Essays by Patrick Auge Sensei Shihan - Black Belt Essays - Other Essays

Happiness or “Budō”?

After my Nidan exam, (2nd Dan), Augé Sensei asked me to write an essay on the correlation between Budō and Matthieu Ricard’s Book: Happiness. At first, just like at school in the old days, I froze at the thought of writing. But then I told myself to just start by reading the book at least once, so I can let the content sink in… But what a text it is!

As I was reading, I quickly realized that this was not a book that I would read in one stretch; at least, not if I wanted to understand its content. I read the chapters one by one, and was able to write only after a few months of letting everything simmer.

I started my training in 1982. Over the years, there has been many opportunities to discuss and exchange on Life and Budō. Now that I finished reading, I would like to establish a few comparisons between “looking for happiness” and this life style that I chose: Budō.


In his book, Mr Ricard describes in many different ways the fact that many people are looking for happiness, and have been for many years, and failed to find it. How can we find happiness? What is the secret of those of those who are happy? Of course, there are all the usual empty answers: Happy people lead a quiet life, Be grateful for what you have!, Look ahead, not behind! Just to name a few. I hope that my reflection will help you achieve your own happiness.

As a kid, I never worried about this thing called “happiness”. I lived without real problems. I was born in a very modest family, happiness was simple: be grateful for what you have and share it with others. Growing up, society took care of teaching me how to aim higher in order to get this or reach that… Otherwise, happiness will be hard to get or even unattainable. But destiny (others may say “karma”) put Budō on my path.


As per Mochizuki Minoru Kancho Sensei: Budō is the way to face life’s challenges. But how can you follow a path when you are completely oblivious to its existence? Matthieu Ricard’s book offers an accessible approach. You need to start by wanting to improve your existence. Then, recognize and accept that it can be enhanced.

Budō training teaches us to stay humble and accept that we are not an infinite source of knowledge. We can always learn more while developing our body and inner self: A healthy mind in a healthy body!


The thoroughness required during training or meditation allows us to recognize that there is more than meets the eye. It also helps us develop determination. This determination leads to success in our endeavours and helps us face disappointment when we experience failure, in order to turn the failure into a learning opportunity.

Inner Self

In his book, Matthieu Ricard explains to what extent the toxins of sorrow can confuse our spirit. Sometimes, we fill our minds with dark thoughts, which can be disguised as a sense of false duty or simply as negativity. With some hindsight (and a lot of training), we understand that we need to start with ourselves to be able to give to others.

If we lose ourselves in our “duties”, after a few years, we lose track of all of our beacons. We become like dead wood, floating on the river of life. On the other hand, if we learn to develop a strong, stable and serene inner self, it won’t matter how hard or strenuous a chore can be, it will become a source of satisfaction and accomplishment. This feeling can become a source of happiness by itself, just like when a runner finally reaches the finishing line of a marathon, or when a student finishes a training camp (like Yoseicamp or Kangeiko) either for the first time or the twentieth time. The feeling of having accomplished what seemed at first impossible is called Soukha: an inner feeling of deep joy.


We can also establish a correlation between training the mind and training the body. In his work, Matthieu Ricard makes frequent references to meditation and its benefits. During our active training, we consider the required concentration as meditation in action. Sitting meditation is also part of training. It helps develop the inner calm that helps us face adversity. When facing an attacker, it is essential to stay calm, ready for anything without judgement.

Unconditional Love

Mr. Ricard’s book talks about unconditional love of the Buddhist have towards others. Likewise, Ueshiba Sensei said: Aikido is not a technique to fight with or defeat the enemy. It is the way to reconcile the world and make human beings one family. We can definitively see a link between the unconditional love of the Buddhist towards others and Ueshiba Sensei’s he hoped to develop in his students.

Mochizuki Sensei had also developed this love for people. He judged no one. He even introduced the concept that: By loving your attacker like a brother, you can’t hate him or kill him. We understand that our ‘brother’ is not well and we should intervene so he does not injure someone or even himself. If we cultivate this compassion, we can contribute to making this world a better place. But in order to feel this level of unconditional love towards other people, we need to love ourselves first. Just like when in a plane, we should put our oxygen mask first before helping others.


Matthieu Ricard explains that in order to develop inner peace, we should accept our situation and not blame others for our afflictions. For example, in our Budō training, when we make a mistake while executing a technique and someone corrects us, we should:

Wasting our energy in blaming others or on external factors only perpetuates the pain of failure. On the other hand, triggering the “solution mode” will allow us to act immediately toward our wellness by allowing ourselves to correct our mistakes with an open mind. Mochizuki Sensei believed that Flexibility will overcome stiffness. Countering and blaming others for our inabilities only proves that our mind is stiff. These negative actions, thoughts, and words will have an impact on our self-esteem. When we accept that we made mistakes and when we strive to correct them, then we show flexibility. With the assurance that we can correct our mistakes and better ourselves, we develop our self-esteem.

Life and its Challenges

It is not always easy to accept pain and suffering that afflict us. Life is a long series of events, hardships and challenges. It is up to us to find the lessons that will enable us to grow. Just like with failure, we need to notice the teachings of our successes and learn from them. When we find a life lesson, we grow. Then, if we find a life lesson in failure, is it still a failure?


Let’s come back to meditation. Matthieu Ricard tells us about its benefits. How can we use it daily? Life challenges and “opportunities” burn a lot of our energy unless we take time to meditate, to see clearly, one thing at a time. Meditating and weighing the pros and cons allows us to cut through the fog so that clarity comes. We can see things more clearly and solutions become concrete.

When joy or anger kicks in, we need to refrain from making decisions. They would be tainted by a cloud of emotions. It is preferable to let the dust settle in order to see the situation clearly. Otherwise, we risk making a decision that we would regret later. Again, taking the time to think (meditate) could save us a lot of trouble. As we say during our training: take three deep breaths. Thinking about it, how many times have we been the instigator of our own dismay? How many times would our decisions have been different if we had not jumped on impulsion of the moment? Acting on emotions does not yield to positive results. We need to keep our head clear to make the right choices. It takes practice, but it is feasible. We need to start with small successes and use them as milestones. This is how we develop the inner strength that enables us to stay calm.


This confidence and this mindset become the source of self-esteem. But Matthieu Ricard warns us that this confuses ego and self-confidence. Ego has the power to absorb everything like a devastating tornado. It wraps the truth in a veil of pride and arrogance. Developing a good self-esteem enables us to understand and accept our limits, while we continue developing ourselves. Those who put their ego aside have found a path towards resolution and fulfillment. We don’t have to suppress or shut every emotions we feel. By developing a good sense of self-esteem, we develop a self-confidence that gives us access to our emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is what allows us to better manage our emotions instead of being controlled by them. By analysing them and familiarising with them, we learn to tame them. All while staying in touch with our inner self. Matthieu Ricard wrote about how we can use our emotional intelligence to … use negative thoughts in a positive way. For example, when we feel a wave of frustration building up inside ourselves, we can decide to calm it before getting trapped by it. This effort leads to more positive results.

This insightful work starts as soon as we understand the benefit of meditation. Instead of keeping busy, we learn to make good use of our time. We can use it to advance a task or a chore or as a resourcing time (meditating). For example, at night before going to bed, our mind is wandering over the day’s events. Taking a few minutes to meditate is a good way to calm it to sleep well. Great oaks from little acorns grow! Slowly, step by step, we can build a strong inner self. The same goes for Budō training: if we skip steps and try to go too fast, we will face disappointment. By following the natural course of our training, we develop gradually without even noticing it.

Having vs Being

One of the biggest diseases is material attachment. It pushes us to try to justify and feel valued by looking at what we possess (like ranks). Concentrating on a rigorous training allows the student to develop determination (“Kime”) which in turn helps to avoid discouragement. Our society pressures us to move on, to try “better” things as soon as something becomes too difficult. With determination, we succeed where others quit. Our training provides us with a better understanding of our inner strength, and allows us to see that we are stronger than we thought. “Having” is just another distraction compared to “Being”.

Refusing to be distracted by possessions keeps our focus on the important things. St-Exupéry wrote: It is only with the heart that one can see clearly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. In his work, Matthieu Ricard also states that The renunciant has taken the time to look within oneself… We must consider the absence of attachment as the joy of being and watching life’s evolution.

Of course, we need transportation and money to feed and dress ourselves. But do we absolutely need that $300,000 car or that huge bank account? How does that better my inner self? If we lose ourselves in “having”, we forget to grow.


Our training helps us understand that the more we give from ourselves, the more life gives back. Altruism stemming from thinking about the others and staying in harmony with people is priceless. We develop humility and learn about “life” a bit more every day. For the student, altruism and compassion become their emotional foundation, their signature. After several years of training, students become one with each other. Hating an attacker becomes impossible when the attacker is an extension of ourselves. What could look conflicting is actually the sum of both parties. The student must calm the situation and control the attacker before he hurts anyone. With his “emotional intelligence”, he will calm his own spirit before losing it. As Matthieu Ricard explained: Buddhist compassion, however, is based on the wholehearted desire for all beings without exception to be liberated from suffering… In that spirit, vengeance or the will to hurt someone actually is mirrored upon oneself.

With his rigorous training, the student develops mental strength and kindness that has him strives to give the best of him and love others (even the ones that want to or have hurt him). Don’t think that this student is easily fooled or a push over. He understands that the other has not “walked in his shoes” and he’s not ready to face what life has to offer. He also understands that the other is taken hostage by his own emotions and is consumed by his own hatred. This understanding of others enables the student to stay humble.

In this context, Matthieu Ricard states that Humility as an attitude is also essentially focused on others and their well-being. He also says Joy and satisfaction are closely tied to love and affection. As for misery, it goes hand in hand with selfishness and hostility. It’s a very nice link to Ueshiba Sensei’s words …and make human beings one family.

As in all families, there are challenges. Life is full of them. All along the path, we face challenges that confuse us, burden us and have us question ourselves. In the book, Matthieu Ricard talks about a man being hit in the chest by an arrow. Will he wonder: What wood is the arrow made of? What kind of bird do the feathers come from? Of course not! He needs to pull the arrow out immediately. The student must remember that it is useless to waste time trying to understand why something happened. It is more important to immediately seek solutions, and to fix the situation than to feel sorry for oneself.

Getting used to finding solutions instead of getting stuck on problems conditions our brain to visualize solutions first. At first, it is hard! But it becomes a reflex. As Augé Sensei says: Our thoughts become our actions (…) and our actions, our habits (…) Matthieu Ricard mentions: To familiarize yourself with this method (…) Remain in a state of simplicity that is free from mental construct… If we get familiar with finding solution, it will help us overcome our hardships. Augé Sensei says: The antidote to fear is familiarity.

The Flow

Budō students must develop several qualities and abilities; and concentration is one of them. Either it is while doing a thousand suburi, running a marathon or digging a pool, he must stay concentrated. He must do what he must do until he’s done. Matthieu Ricard has a chapter about this: One with the Flow of Time. He starts by saying: We all have had the experience of being intensely absorbed in an activity, an experiment or a feeling. He explains that psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly named this phenomenon the “flow”. We often experience this flow during training. How many times have we realized that time flew by, or that training is already ending when Sensei indicates the end of class? As a computer specialist, I decided quite often to stay at work just “a bit” longer to finish a program, only to emerge from my bubble five or six hours later.

On the other hand, when a task or an activity is boring or uninteresting, it’s mainly because we lack concentration. If we are executing a thousand suburi and let our mind wander around and away from executing these suburi, we lose concentration and time slows down. But if we execute them as meditation in motion, we won’t notice that time flies! We’ll have the satisfaction of accomplishment, without the burden of sufferance. Suffering gives us a feeling of being a victim.

Victimizing ourselves is almost natural for human beings. Statements like Why me? or I’m so unlucky! put the blame on external things, on an “evil” force that wants to hurt us. We should think (meditate) on the cause: is it because of a bad choice? Is it just the natural course of a situation? Or is it an external factor that is circumstantial.

Sometimes, we can influence the flow of events but normally, Life happens and we have neither control nor influence on it. When we get rid of feeling that we are a victim, it is like taking a deep breath after having been under water for some time.

Considering a situation without victimising ourselves lets us start right away on finding a solution and sets us on a faster track to recovering our balance.

In the context of a comparative study of the human brain done with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), Matthieu Ricard says: Musicians that start their training earlier in life and practice longer show bigger changes in the brain. MRIs demonstrate a higher rate of development in certain brain zones. Thus, if we avoid the “victim” mode and train ourselves to venture into solution mode; our brain will develop this ability better, and it becomes easier. Just like Augé Sensei says: We become good at what we practice.


Accepting that life is what it is and that we are who we are is a first step on the path to inner joy, balance and soukha. Our soukha helps us open to others and trust them while helping them to grow without expectations. Mochizuki Sensei talked about Mutual welfare and prosperity! Matthieu Ricard says (…) bringing happiness to others is ultimately the best way to guarantee our own. As a teacher, I feel a great satisfaction when I help my students develop and grow. Sometime, I almost feel like a father to them. What I say or do can have an impact on their life. This is not to be taken lightly. We need to develop certain wisdom in order to guide. As Matthieu Ricard says: Wisdom is precisely that which allows us to distinguish the thoughts and deeds that contribute to authentic happiness from those that destroy it.


At this point in time on my path, I can still see life’s continuous changes; even in my life. I want to be in harmony with these changes. No matter the events, I am the author of my own inner joy. With training and meditation, I can maintain my inner peace and a balance. Recharged, I can use this energy to give to others.

Matthieu Ricard’s conclusion was: The sense of flourishing I now feel at every moment of my existence was constructed over time and in conditions conducive to understanding the causes of happiness and suffering.

Matthieu Ricard’s work hits home with me. It helped me realize how much Budō has evolved in me since 1982. I know that I still have quite a way to go: We must get better a little bit every day for when the big day comes, we’ll be at our best version of our self.

Mario Forget
August 2016