This intellectually stimulating book was a bestseller in France for 35 weeks thanks to Jean-Francois Revel's fame as a philosopher and writer (How Democracies Perish, The Totalitarian Temptation). Twenty-seven years ago his son Matthieu gave up a promising career as a scientist in order to study Tibetan Buddhism and become a monk. Recently he has served as an interpreter for the Dalai Lama at events around the world.
Father and son dialogue on these pages about the meaning of life. Jean-Francois, an atheist and critical thinker, asks most of the questions and come across as a defender of Western scientific culture where reason and skepticism hold sway. Matthieu, in contrast, shares his experiences and shows how Buddhism is a path dedicated to the cultivation of altruism, love, and compassion. While Jean-Francois discusses Socrates, Plato, stoicism, Kant, and politics, his son explains prayer flags, mantra, the mandala, stupa, and the political situation in Tibet. The two intellectuals share ideas on mind, consciousness, freedom, happiness, and suffering.
Perhaps the most salient revelation in The Monk and the Philosopher is Matthieu's defense of Buddhism's relevance to the modern world and his father's conclusion that it "fills the gap left vacant by the desertion of Western philosophy in the area of ethics and the art of living." Part memoir, part philosophical treatise, and part explanation of Buddhism's place in today's world, this is a spiritually illuminating work.