The Monk and the Philosopher
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The Monk and the Philosopher

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  527 ratings  ·  50 reviews
The Monk and the Philosopher is a collection of father-son dialogues between Jean-François Revel, a French philosopher and journalist famous for his leadership in protests of both Christianity and Communism, and Matthieu Ricard, his son, who gave up a promising career as a scientist to become a Buddhist monk in the Himalayas. The conversations recorded in this book took pl...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published September 21st 1998 by Thorsons (first published 1997)
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Kstangl
The concept is promising: a Buddhist monk justifies why he left a promising scientific career in France to become a monk in Tibet to his well-connected father, all under the guise of an intellectual discussion on religion and rational secularism. And both men are extremely well-educated, bright and articulate. My heart just wasn't in it. Try as I might, I just couldn't get past the father's irritating, narrow-minded elitism. The son offers wonderfully clear explanations of Buddhist tenets, but I...more
Joshua Berg
I read this after loving Matthieu Ricard's book, Happiness. Ricard is a genius biologist turned Buddhist Monk and his father is the brilliant French philosopher, Jean-Francois Revel. This book is a conversation between the two! What could be more interesting? Unlike other "free-thinker vs. religious person" books where I have always taken the side of the free-thinker, I was on the side of both parties here so it was that much more enjoyable. I consider myself a spiritual free-thinking atheist. B...more
Eugénio Lojo
O monge, Matthieu Ricard, brilha desde a primeira página. O filósofo, Jean-François Revel, sabe fazer as perguntas certas para que o resultado final seja uma visão bastante funda do budismo em geral, e da tradição tibetana em concreto.

Acho que o livro consegue mostrar à perfeição os pontos comuns entre a filosofia, como conhecimento mais teórico, e o budismo, como conhecimento baseado na prática contemplativa, que serve de base a todos os seus conhecimentos. É curioso ver, nesse sentido, como o...more
Gautham Shenoy
This wonderful book is a dialogue between a philosopher father and a buddhist son about the ideas from the eastern and western traditions that concern themselves with the meaning of life. Jean-Francois Revel appears to be well versed with not only the works of the contemporary modern philosophers but also of the ancient greeks and the roman schools of thought. And he uses his knowledge to probe into the metaphysics, ethics, and practice of buddhism. The son, Matthieu Ricard was groomed to become...more
Leland Beaumont
The relationship between father and son is always complex. Fathers want the best for their sons, and sons balance a natural tension of wanting to learn from father, and live up to his father’s expectations, while exploring all that is new and exciting in the world. It is a respectful yet powerful tension between old and new, experience and novelty, obedience and autonomy, belief and curiosity, advice and adventure. This tension is richly realized throughout the remarkable dialogue created by the...more
Benjamin
“The Monk and the Philosopher” is a fascinating dialogue between a French agnostic philosopher, Jean-Francois Revel, and his son, Matthieu Ricard, a Tibetan Buddhist monk with a doctorate in molecular biology. The purpose of the dialogue, as the subtitle to the book explains, was to discuss “the meaning of life,” though much of the first part of the book focuses on the son explaining Buddhism and the meaning of life from a Buddhist perspective to his father. Topics that receive extensive emphasi...more
dario
Para mi gusto, se acerca (peligrosamente) al libro ideal. Ideas que disparan ideas más reaccionarias, filosofía, las todopoderosas ciencias duras, el entrecruzamiento del pensamiento occidental y oriental y lo que genera y degenera en ese desmadre. El diálogo entre padre e hijo, entre un filósofo y un científico y posterior monje budista, el ateísmo de uno y el desapego del otro, el constructor de ideas y el desarmador, el brillante intelectual y la sabiduría antiquísima del otro, la ignorancia...more
Ladan
"If man is no more than his neurons, it's hard to understand how sudden events or deep reflection and the discovery of inner truths could lead us to completely change the way we see the world, how we live and our capacity for inner joy. Any such major upheaval would have to be accompanied by an equally deep and sudden major restructuring of the complex circuits of neurons that determine our habits and behavior. If, on the other hand, consciousness is a nonmaterial continuum, there's no reason wh...more
Phil
The father, a highly regarded French and intellectual, and his son, who abandoned a brilliant scientific career to become a Tibetan Buddhist monk discuss "the meaning of life." The father made his name criticizing Christianity and Communism, and can perhaps be described as the perfectly detached secularist. Buddhism perhaps appeals to so many disaffected precisely because it is a "spirituality without religion." Maybe it is an "American" prejudice on my part, but I found their conversations to b...more
Paul Loong
As a Easterner, when I first pick up this book, I am expecting to read a comparison of the Buddhism and Christianity. After reading it, I am shocked to find out that not only does it provide a comparison, but also that my original concept in Buddhism is totally wrong.

If you have a little knowledge or you want to know the real thinking of Buddhism, I strongly recommend you to read this book. If you are a Buddhist, this book provides a good contrast between Eastern and Western thinking.
Aneesh
A very interesting dialogue.

I could feel my sympathies alternate between the monk and the philosopher. Jean-Francois' erudition comes through, and as I already agree with what I think his views on religion and ideology are, I could empathise with his stance. On the other hand, my personal experience of the effectiveness of meditation at self-transformation allowed me to understand more deeply what Mattheiu said. I felt that he was somewhat more defensive of Buddhism than Jean-Francois of Western...more
Donna
Finished with book #1 for the year 2014
The Monk and the Philosopher. In this book an atheistic philosopher (Ricard's father) and Matthieu Ricard (a follower of Buddhism) discuss the meaning of life. Regardless of your belief set, it is interesting to read about different perspectives and even more interesting to see people be civil about it, so give it a read if you're curious.
Peter
Feb 03, 2014 Peter added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1
Fantastic boook
Joel
Engaging, informative, intriguing. The dialogue between the father (philosopher) and son (monk) captures much of the tension in the interaction between western and eastern ideas. As a western person with a great interest in eastern philosophy and contemplative tradition, I found that both raised questions that echoed my own. In the process, the book offers a very digestible roadmap of Buddhist history and basic points of western philosophy, especially where relevant to Buddhist ideas.
Nava
I don't think I learned anything new and I struggled with the dialog format. but it did address some of questions I had about Buddhism. Explicitly asks and answers questions like whether it considers itself a religion, whether it is nihilistic and how it sees reincarnation. a soft filing out of the details in compact and accessible portions of wisdom. the summary of western philosophy is no less valuable than the Buddhist view which dominates. In the end I can recommend it highly. :-)
melissa
Sep 06, 2007 melissa rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who is interested in consciousness, philosophy and spirituality
Still only halfway through this book, but it's marvellous. It's written-up conversations between a French philosopher of the Western tradition, and his son, Matthieu Ricard - Buddhist monk and translator for the Dalai Lama. Because it's in the form of a conversation - you really see the personalities of, and relationship between, the two men ... and with each challenging the other, it's the perfect way to digest something of both Buddhist and Western philosophies.
Renato
Uma conversa desiquilibrada entre um senhor que explica muito bem uma data de coisas giras sobre o Budismo e outro senhor que supostamente está lá para defender a perspectiva céptica, secular e ocidental mas que não sabe bem o que está a dizer e repete constantemente algo como "Hum, curioso, isso até faz sentido, nunca tinha pensado nisso". A discussão sobre o "sentido da vida" é, na verdade, um workshop sobre Budismo.
Bill
As noted by most of the Goodreads reviews, this is a good introduction to buddhism. It was also for me a good reminder of western philosophy. The greatest strength for me lies in the discussions of Buddhism as a science of mind. When the discussion veers into Buddhist metaphysics or Tibetan politics the discussion remains interesting, but less convincing. Perhaps naive is the right term?
Plaidlad
For the existentialists and Buddhists to get to know each other, finally.
I read this book right before I went through a hardcore Nietzsche phase/college program, and boy howdy, it is quite heavy. Some of the questions in this book are so big, and so unwieldy, that you will probably have to set the book down and drink a pot of coffee.
Intellectually stimulating as F*ck, no joke.

Neil Jenkins
Was slightly disappointed not to get more from the philosopher in terms of opinion. Very interesting introduction to Buddhism though. Interesting questions raised about the problems of the self, the importance of meditation and the transfer of energy. It shows the optimism of Buddhism for our ability to transform ourselves in one lifetime despite the reincarnation theory.
Carole
A very interesting dialogue between an atheist, philosopher father and his son, Mattheu, a trained scientist and an ordained Tibetan buddhist monk on what Buddhism is or isn't, and how aspects of it are mirrored in the writings of various philosophers over the years. Some of the best description of Buddhist tenants and what appeal they may have for all of us.
David Roberts
An absolutely fascinating discussion between a famous French philosopher and his Buddhist son. Unfortunately the book begins with discussions on the most obscure topics, and then becomes immensely accessible about 33% of the way in. Deep discussions of societal structure and happiness are challenging and informative.
Robert
This was really fascinating. It was a father-son discussion - the father is a fairly well known French philosopher sort, the son was a biologist who was working with a Nobel (I think) prize winner. The son (Mattieu) gave up on that work and becomes a Buddhist. The discussion is pretty wide ranging and fascinating..
Sean
A philosopher and his scientist-turned-Buddhist son discuss the differences between Buddhism and western philosophy/religion. Both of them are exceptionally smart. The sort of book that makes one think about life, the universe and everything.
Braden Canfield
Wow. Conversations with MY father, although philosophical at times, were never like this... which is why we canned the idea of a book. Loved 'looking in' on this delightful and informative conversation. I will be going back to this one.
Matt
Great introductory text into exploring the similarities/differences between various western and eastern philosophy. Plus it is always fun to read about a son who ran off for 25 years to become a monk and the bitterness of his father.
Joseph
This book really teaches you a lot about Western philosophy and Buddhism. No matter what your beliefs, this book is enjoyable and gets you to think about "the big questions" in many different ways. Great read, great book.
Carolina
I took me a while to read this book, knowing so little as I know about philosophy. However, it opened a field that I rarely dared to explore, the one about meaning, happines, and all those truths that people seek.
Lukasz
A very interesting read comparing Western philosophy to Buddhism. Can be read by someone wanting just to learn what Buddhism is about or an experienced practitioner wanting to deepen their knowledge of Buddhism.
Greg
Feb 10, 2013 Greg is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Sad repetition of "If you just believe then you will understand." I guess if you don't believe then you can never understand. Mutually destructive tautology - not real thinking.
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Jean-François Revel was a French politician, journalist, author, prolific philosopher and member of the Académie française since June 1998.

He was best known for his books Without Marx or Jesus: The New American Revolution Has Begun, The Flight from Truth : The Reign of Deceit in the Age of Information and his 2002 book Anti-Americanism, one year after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. In t...more
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“Consideremos, por ejemplo, la omnipotencia, pues un creador ha de ser onmipotente: o bien el creador no decide crear, y en ese caso pierde su omnipotencia, pues la creación se hace sin el concurso de su voluntad, o bien crea voluntariamente y ya no es todo poderoso, porque crea bajo la influencia del deseo de crear.” 1 likes
“it’s a metaphysical choice that science makes when it states that with the help of our concepts we can discover the ultimate nature of a phenomenal world that exists independently of our concepts.” 0 likes
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