Is Ignorance Bliss?

Written by Rob Hogendoorn

1 minute

Matthieu Ricard lives in denial and is in dire need of a less myopic education. Perhaps that’s why he’s ‘The Happiest Man Alive’? Because ignorance is bliss?

In a long interview with the magazine L’Obs, Ricard exposes himself even further.

His response to the Arte-documentary is too lengthy to discuss line by line, but some clear patterns emerge. For one, Ricard completely ignores the existing power structures in Tibetan Buddhism.

When Ricard speaks, it’s as if the concepts ‘power’ and ‘abuse of power’ evaporate—they’re completely alien to him. Ignoring the very power structures that enable the Dalai Lama—and himself—to dwell at the top of Tibetan patriarchy, Ricard goes in full full-straw-man-mode.

No one accuses the Dalai Lama of personally enriching himself. Yet, Ricard addresses this self-created ‘issue’ in full-swing-dismay-mode. In doing so, he ignores yet another phenomenon that is alien to him: (co-)dependency.

It eludes Ricard that that the performance of being an icon—‘being the Dalai Lama’, ‘being Mother Teresa’, ‘being The Happiest Man alive’—is a highly profitable revenue model, which gives the icon tremendous powers of decision, media exposure and political clout.

While he acknowledges that the Dalai Lama determines which charities he supports with the revenues of his performances and books, Ricard fails to note the (co-)dependencies that constitute the Tibetan leader’s hold over his worldwide habitat—at whim.

The Dalai Lama’s involvement with Keith Raniere of NXIVM and Shōkō Asahara provides a clear illustration of the way in which the Dalai Lama sustains and wields his iconic status, while his power of the purse enhances his well nigh imperial domination.

On a side note, the C.I.A.’s material and financial support of the Dalai Lama, his Tibetan guerillas, the Offices of Tibet, is highly corroborated. The sources are so plentiful that Ricard’s denial speaks to the limitations of his general knowledge.

Again, no one suggests that the Dalai Lama enriched himself thanks to the C.I.A. Perhaps, then, this is another demonstration of Ricard’s beloved sacred dance: side-stepping, to show a clean pair of heels.

It escapes Ricard that privilege entails responsibility. He thinks that the moral obligations of public figures—a role he performs with abandon—require nothing beyond throwing up their arms in dismay, joining choruses of lamenting angels after the abuse is exposed.

That his public endorsement of abusive teachers—the ‘enlightend fleaing‘ which he is privileged to partake in—actually means something to others, means nothing to him. For him retracting such endorsements—by not appearing, not palling around, not translating—is not a live option.

Matthieu Ricard much rather wails after the horse has bolted. Once again, he bears witness to the utter impotence of his adopted system of beliefs in the face of abuse.

Originally posted as a long-Tweet on September 16, 2022 (some slight edits and links added).

About the author

Rob Hogendoorn

Investigative reporter and academic researcher Rob Hogendoorn (b. 1964) began researching the reception of Buddhism in Western society and culture in the early 1990s. His modus operandi remained the same ever since: independent, inquisitive and provocative.