Filed in Family, Tibetan

One Blood, Two Lineages

French man of letters Jean-Francois Revel talks philosophy, East and West, with Matthieu Ricard, Tibetan monk, former molecular biologist—and his own son.

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Jean-Francois Revel is one of France’s most prominent public intellectuals. A philosopher and journalist, he has written twenty-seven books. He is a member of the Academie Francaise and a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. Matthieu Ricard holds a doctorate in molecular biology from the Institut Pasteur, Paris. A monk, photographer, and translator, he has lived in the Himalayas for twenty-five years and now resides at Shechen Monastery in Nepal. This dialogue is adapted for Tricycle from The Monk & the Philosopher, just released from Shocken Books.


Revel: Is Buddhism a religion or a philosophy? You’ve mentioned the first contact you had with the teacher who made such an enormous impression on you without even speaking. In view of that first experience, are we talking about a conversion in the religious sense, or about some sort of purely philosophical breakthrough?

Ricard: It’s hard to describe such a meeting. What gave it all its value was that it was nothing to do with abstract speculation; it was a direct experience, something I could see with my own eyes, and that was worth more than a thousand descriptions.

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