Happiness – Matthieu Ricard

Ricard is my favourite Buddhist author by far. The voice in his books is one of light-hearted deep compassion. He is someone who I could imagine being an incredible friend and mentor.

In his book, Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill (Amazon, GoodReads) Matthieu takes you on an investigation of the foundations of happiness. Backed by a plethora of studies, stories, quotes, and personal experience, this books is the most solid starting point for any reading quest on happiness.

In Ricard's own words, you should read this book because,

"A change, even a tiny one, in the way we manage our thoughts and perceive and interpret the world can significantly change our existence."

The amount of quotes listed below should be the real measure of this books greatness; and I was being conservative.

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Reading Notes:

  • Our egos often continue to throb long after the physical pain has faded.
  • the "self" = the "I" + the "person". The I is the subconscious mind. The person is our continues existence. The self is the combination of these two.
  • We are incredibly bias in life because of our ego, which constantly fights for the "self". Through internal and external insight we can see the emptiness of the self and tame our ego, resulting in a less selfish and biased life.
  • Suffering comes when we express an appropriate emotions with an inappropriate intensity or when it is inappropriate to the situation.
  • Suicide is a metaphysical plea for happiness.


  • "Happiness is a deep sense of flourishing that arises from an exceptionally healthy mind. This is not a mere pleasurable feeling, a fleeting emotion, or a mood, but an optimal state of being."
  • "Authentic happiness is not linked to an activity; it is a state of being, a profound emotional balance struck by a subtle understanding of how the mind functions."
  • "Happiness is also a way of interpreting the world, since while it may be difficult to change the world, it is always possible to change the way we look at it."
  • "Happiness is above all a love of life."
  • "It is only by the constant cultivation of wisdom and compassion that we can really become the guardians and inheritors of happiness."
  • "Two people, two ways of looking at things; six billion human beings, six billion worlds."
  • "Anyone who enjoys inner peace is no more broken by failure than he is inflated by success. He is able to fully live his experiences in the context of a vast and profound serenity, since he understands that experiences are ephemeral and that it is useless to cling to them."
  • "We take for permanent that which is ephemeral and for happiness that which is but a source of suffering."
  • "Sukha is the state of lasting well-being that manifests itself when we have freed ourselves of mental blindness and afflictive emotions."
  • "[Happiness] inspires our every act, our every word, and our every thought so naturally that we are totally unaware of it, like the oxygen we breathe all our lives without thinking about it."
  • " Happiness is a state of inner fulfillment, not the gratification of inexhaustible desires for outward things."
  • "Even if, ideally, the satisfaction of all our desires were achievable, it would lead not to happiness but to the creation of new desires or, just as likely, to indifference, disgust, or even depression."
  • "Living on a pendulum between hope and doubt, excitement and boredom, desire and weariness, it’s easy to fritter away our lives."
  • "To love oneself is to love life."
  • "We willingly spend a dozen years in school, then go on to college or professional training for several more; we work out at the gym to stay healthy; we spend a lot of time enhancing our comfort, our wealth, and our social status. We put a great deal into all this, and yet we do so little to improve the inner condition that determines the very quality of our lives."
  • "Wealth, pleasures, rank, and power are all sought for the sake of happiness. But as we strive, we forget the goal and spend our time pursuing the means for their own sake."
  • "We incur suffering but we create unhappiness. Unhappiness is altogether different, being the way in which we experience our suffering."
  • "A change, even a tiny one, in the way we manage our thoughts and perceive and interpret the world can significantly change our existence."
  • "In every sphere of human activity there are sources of inspiration whose perfection, far from discouraging us, in fact whets our enthusiasm by holding out an admirable vision of that to which we aspire."
  • "Unhappiness is a profound state of dissatisfaction that endures even in favorable external conditions."
  • "There are two levels of experience here, which can be compared respectively to the waves and the depths of the ocean. A storm may be raging at the surface, but the depths remain calm. The wise man always remains connected to the depths. On the other hand, he who knows only the surface and is unaware of the depths is lost when he is buffeted by the waves of suffering."
  • "Remaining painfully obsessed with a situation or the memory of a departed loved one, to the point of being paralyzed by grief for months or years on end, is evidence not of affection, but of an attachment that does no good to others or to oneself."
  • "If we allow that anxiety to overwhelm our mind, the most benign pain will soon become unbearable."
  • "We react as if characteristics were inseparable from the object we assign them to."
  • "Our concepts freeze things into artificial entities and we lose our inner freedom, just as water loses its fluidity when it turns to ice."
  • "The egocentricity that places the self at the center of the world has an entirely relative point of view. Our mistake is in fixing our own point of view and hoping, or worse yet, insisting, that “our” world prevail over that of others."
  • "Nothing is right outside because nothing is right inside."
  • "Systematically blaming others and holding them responsible for our suffering is the surest way to lead an unhappy life."
  • "And every difficulty can become the wicker which we weave into an inner basket that can accommodate all the trials of life."
  • "A great many conflictive emotions are mental disorders. A person in the grip of fierce hatred or obsessive envy cannot reasonably be considered sound-minded, even if he is not obviously a candidate for psychiatry."
  • "The person who can maintain perfect inner freedom feels all these sensations [of life] in the simplicity of the present moment, with the delight of a mind free of attachment and expectation."
  • "Forming the image of the “enemy” as despicable, we generalize it to the whole person or the entire group. We solidify the “evil” or “disgusting” attributes we see in them as being permanent and intrinsic traits, and turn away from any reevaluation of the situation. We thus feel justified in expressing our animosity and retaliating."
  • "Forgiving means breaking the cycle of hatred."
  • "Envy and jealousy are absurd for whoever feels them, since unless he resorts to violence, he is their only victim."
  • "If a sailor looses the tiller and lets the sails flap in the wind and the boat drift wherever the currents take it, it is not called freedom—it is called drifting. Freedom here means taking the helm and sailing toward the chosen destination."
  • "Repeatedly comparing our situation with that of others is a kind of sickness of the mind that brings much unnecessary discontent and frustration"
  • Hedonic Treadmill – "While jogging on a treadmill, we need to keep running simply to remain in the same spot. In this case, we need to keep running toward acquiring more things and new sources of excitement simply to maintain our current level of satisfaction."
  • "Pride, the exacerbation of self-importance, consists of being infatuated with the few qualities we possess and, often, of imagining ourselves to possess those we lack."
  • "In a word, when hearing a door creak, the optimist thinks it’s opening and the pessimist thinks it’s closing."
  • "Boredom is the fate of those who rely entirely on distraction, for whom life is one big entertainment and who languish the minute the show stops. Boredom is the affliction of those for whom time has no value."
  • "Anyone who cuts himself off from others and the universe, trapped in the bubble of his own ego, feels alone in the middle of a crowd."
  • "It is not a question of defining Good or Evil absolutely, but of remaining alert to the happiness and suffering we cause by our deeds, our words, and our thoughts."
  • "Nor should punishment ever be a form of vengeance, the most extreme of which is the death penalty. Revenge is a deviation from justice, since its main intent is not to protect the innocent but to hurt the guilty and to “clean” society from the offensive “enemy.” This is cowboy justice, not enlightened living."
  • "An ethic that is built exclusively on intellectual ideas and that is not buttressed at every point by virtue, genuine wisdom, and compassion has no solid foundation."
  • "History attests to the fact that utopian ideals and dogmas claiming to know Good from Evil have led through the centuries to intolerance, religious persecution, and totalitarian regimes."
  • "The key point of spiritual practice is to gain control over our mind."
  • "meditation: familiarization with a new way of being."
  • "Meditation is a skill that requires resolve, sincerity, and patience far more than it does intellectual panache. "


Sebastian Kade, Founder of Sumry and Author of Living Happiness, is a software designer and full-stack engineer. He writes thought-provoking articles every now and then on sebastiankade.com

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