Meditation on compassion has changed this famous monk's brain over time to make him the happiest man ever tested by these scientists.
Matthieu Ricard (born 15 February 1946) is a French Buddhist monk who resides at Shechen Tennyi Dargyeling Monastery in Nepal.
Buddhist monk is world's happiest man
By Frankie Taggart (AFP)
... As he grins serenely and his burgundy robes billow in the fresh Himalayan wind, it is not difficult to see why scientists declared Matthieu Ricard the happiest man they had ever tested.
The monk, molecular geneticist and confidant of the Dalai Lama, is passionately setting out why meditation can alter the brain and improve people's happiness in the same way that lifting weights puts on muscle.
"It's a wonderful area of research because it shows that meditation is not just blissing out under a mango tree but it completely changes your brain and therefore changes what you are," the Frenchman told AFP.
Ricard, a globe-trotting polymath who left everything behind to become a Tibetan Buddhist in a Himalayan hermitage, says anyone can be happy if they only train their brain.
Neuroscientist Richard Davidson wired up Ricard's skull with 256 sensors at the University of Wisconsin four years ago as part of research on hundreds of advanced practitioners of meditation.
"The scans showed that when meditating on compassion, Ricard's brain produces a level of gamma waves -- those linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory -- "never reported before in the neuroscience literature", Davidson said.
The scans also showed excessive activity in his brain's left prefrontal cortex compared to its right counterpart, giving him an abnormally large capacity for happiness and a reduced propensity towards negativity, researchers believe.
Research into the phenomenon, known as "neuroplasticity", is in its infancy and Ricard has been at the forefront of ground-breaking experiments along with other leading scientists across the world.
"We have been looking for 12 years at the effect of short and long-term mind-training through meditation on attention, on compassion, on emotional balance," he said.
We've found remarkable results with long-term practitioners who did 50,000 rounds of meditation, but also with three weeks of 20 minutes a day, which of course is more applicable to our modern times.
The 66-year-old, accompanying other senior Tibetan monks at a festival in the remote Nepalese Himalayan region of Upper Dolpa, has become a globally respected Buddhist and is one of the religion's leading western scholars.
But he has not always been on the path to enlightenment.
Ricard grew up among the Paris intellectual elite as the son of celebrated French libertarian philosopher Jean-Francois Revel and abstract watercolour painter Yahne Le Toumelin.
"All these people used to come around, most of Paris intellectual life. We had all the French painters and I was myself interested in classical music so I met a lot of musicians," he said.
At lunch we'd have three Nobel Prize winners eating with us. It was fantastic...
By the time he got his PhD in cell genetics from the Institut Pasteur in Paris in 1972 he had become disillusioned with the dinner party debates and had already begun to journey to Darjeeling in India during his holidays.
"Eschewing intimate relationships and a career, he moved to India to study Buddhism and emerged 26 years later as something of celebrity thanks to "The Monk And The Philosopher", a dialogue on the meaning of life he wrote with his father.
That was the end of my quiet time because it was a bestseller. Suddenly I was projected into the western world. Then I did more dialogues with scientists and the whole thing started to spin off out of control.
I got really involved in science research and the science of meditation.
A prominent monk in Kathmandu's Shechen Monastery, Ricard divides his year between isolated meditation, scientific research and accompanying the Dalai Lama as his adviser on trips to French-speaking countries and science conferences..
His other works include "Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill" and several collections of photographs of the landscape, people and spiritual masters of the Himalayas...
He was awarded the French National Order of Merit for his work in preserving Himalayan culture but it is his work on the science of happiness which perhaps defines him best.
..."That's what Buddhism has been trying to unravel -- the mechanism of happiness and suffering. It is a science of the mind.
Copyright © 2012 AFP. All rights reserved
(Source: Bangkok Post & AFP, Buddhist monk is world's happiest man, By Frankie Taggart (AFP), link)
meditation (noun) - quiet thought that helps you relax or done as a spiritual or religious exercise (See Wikipedia)
Buddhist monk - พระสงฆ์, ภิกษุ (See Wikipedia)
Matthieu Ricard - the French monk whose life is discussed in the article (See Wikipedia)
Jean-Francois Revel - the French libertarian philosopher and father of Matthieu Ricard mentioned in the article (See Wikipedia)
celebrated - admired publicly
the celebrated French libertarian philosopher Jean-Francois Revel
libertarian - someone who believes that people should be allowed to do and think as they want (See Wikipedia)
serene (adjective) - calm or peaceful
grin - a big smile that show's your teeth
robes - a long loose piece of clothing
burgundy robes - the colour of dark red worn by some Buddhist monks (in Burma and Tibet, for example)
billow - to spread over a large area ทำให้พอง
burgundy robes billow in the fresh Himalayan wind
declare - to officially say or announce something important
test - to give a test to someone or to examine of part of the body or body fluid (to determine something about someone)
scientists declared Matthieu Ricard the happiest man they had ever tested
confidant - a person who you trust (and talk with them about your private feelings and secrets)
confidant of the Dalai Lama
alter - to change เปลี่ยนแปลง
alter the brain
passionately - done with great energy and love
setting out - to present, describe or explain something (in writing, for example)
passionately setting out
passionately setting out why meditation can alter the brain
improve - to make better ทำให้ดีขึ้น
improve people's happiness in the same way that lifting weights puts on muscle
pig out - eat a lot of food (too much)
.... out - do too much of something
bliss - to feel happy and relaxed
bliss out - to feel very happy and relaxed
blissing out under a mango tree
globe-trotting - traveling around the world
polymath - someone who has a lot of knowledge about many different subjects
Himalayas (noun) - the famous mountain range in Nepal and Tibet that includes Mt Everest (See Wikipedia)
preserving Himalayan culture
hermitage - a building where a group of monks (hermits) live
neuroscience - the scientific stufy of the brain and nervous system (See Wikipedia)
neuroscientist - a scientist who does neuroscience
wire up - put wires and electronics on something
skull - the bones of the head กระโหลกศีรษะ
sensors - an device (instrument) that measures and provides information
wired up Ricard's skull with 256 sensors
practitioners - people who do a certain kind of job, task, or activity
practitioners of meditation
advanced practitioners of meditation
compassion - a strong feeling of sympathy and sadness for the suffering or bad luck of others and a wish to help them ความเห็นใจ, ความรู้สึกเศร้าใจไปกับความทุกข์ของผู้อื่น
meditating on compassion
linked - connected เชื่อมโยง เกี่ยวกับ
memory - something that you remember from the past; the ability to remember information, experiences and people ความจำ
gamma waves linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory
never reported before in the neuroscience literature
excessive - too much; much greater than is usual; too much of something มากเกินปริมาณที่พอดี
brain's left prefrontal cortex
counterpart - something (or someone) that has the same job or purpose as another thing, but in a differen situation ฝ่ายตรงข้าม หรือคนที่อยู่ในตำแหน่งเดียวกันของอีกประเทศ หรือ กลุ่มหนึ่ง
scan - a picture of the inside of the brain or body (produced by special equipment such as CRT)
The scans also showed excessive activity in his brain's left prefrontal cortex compared to its right counterpart
capacity - the total amount that can be contained; the ability to do something; the amount that can be done ปริมาณสูงสุดที่จะรับได้, ความสามารถในการ (ทำงาน, ผลิต, ... etc), ความสามารถ (ความจุ) ในการจัดการ
an abnormally large capacity for happiness
propensity - tendency (often does this but not always)
propensity towards ...
propensity towards negativity - a person who is often negative; has a tendency to have negative thoughts
a reduced propensity towards negativity
plasticity - the changing shape of something
neuroplasticity - the way that the brain and nervous system change during life and due to certain events such as injury (See Wikipedia)
infancy - when a person is a baby (very young)
is in its infancy - when something is still very new and young (still developing, growing, not yet fully developed and perfect)
phenomenon - something that exists and can be seen, felt, tasted, etc., especially something which is unusual or interesting ปรากฏการณ์
Research into the phenomenon, known as "neuroplasticity", is in its infancy
ground-breaking - something that is big, new and important change
at the forefront of - the leading... , the most advanced in some area ...
at the forefront of ground-breaking experiments
training - to teach people how to do an activity or job การฝึกฝน
mind-training through meditation on attention, on compassion, on emotional balance
remarkable - a little surprising, unusual and special and therefore surprising and worth mentioning (noteworthy) ไม่ธรรมดา
results - what is produced in the end by an activity or task
We've found remarkable results with long-term practitioners who did 50,000 rounds of meditation
applicable - relevant to or affecting a particular situation ที่สามารถนับไปปรับใช้ได้
applicable to our modern times
three weeks of 20 minutes a day is more applicable to our modern times
accompanying - going together with other people to someplace
accompanying other senior Tibetan monks
remote - far away ไกล far away from cities, difficult to get to ที่ห่างไกลจากความเจริญ (ของเมือง)
the remote Nepalese Himalayan region of Upper Dolpa
globally - throughout the world ทั่วโลก
respected - admired by many people for your qualities or achievements ที่เคารพ
a globally respected Buddhist
scholar - a person who studies some subject very deeply and is an expert on that subject ผู้คงแก่เรียน, นักวิชาการ
leading scholars - the most important or famous scholars
leading western scholars
one of the religion's leading western scholars
the path to enlightenment
elite - the richest, most powerful, best educated or most highly trained group in a society ยอดเยี่ยมที่สุด
the Paris intellectual elite
abstract watercolour painter Yahne Le Toumelin
come around - visit your home (casually, without invitation, as friends)
All these people used to come around
classical - of recognized authority or excellence because it came from the most highly developed stage of an earlier civilisation and its culture, examples: classical music, classical literature, classical architecture, in the West refers to the Greek and Roman eras
classical music - the kind of music written by people like Mozart and Beethoven using piano, violin and orchestra
fantastic - very unusual, strange or unexpected; extremely good เยี่ยมยอด, วิเศษ
It was fantastic...
debate - a discussion with people taking sides and arguing about the good and bad points of something
dinner party debates
disillusioned with - no longer believe in or like, believing to be no longer of value
disillusioned with the dinner party debates
intimate relationships - love relationships
career - the job or long series of related jobs that you do or plan to do during your life (See Wikipedia)
eschew - abandon, give up, do not do anymore
eschewing intimate relationships and a career
something of a celebrity - kind of a celebrity, a little bit of a celebrity
emerged - appeared ปรากฏออกมา came out ปรากฏให้เห็น to come out of something โผล่ออกมา come into being
he moved to India to study Buddhism and emerged 26 years later as something of a celebrity
"The Monk And The Philosopher", a dialogue on the meaning of life he wrote with his father
bestseller - a book with very large sales; one of the books published that sells the most number of copies during a period of time
projected into the western world
dialogue - formal talks between two groups, etc. การสนทนา, การอภิปราย
dialogues with scientists
out of control - not having control
spin off out of control - losing control (having control, then not having control
prominent - important and well known; very noticeable สำคัญ, มีชื่อเสียง, เด่น
A prominent monk
isolated - a long way from other places ที่ห่างไกล set apart from; disconnected from แยกออกมา ตั้งอยู่เดี่ยวๆ
divides his year between isolated meditation, scientific research
accompanying - going together with (to some place)
accompanying the Dalai Lama
conferences - a large meeting for a couple of days to bring together people sharing a common interest (for example, for example share the same profession (doctors) or the same academic discipline (geology, economics) at a university)
accompanying the Dalai Lama as his adviser on trips to French-speaking countries and science conferences..
French National Order of Merit
suffering - physical or mental pain or problems ความทุกข์ทรมาน
mechanism - ชิ้นส่วนของเครื่องจักร
the mechanism of happiness and suffering
unravel - to make something mysterious, unknown or complicated to be known or understood แก้ออก
unravel the mechanism of happiness and suffering
That's what Buddhism has been trying to unravel -- the mechanism of happiness and suffering