Book review: The art of happiness

The Art of Happiness starts out by defining the role of happiness in our lives:
I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness. That is clear. Whether one believes in religion or not, whether one believes in this religion or that religion, we all are seeking something better in life. So I think the very motion of our life is towards happiness…

Howard Cutler got the enviable assignment of sitting down for a series of meetings over a copule of years with the Dalai Lama, and the result is this book. The style is true east meets west as Cutler, a psychologist, seeks to combine his understanding of the mind with the spiritual practices of the tibetan buddhism practiced by the Dalai Lama.

The result is interesting, useful and highly readable. My favourite parts are the little stories from the Dalai Lamas own life, stories that show that he is a human being like everyone else who has managed through discipline and spiritual practice to make himself a very, very nice person. A person completely devoted to making others happy.

The book gives lots of advice on how to be happy, and it’s marked throughout by the Dalai Lama’s compassion for all humans, as well as by his ability to examine all sides of any issue. There is never any hint of condemnation of those who choose the wrong path. In the last part of the book, he says directly, that having many religions is a good thing, which can only be taken as an affirmation of the fact, that there is no one true religion.

Cutler manages to find many points where the Dalai Lamas teachings match with newer trends in western psychology which I find encouraging. This points to a merging or a convergence, which I believe will lead us to new insights not accessible through one system of thinking alone.

The advice given in the book is for the most part straight forward, easily understandable and logical. It may not be easy to follow, but then good advice doesn’t have to be. I recommend the book both for it’s examination of what makes people happy (and unhappy) but also for the glimpse it gives into the mind of the 14th. Dalai Lama.

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