SEATTLE — Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard founded the organization Karuna-Shechen based upon the ideal of ‘compassion in action’ in order to address the inequalities and suffering he observed in the Himalayan region. Karuna-Shechen’s mission is to provide healthcare, social services and education to underserved populations in the region.
Born in France in 1946, Matthieu Ricard left a career in cellular genetics in France to study Buddhism in the Himalayas. He has been the French interpreter for the Dalai Lama since 1989, and is a renowned writer, photographer, speaker, and translator. He received the French National Order of Merit for his humanitarian work.
Ricard created Karuna-Shechen in the mid-1980s with co-founder Rabjam Rinpoche, a fellow monk. The organization started out as a series of small programs throughout the Himalayas created to help improve living conditions. The programs soon blossomed and expanded into an organization.
In 2000, their first school and clinic were built in Eastern Tibet. They also built the Shechen Medical Clinic in Nepal the same year. In Bodhgaya, India, they opened a small medical dispensary and created a mobile medical business to assist the surrounding villages.
To accommodate their growing organization, offices and affiliates have joined Karuna-Shechen in the United States, Belgium, France, Monaco and Mexico. These partners raise money and gather resources to help impoverished communities in Tibet, India, and Nepal, with plans to expand to other places in the world.
Karuna-Shechen helps communities in four main ways, through education, health, community development and cultural preservation. One of their main educational goals is to provide schooling to children of all backgrounds as well as adults who may not have had the opportunity to attend school as children because of economic conditions.
One way Karuna-Shechen works to improve healthcare around the world is by creating clinics in underserved communities and providing mobile medical services to villages that are out of reach of many resources. They use both health and education to assist in community development as well. They provide the tools and resources necessary for members of underserved communities to take control of their lives and improve their livelihood.
Through this process, Karuna-Shechen also helps communities preserve their culture even though communities are experiencing rapid modernization. They do so by funding Himalayan boys’ and girls’ education at philosophical colleges, monastic schools and nunneries, so students can return to their villages and spread knowledge to their family, friends and neighbors.
Matthieu Ricard believes altruism is a benevolent state of mind that involves being concerned for everyone in the world. He says the best way to be fully altruistic is to wholeheartedly value others. Ricard continues to use this belief to spread healthy living, education and sustainability with everyone in the world.
He is an active participant in current scientific research on the effects of meditation on the brain with the Mind and Life Institute and with various universities in the U.S. and Europe. When he is not traveling, Matthieu Ricard resides at Shechen Monastery in Nepal.