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Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  6,555 ratings  ·  358 reviews
In this groundbreaking book, Matthieu Ricard makes a passionate case for happiness as a goal that deserves as least as much energy as any other in our lives.

Wealth? Fitness? Career success? How can we possibly place these above true and lasting well-being? Drawing from works of fiction and poetry, Western philosophy, Buddhist beliefs, scientific research, and personal exp
Paperback, 304 pages
Published January 5th 2007 by Little, Brown and Company (first published 2003)
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Gyurme I would say it is a very good book for anyone who contemplates on "how can I lead a happy life?" (ofcourse life can't be turned instantly happy by jus…moreI would say it is a very good book for anyone who contemplates on "how can I lead a happy life?" (ofcourse life can't be turned instantly happy by just reading a book about happiness). The reviews here at goodreads platform seem somehow divided but the liking for the book and the ideas in it do not seem to be sharply deviated among the readers as some of the books are prone to. This should indicate that book is fine enough to read. The praises and the criticisms from readers are correct in their own right and this is nothing unusual considering the subjective matter the book deals with. Actually, debate is always a healthy phenomenon when it comes to ideas and how to be happy has been a subject of inquiry as long as people have existed. I would recommend this book to be read, re-read and contemplate upon the ideas in it.(less)

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Mar 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I can imagine reading this book at some other life juncture and thinking "ah, that's nice" and moving on. That is, I can imagine reading it and not taking it seriously, and not getting very much out of it. But a number of things have come together just at this point in my life to cause me to pay special attention to this idea. It's very scientific and it's very simple.

1. Brains are quite plastic. Just as we might completely rewire the brain/nerve/finger connection by practicing guitar for 10,000
Amal Bedhyefi
If i picked up this book earlier in my life , i would have left it unfinished , because I used to think i'm such a happy person.
But after being through a lot , picking this book up and reading it couldn't get any better .
This book is not addressed only to people suffering from mental illness , it could be read by anyone , litterally any one who's searching for a better , happier and healthier life .
I loved how he made complicated explanations seem easy and simple and how he managed to change my
Nov 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tao-and-zen
Without succumbing to his arguments in favor of pacifism, or his simplistic exaltation of places like Tibet and Bhutan, I think Ricard has written a brilliant treatise on human flourishing. This is a great read. And it will challenge the way you think.
Aug 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirituality
Ricard strongly emphasizes that diligent practice is the key to happiness, that we confuse pleasure and desire with happiness, and that true happiness is constant and maintained from within, not reliant on external circumstances. Also emphasized are that the positive emotions need to be cultivated and that they don't simply arise out of the absence of the negative amotions such as anger or hatred. Some good practices are given to handle the more difficult emotions and to cultivate the more posit ...more
Dec 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is the most inspiring book I have read recently. I picked it up when I was feeling depressed and I was starting to get into learning about Buddhist thought. It is amazing and inspiring and I have started to re-read it. I also sent it to my sister who seemed rather down and is "searching" for happiness right now. As a side note, the brain activity which signals someone is happy was tested in the author and he scored off the charts. They also tested others who meditate and practice loving-kin ...more
This has to be one of my favourite books on happiness and positive psychology. Covering such concepts as seeking happiness within/without, the alchemy of suffering, egoism, managing our thoughts and disturbing emotions, compassion, altrusium, happiness set point and the impact positive thinking and mediation has on the neuroplasticity, Ricard's coverage of the topic is comprehensive without being too heavy or technical.
Being happy is a skill which can only be acquired through practice, and this
Jun 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A very thorough and life-changing book, I will certainly re-read it to fully absorb all the concepts and understand the complex ideas, it has already changed the way I think about quite a lot of things.
May 08, 2013 rated it did not like it
Easily the worst book of the quite thriving buddhist/meditation/happiness subgenre. The guy's a buddhist monk, but he's also french and he used to study at the Pasteur Institute (a fact he repeats ad nauseam) and his dad was a philoso-pha, of the french stock, and he wrote about... those of you who've picked up a french philo book or two might have guessed it, Karl Marx...

Somehow both of these facts make Mattieu really proud and very unbuddhistly proud as he peacocks his way through the introd
Bastian Greshake Tzovaras
It's hard to write a review about this one. While I liked the general idea that happiness is a skill that can be learned and would agree with it, the book itself doesn't seem to helpful with that.

Ricard has an interesting biography, but he seems pretty oblivious how this might have shaped him. In the introduction he gives a brief overview on his youth as the son of a renowned philosopher, doing his PhD in mol. genetics at the Pasteur Institute under a Nobel Laureate and how he left for Tibet af
May 04, 2013 rated it liked it
My longer term flirtations with buddhism led me to finally try to read a book on this topic. I picked Ricard because of his scientific credentials, he is an ex-molecular biologist gone monk, interfacing now with scientists on studies of meditation.

Unfortunately the book didn't really grab me on any level. It mixes basics of buddhist teaching and metaphors with little bits of (western, analytic) psychology, some anecdotes and entry level introduction into meditation practice. All however feels f
Dec 13, 2010 rated it liked it
I appreciate the mix of science and spirituality. I devoured this book in a matter of days. I like the feeling of empowerment Ricard wants his readers to leave with, but I do sense a bit of preaching from time to time. He claims that the book is not Buddhist, but it is. Ricard even chooses sometimes to compare Buddhism with monotheistic religions, outlining, in his opinion, the clear superiority of the Buddhist philosophy in leading a happy life. Aside from these few instances, Ricard makes a tr ...more
Mar 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a sort of holistic look at happiness from the perspective of a Buddhist monk who was originally formally trained as a scientist and grew up around philosophers. There's a lot to wade through, here, but at its heart, the main goal seems to be to convince us that meditation is really what we should all be doing to improve our general wellbeing. I, for one, am totally sold on this. Ricard details various studies done where scientists are able to measure brainwaves of trained meditators vs. ...more
Feb 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Well, this book did change my life - I ended up going to a somewhat intensive meditation retreat of 9 days as a consequence of events that were triggered from this book. And this is an activity I look forward to doing every year. I wasn't sad or depressed with my life - things were normal in the normal meaning of the word and neither was I looking forward to "happiness".

I'm happy this book found out me as it was an accidental book that I picked up from library simply because the author looked in
Sep 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Matthieu Ricard is very wise and clear in his articulation of philosophy--reading this I was inspired to change aspects of my own life, and truly believed in many of the things he shared. This was a book that prompted me towards deep self-reflection. It provided me with clarity on topics I have intuitively been in touch with. I think this book is particularly important because of its incorporation of compassion and empathy. The fact it outlines that personal change is possible is widely encourag ...more
Christopher Jennings
Jun 05, 2009 rated it it was ok
I have put this book aside for the meantime.

It's good to remind yourself that happiness has very little to do with what society says it does, however, the author keeps patting himself on the back for being so awesome(at least so far).
PJ Murray
May 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It touches on Buddhist themes, without getting too preachy or religious. Well worth the read for those aspiring to live a life at peace.
Dec 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the many things I love about Buddhism (and Buddhist practitioners) is that it's a practical religion. Matthieu Ricard's meditation on happiness shows that practicality. When defining happiness, he gets right to it, discussing what it might be and what it isn't in refreshingly simple, practical ways. Happiness, a state we all think we want, can't be dependent on external circumstances. If it's internal, then we all have to recognize what we conditions we need internally to be happy and "br ...more
Kathryn Poe
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is a wonderful read for anyone interested in gaining an understanding of meditation, basic Buddhist thought, and non-western ethical thought. Ricard does a wonderful, thoughtful job at presenting the science behind mediation, or perhaps the justification for why you should bring it into your life. And as someone that already has, it was an enjoyable & informative read about something I already do. The 4 star rating is because I did find some annoyance in reading all of the rhetorical q ...more
Logan Smith
Feb 07, 2020 rated it liked it
I found this book to be just ok. I disagree with some of the assumptions that the author makes about human nature, but I can agree with some of the other parts of his philosophy. The book is thought-provoking.
Cara Hinton
Apr 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was good. The biggest take away is that you can choose to be happy. All else will fall into place. This was good, but the other Happiness book by Thich Nhat Hanh was better and more of a meditation guide.
Aug 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A great read, definitely recommended if you are in to spiritual books. This books discusses a range of concepts like EGO, happiness, inner freedom, enlightenment, Buddhism core values and others.
Celine Evren
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
such a inspiring book, I could give more than 5 stars to this book. A MUST READ!
Arthi Jayaraman
Apr 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a guide to Life. I have been lucky to have this book with through what was the most difficult phase of my life. I have read and re read and re read this book in the last few months. And I will be doing that for some time to come. For me, this book brought in balance. And gave me strength. You may discover other attributes in this book:)
Steve Greenleaf
“Happiness” is a word, like the word “love”, that seems to have as many different meanings and nuances as there are people to utter them. For a writer to do it delve into the subject of happiness requires either a large degree of foolhardiness or a lot of courage. Matthieu Ricard, the author of this book, has a lot of courage.

My immediately preceding post reviewed a book by B Alan Wallace, one of the most interesting and persuasive teachers in the Buddhist tradition today. I have to say that if
May 08, 2014 rated it liked it
This was a bit more of a touchy-feely self-help book than I was expecting, but between the occasional unsupported claims and vague platitudes there was some interesting stuff along the axes of Buddhist philosophy, Western philosophy, social science, and neuroscience. My preference would have been for Ricard to say more about fewer things (this is really sort of surface-level stuff for the most part), but it did bring up plenty to think about in an easily-readable format. The most valuable thing ...more
Jan 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book did help me to take a different look at how my "disturbing" emotions do impact my well being. I specifically appreciated the chapter on anger. The meditation exercises throughout were nice and I liked how they helped you apply the principles he discussed. I do agree with other reviewers that this was a little light on science and a little preachy at times. However, I still felt like I got a lot out of it and I like the general thesis that the plasticity of our brains empowers us to sha ...more
Hazim Bangwar
Without a doubt this book has been well researched, and is very well written, but by no means is this a secular book. The song of Buddhist has been played through out this book, not that theres anything wrong with that but I just dont agree with Matthieu Ricard in his introduction where he claims this to be a secular book. However this is a good book, as it carried a different out take on the concept of happiness with many valid examples.
Jun 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
An excellent introduction to a kind of agnostic, existential Buddhism that is appealing to Western scientific minds. This book is in many ways a life changing read that makes you a better and more discerning person at the end of it, able to hate the wrongdoing but empathize with the pitiful condition of the wrongdoer, able to forgive in order to remove the pain in one's own heart, able to love all sentient beings as one's own ego ... ...more
An interesting philosophical and scientific look at Happiness within life and Buddhism.
A bit hard to get through, but an interesting read nonetheless. I think that because of the author's scientific background, as well as the fact this book is translated from his original French makes it a harder read than other books on this topic. Not one I would recommend as a start into this topic, but one that should make it onto your to-read lists if this is a topic you've already started reading about.
Oct 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Some valuable principles about happiness and life, primarily from a Buddhist psychology perspective. Would have appreciated some more research peppered in. Listened to the audiobook version and found it extremely difficult to understand his thick French accent at times. He should have had someone else record it. Overall, I found it worth reading - but know this isn't the end all be all as a practical source of how to improve your happiness. ...more
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Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk, trained as a molecular biologist before moving to Nepal to study Buddhism. He is the author of The Monk and the Philosopher (with his father, Jean-François Revel); The Quantum and the Lotus (with Trinh Thuan); Happiness; The Art of Meditation; Altruism: The Power of Compassion; A Plea for the Animals; and Beyond the Self: Conversations between Buddhism and Neurosc ...more

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“We try to fix the outside so much, but our control of the outer world is limited, temporary, and often, illusory.” 52 likes
“Happiness is a state of inner fulfillment, not the gratification of inexhaustible desires for outward things.” 21 likes
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