Altruism Summary By Matthieu Ricard

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Altruism, released in 2015, is a fascinating exploration of our innate need to care for others.

Examining the concept of altruism from many angles—philosophy, economics and evolutionary theory—the book provides insights into why we are compelled to help those around us.

From practical advice on how to be an effective caregiver to thought-provoking ideas about our place in the big picture, Altruism offers readers a valuable means for understanding human empathy and motivation.


Book Name: Altruism (The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World)

Author(s): Matthieu Ricard

Rating: 4/5

Reading Time: 21 Minutes

Categories: Motivation & Inspiration

Author Bio

Matthieu Ricard is the author of the book on Altruism.

He was born in Aix-les-Bains, France and is a Buddhist monk practicing in the Tibetan tradition.

He has an impressive background as he previously studied molecular biology before turning towards exploring spirituality and becoming a bestselling author.

Moreover, he is also an esteemed spiritual leader who strives to combine science and spirituality together.

It's no surprise that Matthieu Ricard is so well respected, given his background and wisdom.

How Altruism, Meditation and Empathy Can Help Create a Better World


Altruism is a great way to lead a more meaningful and satisfying life.

In the book “Altruism”, you will learn how to direct yourself toward an altruistic existence, through practices derived from Tibetan Buddhist teachings.

It explains how neuroscience has proven that in a world based on altruism, everyone would experience greater happiness and prosperity.

With the simple daily steps suggested in the book, such as meditating and practicing empathy, society can take large steps towards making this world a better place.

These techniques allow us to lessen feelings of pain, while also encouraging us to focus on learning and connecting with one another.

The chapters also demonstrate that even during difficult times, we have the capacity to find strength within ourselves and bring out the best in each other.

Becoming a Bodhisattva: The Path to True Altruism

Altruism can refer to two distinct types of behavior.

The first type, natural altruism, is something that every person has within them from birth.

It’s the tendency for one to care for and protect those in their immediate environment, such as a mother protecting her child.

The second type of altruism is more complex and complex and must be nurtured throughout a person’s life.

Examples of such actions are those which have been taken out of concern for others near and far, like setting up an orphanage.

For those wishing to nurture their own altruism, there is a need to look inside oneself in order to recognize that everyone desires happiness and wishes to avoid suffering.

Clairvoyance into this discovery then leads to the realization that all other beings deserve the same thing – thus, liberating them from suffering becomes the ultimate quest of developing one’s own altruism.

In Tibetan Buddhism, becoming a Bodhisattva requires taking certain vows which involve dedicating one’s life towards spiritually guided missions which result in diminishing suffering levels in others while aiding these people in spiritual enlightenment.

This notion circles back to the idea mentioned earlier: true suffering ensues when reality is misunderstood by someone or something – therefore, understanding reality encourages understanding that guides benevolence between different individuals or groups alike.

The Miracle of Love: How Cultivating an Attitude of Love Can Lead to Increased Happiness, Positive Social Interactions, and Unconditional Kindness


Altruism can not only help you show love to others, but it can also make you feel a deep happiness and peace as well.

This is because love is a contagious emotion – when you share it, others will often return the same loving emotion in turn.

In fact, multiple studies have proven that the more love you share, the more love (and other positive emotions) you get back in return.

Researcher Barbara Fredrickson even suggests that with practice we can learn to cultivate a loving mind-set, allowing us to become unexpectedly happy regardless of our situation or who we’re around.

Learning how to spread love might even energize us enough for us to do activities like tutoring our students and seeing them excel as a result – something that brings great joy and rewards us with their gratitude which just motivates us even further!

But it goes beyond simply feeling good about ourselves: there’s more to it than that.

Our brains contain mirror neurons which allow us to understand social interactions better and pick up on someone else’s emotions without necessarily having experienced them directly – so if we are showing love towards another person, they too will reciprocate this behavior by giving off similar vibes of kind gestures and understanding rather than despair or sadness.

Scientists have discovered that your thoughts have the potential to influence not only who you become, but even the genetic expression of your DNA!

They’ve found that caring, altruistic thoughts can actually change your genes and make you more altruistic.

This research is based on a concept known as neuroplasticity which suggests that by having positive thoughts and actions, the parts of your brain associated with those actions will become stronger as more neurons are produced.

In addition, epigenetics has played an important role in explaining how people can cultivate altruism on an individual level.

Through epigenetic changes in response to environmental or mental conditions, certain traits may be expressed differently depending on a person’s circumstances.

The takeaway here is that by cultivating altruistc thoughts and actions, you may be able to help steer your genetic destiny – both old and new!

Egocentrism is an Unsustainable Way of Life: Why We Need Compassion and Altruism to Thrive

Way of Life

Humans are innately capable of empathy and altruism, but the egotistic behavior of some can stifle our natural proclivity to help those in need.

This is evidenced by the fact that a group of Romanian nurses, while performing their duties, showed an apparent lack of empathy towards the children they were caring for.

Without a sense of compassion and real connection, the nursing staff was contributing to additional suffering.

This idea that selfishness is essential to survival is also not true.

Evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin believed social animals benefit each other in various ways and enjoy each other’s company.

Misunderstandings of his works have led some people to adopt an egocentric view that downplays the importance of cooperation.

Even Ayn Rand argued that altruism was immoral and contrary human survival instincts, yet selfless actions undertaken due to the instinct for communal protection — such as soldiers who put their own lives at risk for their comrades — belie this logic entirely.

The notion that humans are inherently selfish overlooks our natural ability for selflessness; egotistical behavior diminishes this capacity and often causes more harm than good.

Meditating to Cultivate Altruism: How Sitting Still Can Bring Out the Best in Us

Meditating for only 30 minutes each day can have a profound effect on your state of mind and ability to cultivate altruism.

That’s why daily meditation is essential for those looking to strengthen themselves and help others.

Scientific studies by the Mind and Life Institute have uncovered that even a short period of meditation each day can make a big difference in terms of concentration, immune system function, brain activity, and even reducing physical pain.

Experiencing pain became 57 percent less unpleasant after just four days of 20-minute meditation sessions.

There are forms of meditation specifically meant to support those who want to do more good for others, such as Metta Meditation.

This form of meditation involves sitting still, remaining relaxed, and sending feelings of love to yourself before extending it out to everyone around you – your family and friends, your city or town, the planet, and eventually the whole universe!

Being an Altruist Means Doing Good Without Seeking Public Recognition

Altruistic heroes are devoted to doing good for others, with no desire for fame or recognition as a reward.

They’re just as comfortable in the shadows as they are in the spotlight, and focus exclusively on helping those in need.

A perfect example of this type of hero is a hiker who saved a child from a mountain lion while on a hike in California.

The mother was screaming for help and he just happened to be nearby.

He tracked down the lion, confronted it, and rescued the child without any thought of payment or accolade.

Often those who do selfless acts require utmost discretion to stay safe when unseating oppressive regimes; this is certainly true during WWII when numerous people helped Jewish families escape Nazi persecutions

Martin Luther King Jr.

serves as an example of someone whose good work was ultimately cut short due to his influence and position of power – his death is stirring reminder that even those who devote their lives to altruism can come under threat from a single individual.

Altruistic heroes don’t strive for awards and recognitions – their only goal is helping others in the most effective way possible, whatever the cost may be.

To Achieve Altruism, We Must Reduce Economic Inequality and Move Away From Greedy Thinking

Economic Inequality

To foster an altruistic and harmonious society, it’s essential to fight inequality at all levels.

In the US, the richest 1 percent of society now owns 40 percent of all wealth – up from 13 percent just 25 years ago.

This huge discrepancy in income has created a climate of distrust and resentment that prevents people from striving for altruism.

What’s more, much of the wealth of the wealthiest is gained through exploiting people and the environment – perpetuating inequality and promoting selfish thinking.

Laissez-faire economics, which dominates today’s mindset, promotes even more inequality in favor of hard work that will supposedly benefit everyone.

In truth, though, this system only results in heartache with celebrities as prime examples of misfortune due to egocentric pursuits.

It’s clear that fighting inequality is key to creating an atmosphere where truly altruistic behavior can be cultivated.

Doing so benefits not just those on lower ends of economic scales, but also those at higher levels by preventing inappropriate pursuits spurred by self-entitlement.

We must work together to ensure fairness across all economic divides so we can build an optimally generous and kinder world.

The World is Full of Generosity: How Altruism Arises in Difficult Situations

The drive to perform altruistic deeds is constant and real, even amidst difficult or dangerous times.

This is something that has been demonstrated through many examples in history.

Take for instance the number of NGOs that have risen significantly since the end of World War II, many of which have been founded with altruistic intentions.

In the United States alone, we’ve seen a doubling of the amount of NGOs since 2000 and then look at India, who leads the world with over 3 million!

We can also see acts of generosity being brought to attention by celebrities such as Bill Clinton, who has used his public profile and influence to campaign for positive environmental projects like inventing the Energy Star icon.

Not only living in chaos but even when faced with life threatening situations people are willing to band together and help each other out.

A notable example would be Hurricane Katrina when citizens worked together in forming groups to support one another until official rescue teams arrived.

Putting Empathy and Collaboration Into Practice Through Cooperative Learning and Teaching with Compassion

Altruism and education go hand in hand – and both are indispensable to building a better tomorrow.

At the University of Lyons, Professor Pléty found this out when he gathered his poorest performing students into a group.

Through their collaborative learning, they not only achieved greater understanding of the subjects, but showed how cooperative learning is more effective than individual learning.

Empathetic teaching is also important as it helps build compassion among students.

American educator Mark Greenberg demonstrated this connection between empathy and improved educational performance in one study.

Thus, it’s vital that schools put more focus on valuing humanistic education in order to help children mature.

A great example of this is Kidlington Primary School – located in a poor area yet still managing to score higher than the British national average on tests – thanks to its monthly adoption of values such as respect and openness which shape student’s behavior and improve learning outcomes.

It’s clear that Altruism and Education are deeply connected – and both are essential for creating a brighter future.

Wrap Up

The final summary of the Altruism book is that although there are still moments of hardship in this world, it is important to remember that cooperation and altruism can be found everywhere.

With meditation, helping others and recognizing our interconnectedness, we can all incorporate more acts of compassion and kindness into our daily lives.

In particular, meditation has unique benefits as scientifically it has been linked with having anti-aging effects – for example the participants in Allan Wallace’s Shamatha Project saw considerably higher levels of telomerase at the end of the three months.

Overall, this book encourages us to maintain a sense of connectivity even amidst chaos.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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