Notebooks of a Wandering Monk

by Charles Hastings
English-speaking readers now have a chance to discover Matthieu Ricard’s autobiography, Notebooks of a Wandering Monk, which appeared in French in 2021. The English version has just been published this month by MIT press. I would like to urge our friends to read it.

Most of you are already familiar with Matthieu’s beautiful explanations and extraordinary photos in Imagine Clarity. Perhaps you have read some of his other books. However, this one is special. It tells us about Matthieu’s own journey in a very direct way. Usually, in his writings and public talks, Matthieu adopts a somewhat objective stance. Here he provides a remarkable window on his own feelings and what he has found most important in his life. Matthieu sees it as not so much about himself, but rather as an opportunity to introduce readers to the extraordinary Buddhist teachers that he has known so well, Kangyur Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, the 14th Dalai Lama and many others, and to introduce us to the very different worlds that he has been part of. 

Although he provides an inside view of the better-known part of his life, his travels, his collaboration with scientists, his philanthropic work etc, he spends a major part of the book introducing us to the lesser-known adventure with his spiritual guides. One has the impression that what we normally see of Matthieu is, in a sense, the tip of the iceberg. There's so much more to discover.

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991). Photo: Matthieu Ricard.
The book opens with a description of Matthieu’s meeting with Kangyur Rinpoche, in a modest dwelling in Darjeeling, India. As he explains in moving terms this was the pivotal moment in his life. I was particularly touched by this because I had a similar experience on meeting Kangyur Rinpoche for the first time just a few years later. Matthieu and I lived together with Rinpoche, being made welcome in a warm, inclusive way by his family. Matthieu was something of a mentor for me at the time and we have remained close ever since.

The 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, born July 6, 1935. Photo: Matthieu Ricard.
In Imagine Clarity we are trying to reach out to you, whatever your background and situation, and provide tools to enable each one to find meaning and happiness in our increasingly complex world. Even though few of us can hope to fully emulate what Matthieu has achieved, he provides us with a workable approach to make a significant difference in our own lives, through developing mental stability and kindness. We hope to continue this journey with you.

Warmest wishes,
Charles Hastings

About Matthieu's Teachers

Kangyur Rinpoche (1897-1975) was one of the great Tibetan teachers of the twentieth century. He lived in contemplative retreat for many years, then traveled across Tibet, teaching all who asked him. A visionary teacher who left behind many written teachings, he exited Tibet before the Chinese invasion, safeguarding a veritable treasure house of texts. He lived in Darjeeling, India, where his many disciples included a number of westerners. His sons, Pema Wangyal Rinpoche, Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche and Rangdrol Rinpoche are now teaching and leading retreats in France and other locations.
Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991), one of the great masters of Tibetan Buddhism, was one of the fourteenth Dalai Lama’s teachers. His inner journey led him to a rare depth of understanding and he provided a wellspring of love, wisdom, and compassion for everyone he met. Hermit, scholar, poet, and artist, he was a leading guardian of Tibet’s spiritual culture. In addition to living thirty years in contemplative retreat, he worked tirelessly to preserve and share the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. His life served as a living example of his teachings. He left behind twenty-five volumes on Buddhist theory and practice and countless disciples in all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. He founded Shechen Monastery in Nepal and is the inspiration for all its ongoing activities.
The 14th Dalai Lama: Tenzin Gyatso, born July 6, 1935, is the most respected figure in Tibetan Buddhism and one of the greatest moral figures of our time. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. Throughout his life he has promoted fundamental human values or “secular ethics,” harmony among religions and a dialogue with modern science, which has inspired many eminent scientists to investigate the effects of meditation on the brain and physical and mental health. Photo: Matthieu Ricard.

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