Matthieu Ricard Talks About ?Mind Training? in New York City

by Mark Winwood, The Times of Tibet, June 30, 2005

New York, USA -- A Buddhist monk, photographer, writer and translator highly regarded for his knowledge of Tibetan culture and Buddhism, Matthieu Ricard delivered a compelling lecture, titled From Mind Training to Brain Plasticity, at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City on June 24.

Referring to negative emotions as ?stains on the cloth that can be washed out, not the color of the cloth itself,? the gentle-spoken Matthieu connected meditation to neuroscience. Touching upon practical experience, dharmatic wisdom, scientific research and photographs/slides (including illustrations of pre- and post-meditative brain activity), he clearly communicated to the sold-out audience the importance of cultivating positive inner conditions because it is the mind that filters and translates all outer conditions.

Happily, it?s possible to do so: but first one needs to get to know the luminous ?I? that exists underneath our ?mental toxins.? Once their fundamental nature is recognized, these mental toxins get lost in the space of inner mind, losing their ability to stain. And the ?I? shines through.

And how does one get to know the luminous "I"? According to Matthieu, it takes practice, consisting of meditation and cultivation.

Some of the points discussed during Matthieu?s 90-minute talk:

* Meditation leads to trainable skills;

* It is not human nature to be lazy and either subtly or directly avoid responsibility;

* The mind is luminous and has the qualities of a mirror, which reflects all, yet retains its identity, becoming none of what it is reflecting;

* Jealousy is the ?stupidest? of human emotions;

* The sense of self-importance is the ?target? that when threatened or attacked gets (and causes) anger . . . to reduce vulnerability to anger, one needs to better know the ?I?;

* The ?I? is always changing, being caught in constant dynamic flow, but we think there is something steady (the ?me?) that is at the core and needs to be protected. Acting on this protection causes negative emotions;

* Memory is the effect past experience has on us now. It can never be the same experience as it was then;

* ?Me? is just a convenient name we attach to our stream of memories or past experiences, but really there is no real identity, there is no autonomous core, because the ?I? is always changing;

* Just looking at the fire of our negative emotions, without ?adding wood to our fire? is difficult, but necessary. When we ignore what triggers the emotion, and just look at the emotion itself, the fire without wood burns out. And as we gain clarity, the negative emotions melt away like ?morning frost in the rising sun?;

* ?Selfish? happiness is a self-destructive idea;

* Each day try to think and cultivate altruistic love . . . apply wisdom, and the traits of rejoicing and kindness will flourish;

* If 10,000 hours of violin practice can have the effect of teaching/training mind, muscles, heart, etc. to play beautiful music, imagine what 10,000 hours of ?compassion? practice could do to the human heart;

* Meditation can (and does) effectively change brain activity;

* So much time and energy is spent on beautifying the body, gaining better looks and well-being . . . but most people (unwisely) spend no time benefiting their own mind, which is the filter through which everything is experienced.

Matthieu Ricard was born in France in 1946 and studied photography, classical music and biology. While doing postgraduate research in cell genetics at the Institut Pasteur under Nobel Laureate Francois Jacob, he traveled to India for the first time in 1967 to pursue his interest in Tibetan Buddhism, studying first with Kangyur Rinpoche and later Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. He spent 12 years with Khyentse Rinpoche in Bhutan, India and Nepal, studying with him and serving him. He has lived in the Himalayas since 1972 and currently resides at the Shechen Tennyi Dargyeling Monastery in Nepal.

Matthieu?s photographs of spiritual masters, the landscapes, and the people of the Himalayas have appeared internationally in numerous books and magazines.

He spends several months each year in Tibet implementing charitable projects that build and maintain clinics, schools and orphanages. Since 1989 he has accompanied HH Dalai Lama to France, acting as his personal interpreter. (For more information:

This was Matthieu?s second appearance at The Rubin Museum of Art, which opened in New York City in October 2004 and claims to be the first museum in the western world dedicated to the art of the Himalaya and surrounding regions. The museum?s stated mission is to establish, present, preserve and document a permanent collection that reflects the vitality, complexity and historical significance of Himalayan art. (For more information: