The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama and Howard C Cutler

What happens when a psychiatrist meets with the spiritual Guru, the Dalai Lama, and asks him questions that plaque mankind as a whole? 

‘The Art of Happiness’ is a unique book, in that it gives profound insights about life in general and happiness in particular through the dialogue between Howard Cutler and the Dalai Lama. It is a systematic approach to achieving greater happiness and overcome life’s inevitable adversities. 



Ratings: 4/5
Author: Dalai Lama and Howard C Cutler
Originally Published: 2020
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Pages: 336
Genre(s): Non-Fiction, Self Help, Meditation

This book derives itself out of the new branch in Psychology initiated by Dr. Martin Seligman, termed ‘Positive Psychology’ that focuses on happiness as an active pursuit rather than an outcome. 

Benefits of happiness and the right to be happy

Science has proven that happy people attract better mates, have strong marriages, less heart ailments and live longer than their less happy counterparts. They also have better careers, larger friends circle and lesser conflicts with others. No doubt happiness is highly contagious among social settings and is a 2-way street, bringing greater compassion which leads to more happiness. With his strong understanding of Buddhist philosophy, the Dalai Lama has preached that happiness can be found by training the mind to be happy, it is the sole and foremost purpose of life, he encapsulates. 

The pursuit of happiness

Happiness can result out of two things-

  1. Getting everything you desire. But then while there is no limit to what and how much you desire, there’s definitely a limit to what you can get.
  2. To overcome desire and appreciate what you have and work towards liberation, i.e.. To go beyond desires and appreciate life as it is. This leads to lasting happiness that is not dependent on getting or not getting something. 

The key to pursuing long lasting happiness, then, is to train your mind and cultivate happiness. Bring about a change in your outlook and your way of thinking by first observing your thought patterns and then altering them. It may sound easy, but it’s difficult and yet not impossible. 

Happiness is a personal journey

It could be alluded that loneliness makes people unhappy. In today’s day when not just the desolate, the infirm and the elderly who feel lonely, even the kids and the youth feel lonely many times. It is key to feeling happy irrespective of your external state because happiness should never be dependent upon someone or something. That brings the locus back to one’s own self and he/she is solely responsible for the happiness within. 

Relationships and understanding

All relationships that are based on strong foundation of trust and understanding bring happiness, it’s not just the romantic ones that do. However, of late, a lot is made about having a romantic partner as a prerequisite to be happy. Compassion and understanding of others can bring more lasting happiness, tells the Dalai Lama.

What to do with sorrow and suffering 

Our attitude towards suffering is the key to how we allow ourselves to feel when it arises. Stopping to ponder if we have let ourselves to react too much too soon, whether this suffering is after all, a creation of our own mind or doing, helps in dealing with it positively. It could be guilt that plagues us, remorse, shame or hatred which we need to acknowledge and deal with and not let it seethe under your breath. Developing a supple mind that adjusts itself by shifting perspective and angles of thought gives one the ultimate benefit of happiness. A supple mind has realistic expectations from life and is not impacted by anything. 

Key takeaways

  • Happiness is the result of developing a state of mind that stops, thinks and decides to be happy come what may. All we need to do is train the mind into developing that positive attitude.
  • A lot of our sorrow and suffering is a result of our mind’s games. It is the endless expectations, ego, self-hatred, doubt and negative emotions that lead to most of our suffering. For a human being’s core state of mind is being in a state of happiness
  • Not letting our happiness being dependent on someone or something leads to a perpetual source of happiness that is everlasting
  • Developing compassion, love and kindness steers the mind towards positive thoughts and leaves us feeling happy

Why I recommend this book

Coming from the Dalai Lama, the person who underwent immense suffering as an exiled leader, away from his homeland into another country, unable to help his Tibetan brethren, it brings about the true essence of Buddhist philosophy of love, compassion and acceptance of others. If not for this belief, he would not have become the epitome of happiness. I particularly liked the book’s simplicity because it answers questions and doubts that most of us face on a daily basis- how to be happy amidst chaos and suffering. Seen from his viewpoint, it is just a matter of changing our mind’s perspective towards things that makes us accept situations- good or bad and stay calm. Isn’t it exactly what we badly need today?

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