The Monk and the Philosopher by Mathieu Ricard and Jean-Francois Revel

Summary

  1. A very interesting dialogue between a father who is a philosopher and his son who is a Buddhist monk. They cover a vast array of topics from meditation to religion to morality.
Key Takeaways
  1. Direct contemplation of absolute truth, beyond all concepts. That’s wisdom in its most fundamental aspect
  2. Suffering is the result of ignorance so it is ignorance which must be dissipated
  3. The most important science is the knowledge of oneself and of reality
  4. Establish an order of priorities in your life
  5. Ricard describes Buddhism as a metaphysical tradition which is applicable in every instant and in all circumstances
  6. The “I” we use to separate ourselves from everybody and everything doesn’t exist so there is no reason to be afraid of not getting what we want or being subjected to what we don’t want
  7. Nirvana isn’t the final extinction of anything but the final knowledge of the nature of things
  8. Aim to mediate with pure awareness without any object
  9. One’s will is never something absolute
  10. The key to working on the mind is not only to identify your thoughts and feelings but also to dissolve them, to let them vanish in the mind’s own spaciousness – don’t focus on the content of the emotions but trace them to their very source
  11. Our perception of an object as desirable or undesirable doesn’t reside in the object itself, but in the way we perceive it
  12. Reality in itself exists or else we’d all perceive it the same way
  13. Make your quest for inner well-being, for being and not having, your ultimate quest
  14. What we are in the present is a result of our past
  15. Buddhism is first and foremost a science of the mind
  16. Nirvana is the very opposite of indifference towards the world. It’s a compassion and love toward all beings in their totality
  17. Monk being tortured – “my greatest fear was to lose my love and compassion toward those who were torturing me”
  18. Must forgive but not forget
  19. Nonviolence has nothing to do with weakness
  20. Evil only exists in an illusory sort of way as it is a result of our perception of things/events/people
  21. Faith becomes superstition when it goes against reason
  22. Enlightenment – discovery of the ultimate nature of both oneself and phenomena
  23. Meditating helps you become aware and attentive – spotting negative thoughts/actions is the first step to correcting it
  24. Giving should be free of any expectation of something in return, any reward, any hope of praise or gratitude
  25. Philosopher – Buddhism helps fill a gap by the desertion of Western philosophy in the area of ethics and the art of living
  26. What we all ultimately seek in life is happiness (altruism, love and compassion). Happiness necessarily implies wisdom and our own happiness is intimately linked to the happiness of others
What I got out of it
  1. Really interesting read and cool to get perspectives from a “hard” science guy and a monk, especially since that monk was once a highly trained scientists

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