Memeing Altruism with Matthieu Ricard

Upworthy Meme, MR1

Matthieu Ricard is a buddhist monk, scientist, photographer and author.  He recently gave a phenomenal TED Talk on the importance of altruism.  Click here to watch the whole talk (or just scroll down to watch the talk at the end of this post).  On YouTube, Ricard talks about his upcoming book, Altruism (out in June of 2015).  In the following clip, he talks specifically about the concept of altruism as a cultural replicator (or meme), with the capability to proliferate faster than genes ever could. If our global community focuses collectively on meditation and loving kindness, we can transform as individuals with an impact on society and together we can mindfully craft a better, thriving home for future generations.  Altruism, in so many ways, is essential for us to survive.

Ever thought about kindness as a cultural replicator and meme?  Perhaps it’s time we start.  Watch the video:

from the video Ricard says:
“It took 10,ooo-15,000 years to get a real altruistic gene in the human genetic pool.  But culture can change much faster, faster than genes…. and [cultural replicators] still operate with the Darwinian process… so culture can change, within the century, within the last 30 years…”

and this is the definition of a meme:

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What if we focused on learning meditation on loving kindness, developing the skill of kindness, and teaching it to kids as a part of their regular curriculum in schools?  What if happiness and compassion went viral?  Altruism could easily become embedded in our cultural genes and we’d start to be more mindful of each other, kinder to ourselves and others, to animals and the planet.  It’s a wonderful idea, easily implemented and it starts with us.  Long live the #AltruismRevolution!
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  1. Peta Mni

    While Ricard’s message is definitely one with which I agree, mainly that we need to create sustainable harmony and an economy of caring, I found his proposed approach too vague in regards to implementation. Mind you, I meditate daily and can go on at length about the benefits. Here in the US however, getting everyone to meditate would be an arduous undertaking. That said, I would assert that the education and practice of empathy is more likely to result in altruistic behavior and there’s ample research to support my claim (ex. The Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis C. Daniel Batson, 2010 ISBN-13: 9780195341065). I say this from personal experience as I was introduced to the practice and teaching of empathy through study with Marshall Rosenberg, author of Non-Violent Communication. Of course on the road to altruism there are many paths and Ricard’s ability to convey the importance of such is commendable.

    • Sean Thompson

      Someone above me mentioned an “economy of caring” and I thought that was so interesting! We often foster “effective channels of communication but there is no element of care in place. Nel Noddings has a body of work that talks about this titled “Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education” which she discusses the “fixation” of care with several ethical moral requirements.

      The disconnect that seems to amplify with social media is that once a good deed is watered and processed, how is it delivered to the masses with care and understanding?

      It does not live in our lives as people outward, only in times of hopelessness and need. The approach that we are met with seems to be specific to a case by case basis and depends on the individual that chooses to follow through on an altruistic approach.

    • Rachel Weidinger

      Hi Peta!

      I thought your comment was really insightful. I completely agree in the fact that yes, this sounds like a great message to embrace in today’s society, but it also would be incredibly difficult to implement. Becoming familiar with altruistic behavior and teaching empathy at an early age would have a positive affect on society, and hopefully help to alter the mindsets early on. I think Ricard’s intentions and teachings have validity though – it’s just about finding ways to implement them across different cultures.

  2. R.Stauffer

    I actually watched Matthieu Ricard’s talk about a week and it was a pleasure to watch it again. I practice yoga every day but am just beginning to regularly meditate. Hearing him break it down (“Four weeks, 20 minutes a day, of caring, mindfulness meditation already brings a structural change in the brain compared to a control group. That’s only 20 minutes a day for four weeks.”) actually helps motivate me to stick with it. The concept of altruism can seem too good to be true in our society, but I found this to be a very specific approach.

    I actually love the idea of bringing altruism and meditation into schools. I’ve often wondered why yoga isn’t a part of Physical Education curriculums. I think it is crucial to bring this way of thinking into schools, because those kids will grow into individuals who are familiar with these feelings and concepts, which will, in turn, improve their future work places.

    In reference to something stated in the original discussion: “People like to share good news and the whole mechanism of “Liking” actually releases oxytocin, which heightens feelings of good will and contentment.”

    My question is whether we can get that like of sharing good news to transfer into a priority and action. More specifically, can we take this love of feeling good, and love of spreading good, offline into our every day lives? That’s why I think putting it in schools is practical: You reach hundreds of kids a day, and their teachers, who will eventually take it home to their parents. We let kids practice sports, arts, academics-why not empathy? We ingrain qualities within them (and not always good ones) in school–work hard, strive for good grades, etc., so why would we not encourage them to strive for empathy, understanding, and happiness as well?

    I only wonder if our culture, which is very accomplishment-driven, can and will open our minds to value the practice of altruism?

  3. Sean

    Someone above me mentioned an “economy of caring” and I thought that was so interesting! We often foster “effective channels of communication but there is no element of care in place. Nel Noddings has a body of work that talks about this titled “Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education” which she discusses the “fixation” of care with several ethical moral requirements.

    The disconnect that seems to amplify with social media is that once a good deed is watered and processed, how is it delivered to the masses with care and understanding?

    It does not live in our lives as people outward, only in times of hopelessness and need. The approach that we are met with seems to be specific to a case by case basis and depends on the individual that chooses to follow through on an altruistic approach.

  4. Adrienne Santamaria

    The concept of meditation and yoga being brought into schools is one that I fully support it. Thinking back to high school, I believe that I would have benefitted greatly from a period of destressing. At that time, I was high strung and prone to snapping and making poor judgements, as were many of my peers. At The New School, I know a lot of my peers participate in yoga classes and daily meditation sessions, which I believe has done a lot for them. A lot of us volunteer in our spare time and take initiative to set up programs that will help those in need. Realistically, these two things are not mutually exclusive, but I think that there seems to be some kind of connection.

    Teaching younger children to meditate, coupled with lessons in altruism seem to be the way to go. The earlier that something is introduced to someone, the more likely it is to stick with them as an adult. However, the problem that I see comes from the knowledge that this would have to happen on a smaller scale than I believe would be effective. Obviously, not every school district is going to agreee to put such a plan into motion. For those kids that do obtain such an education, what is to spare them from the sometimes unaccepting outside world?

    The internet can be a cruel place, as we have seen from the public shaming and cyber bullying spectacles that have become far too common in society. One will surely learn of these unfortunate instances at some point.

    My question is: Is there a way to preserve “good” practices despite the cruel world around us? What would you propose? I’m not really sure what the answer is to these questions, but they are interesting to think about.

    • Trent Shafer

      Your question of how to preserve good I think is a simple solution, you focus on it. Instead of promoting despair and atrocities, you look at those situations from a lens of those working to fix the problem. For any given issue, there are a group of people working to circumvent the crisis. Humanitarians around the globe are providing support to those in need. Shifting the focus will eventually transfer into group thought. The phrase “you are what you eat” comes to mind, if you allow yourself to only read about the terrible things and surround yourself with people who do the same, you will be enraptured by turmoil and competitiveness, than altruism.

      • R.Stauffer

        I’m inclined to agree with Trent. Honestly, I think we tend to overthink solutions (which it is certainly easy to do, because introducing a concept like this is, in some ways, totally opposite of our culture)…there’s really only one way to practice good, and that is to put emphasis on it. I actually think “you are what you eat” is a great way of phrasing it…we are everything we put into our bodies and minds. When you put it like that, why wouldn’t we want to consume good, in all ways?

        Adrienne, your question about sparing unexposed kids from an unaccepting world is a good one. I’m honestly not sure of the answer-but I totally agree with you that teaching these practices to younger children should be the focus. What do you do for a child who A. Isn’t getting it at school, and B. Has a less-than-stellar home life? How do we take care of them?

        Another question: How does this carry into our online presence? Is it as simple as sharing positive things via social media, etc?

        (PS: Just realized I logged in above under my personal email rather than my New School email-so the above R. Stauffer is also me, Rainesford Stauffer).

        • Karlin Ready

          I agree with everyone in this thread. The idea of altruism seems “too good to be true”. The problem with sharing these kind of deep emotions via social media is that it would be hard to truly capture the emotional bond with he issue at hand. Seeing an issue and sharing it on the internet can only do so much. There needs to be a way to physically and virally share ideas such as these in order to maybe make it work. In an idealistic society these solutions wouldn’t even need to be addressed. It seems almost impossible to spread this kind of issue as of right now. But on the contrary I am relieved to see these articles popping up in today’s world.

  5. Jennifer Chien

    This was an exciting video, one that I thoroughly enjoyed hearing due to the importance of altruism and the near extinction of it in this generation. The harmonious life and economy that we all wish for seems to never be found but are slowly seen in little crevices. For instance, Yoga to the People, a chain found in the city offers free yoga classes for participants. But by implementing it in the school system by offering yoga classes would definitely help students be introduced in feeling harmonious and happy, which will be carried in their academic, social and personal lives. My high school actually offered yoga classes as a substitute for other sport classes. However, although this is wished upon, it seems it will face difficulties in succeeding.

  6. bill ritter

    I love the concept of an economy of caring. Who doesn’t? Who wouldn’t? And I’m naturally drawn to Matthieu Ricard’s intoxicating lure of calm and inner peace, designed to make the world a better place thru altruism.

    And what a wonderful world it would be if all that could happen, just-like-that, by everyone spending 15 or so minutes a day meditating.

    But please allow me to pull up the shades of reality and let some sunlight in, and I say that with peace and love in my heart. I do. Really.

    Billions of people could watch this enthralling Buddhist Monk’s TED talk, and even if everyone went home and meditated and let the cultural change of altruism take over, we’d still have a world where more than a billion people live in extreme poverty, where more than 2.6 million children die each year from hunger, where more than 200 million people who once had jobs are now unemployed (at least 9 million are in the U.S., officially, with an unofficial rate probably several times that number), and a world where extremism in the pursuit of religious and terrorist power keeps hundreds of millions of people repressed and living in fear.

    Oh how I wish meditation leading to altruism could help solve all that. Maybe it starts one person at a time. I don’t know. I’m not against trying. But I can’t believe that even the purest form of good thoughts and good deeds, not even an expanding “economy of caring,” could transform much in the world without a parallel transformation and expansion in the “economy of the real world.” People need jobs, people need a stake in the future, people need security, people need peace.

    My great disappointment after watching Ricard’s TED talk and the promotional video blurbs for his book (“Altruism” hardcover will be sold at Target for $17.77) is that he takes a single minded approach to problems that are multi-pronged.

    All that said, I tried meditating after watching Ricard’s TED talk. I sat up straight… cleared my mind … and fell asleep.

  7. Zoe

    I found the Ted talk about altruism with Mathieu Ricard not only to be greatly inspiring but also to be of utmost relevance for today. The battle between altruism and selfishness is a battle that everyone fights on a day-to-day basis. I found it true that altruism and culture change and alter each other as Ricard speaks to. Perhaps this is greatly mirrored in the case he brings up about children practicing mediation and seeing the difference in how they distribute stickers before and after this practice. The change in segregation is remarkable and noteworthy.
    Another provoking point that he brought up was that empathy is not enough. I feel that we are continuously taught that we need to practice empathy and that that is the answer. But Ricard says that we need to participate in a bigger picture of loving kindness. He continuously throughout his talk stresses this need of enhancing cooperation, which translates to the importance of quality social relationships. Ultimately, this idea is especially pertinent today as people feel more disconnected than ever and depression is becoming an epidemic.

    • R.Stauffer

      I just wanted to chime in and agree with you regarding people feeling disconnected and depression becoming an epidemic. I recently read an article from Huffington Post Education (I’ll try to find a link) that said college students are more depressed, anxious, and socially withdrawn than ever…kind of a startling fact to hear. We need altruism now more than ever, it seems.

  8. Roderic David

    I share many thoughts with many of the comments previously posted. I really love the idea of a economy of caring, and think that teaching students about altruism and medication in schools is a great way to perhaps realign some of societies current ways, and build a next generation of do gooders.

    But, like many of you have said above, I don’t know if on it’s own meditation is enough to really bring about the shift in human behavior its looking for. To me, it feels like step one of a longer process. We can begin by having people start to meditate 20 minutes a day to get them in an altruistic headspace, and then we can turn this knowledge into some form of greater action. I agree with Ricard’s point that over time the brain can be trained so that there’s no choice to help others, and certainly that more people thinking this way will only bring about positive results. Still, I believe this is only the beginning of what we can all do to further the greater good.

  9. Kathleen Sweeney

    The notion of contagion is key here. One of the reasons many people tend toward skepticism about the far-reaching possibilities of altruism leads back to the messages that surround us. Our news cycles are toxic, filled with bi-polarizing factoids and stories of negative human behaviors that stimulate the amygdala’s fight or flight instinct, stressing us out and causing us to buy into a false survival of the fittest strategy for our everyday lives. (In fact, Darwin never made the equation that survival of the fittest had to do with competition; rather it had to do with adaptability, a crucial difference. Survival as competition evolved into Social Darwinism, a movement initiated by Herbert Spencer an elitist who helped popularize this version of Darwin’s research.)

    Once you begin to seek out alternative forms of storytelling, you will find myriad examples of heroism, kindness, innovation and problem-solving. These core qualities of humanity are more common that the stories of violence and taking advantage of others…and have been the key to our survival as a species…This has been an incredible part of social media’s reach: that we all have the tools to tell our own stories. We are all digital journalists, with a finger on the pulse of real time news cycles. (This is why it’s so important to champion net neutrality and to VOTE we are the true majority)…

    We are at a moment of global financial oligarchy rule that is challenging. And studies now show that those who achieve higher socio-economic status lose empathy for others. (Science keeps catching up with those hunches we had before…) And yet science has also caught up with the truth that money does not buy happiness.

    The truth is that most people are kind to those they love in their immediate circles…. The trick is extending this compassion, kindness and altruism beyond the nuclear family into the global tribes of humanity.

    Many of you have brought up the early education piece which is crucial to moving beyond a competition-only culture to one of collaboration. And children are incredibly resilient and open to this kind of learning. But so are adults. And as Matthieu Ricard points out, tools like meditation actually increase the gray matter in the hippocampus, which is where our center of compassion is located…It’s the only way 8 billion people (estimate for 2024 will survive on this planet going forward.

    • Sara M

      I’m glad that you brought up the idea of that those who achieve higher socio-economic status lose empathy for others. Recently, there was a video that went viral about a homeless man who received a lot of money from a stranger and then used it to purchase food for other homeless people in a park. I don’t love the way the video is set up but I do think it makes that point. It seems that those who have less tend to give as much as they can and those who have more than plenty, keep as much as they can to themselves.

  10. bill ritter

    While there’s no question that Ricard’s theory can provide some people with an avenue to happiness, and therefore take big steps towards making the world a better place, the part of all this that i find unsettling is virtually ignoring the collective and global solutions required to solve the big problems we as humans face. Doesn’t there have to be concurrent action? Isn’t the individual focus far less meaningful without a broader context and campaign?

    I think so. It doesn’t make one less empathetic to believe that, nor callous.
    I find the science of using positive social media fascinating. But I’m not convinced that social media has been used primarily for social activism or social change. There seems to be far more individual attention to social media, and, at least in my experience, some of it tends towards the angry and furious pent up emotions of frustrated posters.
    I deal with this dilemma daily in the news business – while we’re trying to figure out how to foster positive communication on social media.

    • Denni Elias

      I agree with you in the sense that this good and positive mindset doesn’t necessarily takes into account broader issues in our current society, but still think that Ricard’s talk goes deeper in the sense that it is only by learning individually to meditate and understand in an altruist way, that we can then understand and take actions that concern the whole world we live in. That’s why he proposes that after educating everyone since early ages about meditation and altruism, we could foresee a real and global change in the next 30 years or so.

  11. Rachel Weidinger

    I really enjoyed Matthieu Richard’s TED Talk. The points that he brought up had such validity in terms of the positive affect that it would bring upon society. The theme of the TED Talk focusing on changing the current mindset. I think this would be incredibly beneficial to educated children early about altruistic behaviors and compassion. This way, as they mature, they can build off of a somewhat altruistic foundation – hopefully also altering learned behaviors and mental processes in a positive manner. I just think that we have to think more critically about how to implement it and take into account the different cultural norms for the most successful implementation possible.

    Two important subjects that came to me when watching the TED Talk was how people feel when they give and how closely they are aligned with this image of the type of person they strive to be. The later brings up the issue of social status and influence, specifically called social proof. Yes, the majority of these people want to implement a positive intention in becoming more altruistic – but what is really pushing them to do it? What are the factors behind that? People assume the actions of others to in turn reflect the “correct” behavior on themselves. It’s all a mater of social status and selling your image to others. It’s interesting to think if people are genuine in their altruistic behaviors, or if they have some underlying benefit for showcasing this behavior.

    • Kathleen Sweeney

      Also, you all might be interested to know that Matthieu Ricard donates the proceeds from his books, lectures, tours and speaking engagements to Karuna-Shechen, a foundation he established in Nepal to address poverty, education and the empowerment of women and girls. They currently sponsor some 140 projects including solar power, schools and business opportunities to remediate poverty…

      • R.Stauffer

        This was a great read! The idea that we need a balance of critical thinking and hope is something interesting to think about, especially since constant positivity is held up as an ideal.

        “What storytellers do — and this includes journalists and TED and everyone in between who has a point of view and an audience, whatever its size — is help shape our stories of how the world works; at their very best, they can empower our moral imagination to envision how the world could work better.”

        This may be an out-of-the-box question, but since so many “write” (though I am certainly not saying it is the equivalent to what a journalist does) on social media and personal blogs, do we also help shape our world? Social media helps us envision and ignite a better world.

        I loved the line “But evil only prevails when we mistake it for the norm.” Maybe goodness is OUR norm-internally and in society.

      • bill ritter

        the “brainpickings” entry was fascinating – and deals with the questions we all have to deal with. parents, especially, have to ask themselves how to raise children to be optimistic, positive, hopeful, engaged – and still be able to confront and deal with the less-than-positive reality of so much of our world.
        without hope, a person, and our world in the end, is doomed. without reality based thinking, the conclusion is the same.
        how to have our children grow up to believe they can make a positive impact on the world, but be aware that there is evil out there. my two oldest kids grew up with 9/11 as a backdrop to their nyc upbringing, and yet both want to leave college and make a difference in this world. they’re not cynical, but neither are they naive. i’m sending them the brainpickings writing. i think it’s them.

        and it’s great ricard is donating the proceeds from all his activities to karuna-shechen. hard to imagine any else from this good person.

  12. Sara M

    I really enjoyed this article and the video on altruism. It’s a great take on what we can do as a society to ensure that the environment does not get worse and that generations to come will be able to enjoy the same perks (like breathable air!) as we do. I also thought the idea of bringing in meditation into schools was an interesting concept. It was a quick poke at PreK-12 education needing to change to ensure societal change. I do wish that he had expanded more on the component of how the brain functions’ change when altruism is part of a personality and how this is tied to meditation.

    • Jacqueline Buda

      I’ve seen a lot of news about the idea of incorporating meditation into K-12 and I think that altruism is something that should be tied into this. If it really has the benefits that science suggests, it could be a useful tool in improving our society and public school system.

  13. Jacqueline Buda

    This topic is one that I believe many of us think about at one point or another. I do continue to wonder if any one person can truly embody altruism. I think we all have some sense of goodness in us, but are we really altruistic? I have some of the skepticism that Kathleen mentioned. The idea of an altruistic gene is certainly an interesting one, but is there any science to prove that?

    I do buy that attempting to be altruistic can have these meditative effects that have been discussed. As a New Yorker, I sometimes have a bad day and take my anger or frustration out on strangers (in very small ways, not that that makes it right). But when I make an active decision to be nice to people, which IS more in my nature, it is clearly better for that person and better for me too.

    There has been a lot of news about the impact of meditation on health lately.

    Pretty interesting to think about. Meditating, and implementing a sense of altruism into our lives can make us healthier people.

  14. Denni Elias

    I am confident that Matthieu Richard’s talk can be life changing for many of us. I don’t mean this in the literal sense just straight after watching the talk, but more on the simple and easy way that he explains how to implement meditation and kindess in our society. I agree that we all have an extraordinary potential for goodness, and that a real change is just a matter of learning how to construct an altruist way of thinking.

    We do need that our minds become our best friends, and personally, I find this article extremely useful as I am in a current stage of my life where I need to learn to “clear” thinking. This means, that whenever we take a period of time during the day to focus and concentrate in what really matters in life, we can also develop a better sense of the goodness that is needed in our everyday life. The practice of meditation 20 minutes a day feels easier to implement, and the contagion and spread’s magnitude of these practices and attitude towards the way we act as humans (real altruism) can really shape our society in a close future.

    The caring economics and the real people directing finance and not otherwise do seem utopic and make us skeptical, but I think Richard’s point is much more focused on how personal actions really contribute to a greater reach and bring well-being to society.

  15. Hsien Yun

    When we think about protest, we no longer think about gun and violent and instead, we might think of words or silent protests. Culture has changed and motivations can be planted in good ways. We are the most impactful factor of ourself, our society, and our planet. I think for years we’ve focused on growth and not noticing what we’ve don’t to our planet, our only planet. We’ve been focusing on quantity and not quality. And there might be an easy solve, as Matthieu Ricard said, “to simply having more consideration for others.” Growing up in a Buddhist family, I’ve always been taught that karma exist and that every action I do and decision i make will come back to me one day. As hard as it may be, the world can be a much better place if we can manage to say good things, do good things, and make better decision. However, goodness sometime is not rewarded in every culture. Some cultures can view goodness as weakness or useless and people that are not selfish and standing up for him or herself can end up being picked on or being back stabbed. Goodness needs to be rewarded and educated so that people can learn how to achieve altruism, “wish may others be happy and find cause of happiness.” I think meditation is so powerful and that if people can learn to medication on loving kindness and we can make it part of our culture and become an altruism society.

  16. John Wilson

    I don’t know about you but I have found that I am drifting away from the mainstream media and news networks since I am finding that the content being shared is not only disparaging but also lacks effort in how I (or we) can make a difference in a very complicated world. I have replaced my morning news with instead the steady stream of social media that drives A) the content I want and B) an opportunity to see society being actively involved in highlighting concerns and how to combat them. For example, the website Upworthy creates multimedia stories that encourages activism and example of just how little it takes to do put effort in to helping others and the high yield of reward that comes with being a laborer of love. This is not to say that news and other outlets haven’t wormed their way in to the social media world but I am not captivated by the noise but rather the call for change to be and do more for my follow humanity for those who lead by example.

    • Kathleen Sweeney

      The same replacement of the mainstream news feed process has been going on for thousands, if not millions of people since the rise of Web 2.0, social media and the expanded reach of outlets like TedTalks and Upworthy, which provide an alternative to the bipolarization specialty of the old news channels. These alternative sources are not only providing deeper information for those who seek it, but also influencing the narratives in the mainstream. Some of what people are seeking is hope. And instructions on how to be better human beings at a time of global crisis.

      • Christina Murray

        It is nice to see sites such as those, you mention for more positive influence. My husband is prior military, and I would purposefully avoid all news sources during deployments because I didn’t want to hear all of the negativity. What you didn’t hear were the missions that were actually for the greater good. Altruism really would be a way to take social responsibility.

  17. Rhea

    “Our own mind can be our best friend or worst enemy.” Altruism vs selfishness, the importance of goodness doesn’t attract our attention like the episode of rage, selfishness or fight does. Altruism exists in the world but is spoken less about in this self-directed world. In todays culture we see that media has a vast and fast coverage but still only attracts and circulates self-satisfying news that is seldom altruistic in its content. A structural change can be brought out in the brain by meditating 20 minutes a day for 40 weeks. That doesn’t sound like a long-term commitment but it has its effect that brings out the peace that our own mind is looking for. As Ricard suggests the three main changes we need as a start to igniting our altruistic side is enhancing cooperation, sustainable harmony and “caring economics”.

    • Kathleen Sweeney

      A recent study at Harvard has shown that 8 weeks of meditating 20 minutes per day can actually change the structure of your brain, improving focus, enhancing the hippocampus (associated with higher levels of compassion) and reducing the size of the amygdala, associated with the fight or flight instinct and increased cortisol in the bloodstream. The heightened presence of cortisol has been associated with higher levels of heart disease, cancer and other debilitating illnesses. Meditation over time reduces the presence of cortisol in the bloodstream. Here is the link:

      Matthieu Ricard has collaborated with key researchers like Richie Davidson at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig to assist with many key fMRI mapping projects involving image resonance of the brain of non-meditators versus long-term meditators. All of these fascinating breakthroughs are proving the “scientific proof” that meditation, yoga, and certain martial arts like t’ai ch’i not only make you feel better, improve your effectiveness as a thinker, but also make you a better human being.

      Some of the initial research leading to these findings was funded by seed grants from the Mind and Life Institute, founded by the Dalai Lama to bring science, contemplative practices and social awareness into active collaboration. Mindfulness was featured on a cover of Time magazine in 2014, demonstrating how “mainstream” these ideas have become…

  18. Madison Porter

    I agree immensely with Ricard. We are facing personal challenges, as well as societal challenges especially in today’s society. Today, we are most definitely “the major agent of impact on our Earth”. If we don’t change our ways we will not exist and this Earth will not survive. I agree that we have to start “growing qualitatively, not quantitatively”. As a society we keep evolving and growing, but it may not be in a positive way anymore. It’s amazing to look at how much of our resources we have used so far. It does boil down to altruism versus selfishness.
    It is fascinating to see that it’s scientifically proven that just 20 minutes a day of meditation for four weeks truly makes a difference. We can honestly change future generations through teaching this way. I agree that culture change will make more of a difference than any gene that is created within us. It all depends on altruism versus the selfishness of the people living on this planet. Cooperative learning instead of competitive learning at a very young age will make all the difference in the future of our Earth.

  19. Valeria Maxera

    Mathieu Ricard, I remember hearing from him when I was back in school. Not only because of what he talks about, because of the message he spreads through TED talks. I agree with the whole idea of creating a sustainable harmony, because in that way, we can all care about each other, and forget about the hate around the world. Thus, as easy it is to speak about it, it is much harder to embrace it in todays society. This is were Ricard fails. Altruistic behavior isn’t known around the world as something necessary, in fact, I don’t think people even know the definition. But if we begin spreading the idea, and teaching to younger ones and the ones that are interested in change, I believe there could be small changes occurring in different cultures.

    • Kathleen Sweeney

      This gets back to the news cycle…one of the reasons many are unfamiliar with the word “altruism” is because the news cycle historically focuses on disasters and negative human actions of violence and war. Ricard talks about “the banality of goodness” and the fact that everyday, most people engage in acts of kindness. Think about it. Just today…how many people did you help in small ways: holding open a door, answering a question, directing someone lost, making dinner for a friend, etc… The distortion about the so-called innate selfishness of humanity comes from what we read and hear in the news. It is also a misinterpretation of Darwin’s “survival of the fittest”, which actually posited that adaptation requires cooperation and yes, altruism.

  20. Christina Murray

    Ricard discusses taking global responsibility through altruism. His quality vs. quantity approach would be extremely beneficial not only to those involved but also in the long term of creating a sustainable planet. What I found most interesting was the study done on the 4 year olds. By practicing for only 8 weeks the children changed who they would give their stickers to (instead of their best friends). This seems like a small detail, however I have a 5 year old, and she is VERY particular with how and why she does things. To make this type of change so quickly, seems like such an easy way to make the world a better place. Unfortunately, as stated above we live in a very selfish, overworked society and taking just 20 minutes a day for 4 weeks seems impossible to most.

  21. shikun liu

    As our society gets more advanced, we are getting more aggressive. If we don’t make a change of the way we live, we peobably won’t survive. Through Ricard’s talk, I learned how to implement meditation and bring kindness to the world. However, I think it could be quite challenging. As human beings, we are good in nature, but human natures are naturally defective, for example, selfishness. And it is hard to change the natures. Although the idea of educating school kids altruism at an early age seems to be beneficial, will it really work? I’m still skeptical about it.

  22. Chloe Wang

    I believe that the idea of bringing meditation and yoga into schools and having children practice it at a young age would be beneficial. Although I agree with Mathieu Ricard, I do think that implementing altruism long-term and having everyone believe and practice it is quite difficult. This is because, I do think that it is human nature to be selfish and it is something that would be hard to change completely. But, I can see how teaching altruism to kids early on could possibly help ease the practice of altruism, just because kids develop at a early age. And, if they grow up practicing altruism, it might grow on them. The question is that could they always stick to being altruistic? Would they never feel selfish?

  23. Anna Mackie

    I found Mr. Matthieu Ricard’s speech extremely interesting- filled with with many valid concerns about humanity and in hopes of implementing happiness, harmony, and kindness globally, introducing the idea of Altruism. Although I agree with Mr. Matthieu and find Altruism intriguing and ideal for society, I think it is almost impossible, if even at all possible, to instill in our culture. Institutions can introduce a mandatory yoga/meditation class and instill these ideas of Altruism to children from the beginning of their education, but I don’t think that would create or make an impact in the ways that Mr. Mattheiu hopes. I don’t think it is a realistic idea because we as human beings are competitive, selfish and all so vastly different, with such varying beliefs, mannerisms and opinions; And yes- perhaps a small population of society will adopt Altruism and live by its morals, but many will not.
    I have believed that educational instituions should teach a mandatory class, year round, every year (like math and english) on racism, racial differences, white privilege, racial profiling, gender roles, gender inequality, beauty standards etc. I hoped that by conditioning young minds to accept differences and really, truly understand the inequities that people face and struggle with, it would create a more understanding, loving, compassionate community and gradually deconstruct racism and all other prejudice and negative stigma. (And frankly, hoping for almost the same outcome and results as Mr. Matthieu) There would probably be benefits from this class, just like a medication class or a yoga class would in regard to Altruism, but the fact is that from where I am standing right now, and the fact that slavery ever existed and people are naturally ruthless, selfish beings, there will always be inequality and there will always be destructive, self-serving people in this world. As much as a I hope Altruism would work, I think it is an impossible task.

    • Tara Shanahan

      I don’t think it’s fair to say that it’s impossible to achieve Altruism. We can dwell on horrible things that have happened in the world like slavery and inequality, but there are a lot of great things that have happened too. The media tends to dwell on the bad and so we’re used to that. Equality shouldn’t be some impossible utopian idea. It should be a reality. I don’t think it will happen in this lifetime because there’s a lot of work to be done. But there’s no reason to write it off as impossible because then nobody will fight for it.

      • Kathleen Sweeney

        What’s intriguing is that despite our awareness of great violence in the world (ISIS, Israeli conflict, etc), violence by numbers is actually decreasing globally.
        Here is a talk by Steven PInker about these surprising trends…

        If we are schooled in the misapprehension that humans are inherently violent and selfish, doesn’t it result in lack of trust, isolation and therefore increased belief in mainstream authority figures?

  24. Morgan Gildersleeve

    I enjoyed this Ted talk! Many comments below share the idea that although his message is inspiring,
    getting everyone in our country to participate in an “economy of caring” may be too ambitious. I would have to disagree with this notion. In order for progress to happen we need people like Matthieu Ricard to fight against what is. He feels strongly about focusing on learning meditation on loving kindness (not just for others, but for ourselves and for our planet), as well as developing and spreading the skill of kindness. These ideas may seem foreign and far fetched in the context of our society today, however i do believe they are extremely important and should not be skimmed over. If we look at the history of the US, all great and seemingly impossible changes happened by fighting against the norm. If everyone just sat back, and conformed to established ideas, women would have never been able to vote, The Civil Rights Movement would have never happened, same sex marriage would have never been legalized…and so on. It is for passionate visionaries like Matthieu Ricard that our country continues to progress. I have had countless conversations with people who when the term “progress” comes up, say “we have made so much progress already.” Yes, as a country we have made immense progress–however, why is the amount of progress we have made as a country enough to settle now? We need to keep fighting and pushing forward in order to create a better future in every aspect. It is easy to become selfish when issues do not directly touch us or we cannot see a direct result in our actions. However, it is so vital for us to change that way of thinking in order to save the human race and our planet.

    • Kathleen Sweeney

      The Civil Rights movement is one of many examples of progress, as well as Women’s Rights. Studies show that poverty is reduced when women and girls are educated and treated with parity. With global warming and other crises affecting our planet, boundaries are literally breaking down (think of the current Syrian refugee crisis, with thousands streaming into Greece, Turkey and other countries). We are increasingly being forced to view ourselves as global citizens and as the polar ice caps melt, the only way for us to solve these issues is to cooperate, show compassion and change our habits of consumption. We are at the tipping point and cultivating kindness may prove the most effective sustainability tool in our grasp.

  25. Szu-Chen Doleon

    I really enjoyed watching this TEDtalk. His main idea, “How to have a better quality of life? To concern more about others. ” This really inspired me and remind me about a serious earthquake in Taiwan and hundreds of people died last week. I believed that individual can influenced the whole society. The first three days, the blood bank was running shortage. Fortunately, one person stand out to donate his blood. His behavior influenced others and even some cooperations. Many companies donate lots of money and living supplies.

  26. Alexander Silva

    The TedTalk with Ricard is compelling because it’s so clearly understood that this man means absolutely nothing but good for the world.

    By deciphering the damages done to our habitats through info graphics that so clearly express the negative impacts on categories such as biodiversity, we first become compelled to sort of tenderize our hearts before moving forward with the speech.

    Altruism is ultimately the act of being selfless and doing things for a greater good. Ricard explains how we do have the capability of transforming our behavioral process to reflect altruism because our culture can change faster that our genes.
    Ricard highlights cooperative learning as he explains that competition shouldn’t be present within corporations but that it is healthy to have it exist between them.

    Our society can mend the way we teach future generations to process their feelings and actions in giving back to the world. The 8-week program for preschoolers proved success in that the minds of future leaders of society can simply be trained to think more about the togetherness of society, than the empowerment of only the individual.

    Personally, I find this to be very intriguing because I too believe in a better world where we focus on moving together and not only saving, but also celebrating what we do have. However, it saddens me that it takes a philosopher and a TedTalk to simply highlight these issues. Makes you wonder, “Where did we go wrong?” and “Why are we so awful.”

    And on that note, “viva a revolcion de altruismo”

  27. Yiwen Li

    In watching this TED Talk, I found tenderness,hopefulness, and the most impotent thing in this talk expresses, a possible way leading to happiness. Happiness is a vague concept so that Mathieu Ricard defines the meaning of the true happiness. If happiness is an option in your life, would you choose it? I would. Since the talk is a guide, it does provide some useful techniques and convincing examples supported by psychology researches. Despite the preference of Mathieu Ricard for altruism, his talk gives me chance to think about what does make one really happy in a consistent way.

  28. Anika Pivarnik

    If only we practiced altruism as a meme as often as we shared cultural memes on social media… I thought Ricard’s Ted Talk was brilliant in addressing one of society’s underlying foundational problems. Making simple daily changes of mindfulness and kindness could literally shift the direction that society is moving in. Once those basic fundamental problems are solved, other world issues will naturally begin to mend themselves. This theory makes social change seem a lot less overwhelming. However, I agree with some of the comments above, making a daily change can be easier said than done. Once bad habits and negative thought patterns are deeply ingrained into one’s lifestyle, it can be difficult to break the cycle, especially given economic pressures and other strains from the busyness of day-to-day life. Implementing specific changes, like the meditation programs in schools that were mentioned above, can be a great way to start. It’s important to focus on teaching younger generations positivity, so that they can grow up knowing those habits as second nature, and like Ricard said, eventually change culture in a short amount of time.

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