The 66-year-old turned his back on Parisian intellectual life 40 years ago and moved to India to study Buddhism. He is now a close confidante of the Dalai Lama and respected western scholar of religion.
Now it seems daily meditation has had other benefits – enhancing Mr Ricard’s capacity for joy.
Neuroscientist Richard Davidson wired up the monk’s skull with 256 sensors at the University of Wisconsin as part of research on hundreds of advanced practitioners of meditation.
The scans showed that when meditating on compassion, Ricard’s brain produces a level of gamma waves – those linked to consciousness, attention, learning and memory – ‘never reported before in the neuroscience literature’, Davidson said.