Community: Altruism is the most pragmatic answer in facing today’s challenges. This was the message to an audience of more than 300 who attended the 16th Friday Forum at the Royal Institute for Governance and Strategic Studies (RIGSS) in Phuentsholing on October 14.

Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk, author, and a humanitarian spoke on the topic “Towards a caring leadership and a more altruistic society.” He is a French writer and a monk who resides at the Shechen Tennyi Dargyeling monastery in Nepal.

Born in 1946, he has a doctorate in molecular genetics from the Pasteur Institute in 1972. However, he left his scientific career and started practicing Tibetan Buddhism in the Himalayas. He has also lived in Bhutan for about nine years.

According to Matthieu Ricard, altruism is an individual wanting to bring happiness to all beings, while compassion is an individual wanting to relieve sufferings.

“Compassion is a particular case of altruism,” Matthieu Ricard said.

“And altruism and compassion leads to a win-win situation.”

If it is “me, me, and me,” all day-long, he said people will find it difficult to live with that particular person. If an individual does something nice to others, he said that particular individual would definitely feel nice and compassionate.

On a broader perspective, altruism leads to solving challenges at three levels: short-term, mid-term, and long-term, according to Matthieu Ricard. It is a caring about  social injustice, reduction of inequalities, while favouring the pursuit of happiness in the mid-term. Caring for future generations and caring for the environment comes under the long-term, Matthieu Ricard said.

“The long-term situation is the new challenge for humanity now,” he said, explaining there was little damage humans could do many thousand years ago when there were less human beings in the world, which is not the case today.

Matthieu Ricard said humans today, for the first time, are the major force in shaping the planet for the future generations. Today there is a need for a common concept that allows people to work together, he said.

The humanitarian elaborated that people today abused other different species for selfish motives and exhausted the planet as if it had unlimited resources, which is not the case.

“We need to do more with less in this case,” Matthieu Ricard said, adding only a concept that works in having consideration for others will work.

“More consideration for others means we care for our future generations.”

Meanwhile, for this to happen, Matthieu Ricard stressed cooperation is more important than competition for a leader to lead and a society to grow sustainably.

“Cooperation is much more creative than competition for survival,” he said. “Quality of the human relationship is a major factor for a good life.”

In making a caring leadership, the author said that it is compassion, a particular case of altruism, which is needed. Matthieu Ricard also said that human nature is naturally altruistic. People always prefer nicer people, he said.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing