luxury, but a necessity.”