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On the evening of October 13, prominent author, lecturer and photographer Matthieu Ricard delivered a talk on the nature of altruism and compassion. The lecture, entitled "The Roots of Altruism," spoke against the common claim that all human action, even that seemingly altruistic, is ultimately selfish. On the contrary, Ricard argued that there is a large body of evidence indicating that the genuine wish to benefit others is an integral part of human nature. He went on to discuss the Buddhist analysis of the nature of the mind and its claims that compassion is a natural quality of human consciousness and can be cultivated through mind training.
The lecture, followed by a lively session of questions and answers, was delivered to a sizeable audience at McCaw Hall, in the Arrillaga Alumni Center on campus. The event represented the first of the year's TT & WF Chao Distinguished Buddhist Practitioner Lectures, presented by Buddhism in the Modern World, a joint program of HCBSS, the Buddhist Community at Stanford, and Stanford's Office for Religious Life. It was co-sponsored by the Tibetan Studies Initiative and Project Compassion, an initiative Stanford's School of Medicine.
Matthieu Ricard, a monk of the Nyingma order, based at the Shechen Tennyi Dargyeling Monastery in Nepal, is founder of Karuna-Shechen, a charitable organization engaged in humanitarian projects in the Himalayas. His published works include The Monk and the Philosopher: A Father and Son Discuss the Meaning of Life (2000, with Jean-Francois Revel); Journey to Enlightenment: The Life and World of Khyentse Rinpoche (1996); The Buddhist Himalayas (2002); Monk Dancers of Tibet (2003); Tibet: An Inner Journey (2007); Motionless Journey: From a Hermitage in the Himalayas (2008); and Bhutan: The Land of Serenity (2009).
Among his many interests and commitments, Dr. Ricard, who holds a doctorate in biochemistry from the Institut Pasteur, is a board member of the Mind and Life Institute and advises on neuroscientific research into spiritual and contemplative states. Information on Matthieu Ricard's work can be found at www.matthieuricard.com and www.karuna-shechen.com.