matthieu ricardMatthieu Ricard calls the Himalayas of Nepal his home.Jim Brandenburg via Shechen Archive

  • Matthieu Ricard is a Tibetan Buddhist monk and Dalai Lama associate who became globally renowned for his bestselling books and popular presentations on happiness.
  • He (unwillingly) gained the title of “happiest man in the world” from the Western press due to the level of brain activity registered in a brain scan during his meditation.
  • Ricard is also a skilled photographer, and his photos reveal a glimpse of what his life is like in the Himalayas of Nepal.
  • His day includes meditation, charity, and time with his fellow monks.

The life of a typical Tibetan Buddhist monk involves detachment from chaotic modernity, spent primarily in monasteries in the mountains. Matthieu Ricard is not a typical monk.

Born in France in 1946 to prominent parents, his father a philosopher and his mother a painter, Ricard received his PhD in molecular genetics at the prestigious Pasteur Institute before dedicating his life to monkhood in the Himalayas. He studied under a series of masters before becoming a monk at age 30, and became the Dalai Lama’s French translator in 1989.

Ricard cowrote a book with his father in 1997, “The Monk and the Philosopher,” primarily as a bonding experience with his aging parent, but it went on to become a surprise bestseller in France. And once the media took notice of Ricard, he reluctantly became a kind of celebrity.

The Western media also proclaimed him “the happiest man alive,” a title Ricard has unsuccessfully tried to shed, after his brain’s gamma waves were recorded as the strongest among fellow monks in a University of Wisconsin study on meditation in 2000.

Following the lead of the Dalai Lama, Ricard decided to use a media spotlight to promote lessons on honing happiness and altruism, and any of his share of the proceeds from his work goes toward his nonprofit, Karuna-Shechen.

Depending on the year, Ricard may spend most of his time abroad either at other monasteries or speaking to an audience at an organization like TED, Google, or the United Nations, but his true home is at the Shechen Monastery in Nepal.

We spoke to Ricard about his life for an episode of Business Insider’s podcast “Success! How I Did It,” ahead of the release of his latest book, “Beyond the Self.” And a representative of Karuna-Shechen sent us a collection of Ricard’s photography (he’s a sophisticated photographer) that we combined with some other images to give an idea of what a typical spring day in the life in Nepal is like for him. Additional insights are drawn from his books “Happiness” and “Altruism.”