The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama was my first book about Buddhism recommended by a friend who I met in India. After visiting Dharamshala and participating on Dalai Lama’s lecture in summer 2012, it was essential for me to read something about one of world religions that I see more as a philosophical tradition.
The book is written by American psychiatrist Howard Cutler. During the years he had conversations with Dalai Lama about ways to have a better life. I love the writing style of the author and the language he uses as it is very easy to understand. Also a combination of interviews and quotation of Dalai Lama’s opinions with his own reflection from conversation and views of western scientific thought on particular topics. Here are my favorite quotes from the book:
The very purpose of our life is to seek happiness.
Live with the sense of fulfillment.
Our feelings of contentment are strongly influenced by our tendency to compare.
Unhappy people tend to be more self-focused and are often socially withdrawn, brooding, and even antagonistic. Happy people, in contrast, are generally found to be more sociable, flexible, and creative and are able to tolerate life’s daily frustrations more easily than unhappy people. And, the most important, they are found to be more loving and forgiving that unhappy people.
In Buddhism…there is reference to four factors of fulfillment, or happiness: wealth, worldly satisfaction, spirituality, and enlightenment. (The main idea is to keep all these things balanced since balance is the key for living a happy life.)
For example, good health is considered to be one of the necessary factors for a happy life. Another factor that we regard as the source of happiness is our material facilities, or the wealth that we accumulate. An additional factor is to have friends of companions.
Today there are societies that are very developed materially, yet among them there are many people who are not very happy.
The turning-toward happiness as a valid goal and the conscious decision to seek happiness in a systematic manner can profoundly change the rest of our lives.
Happiness in determined more by one’s state of mind than by external events. Philologists call this process adaptation.
…the greater the level of calmness of our mind, the greater our peace of mind, the greater our ability to enjoy a happy and joyful life.
Peace of mind or a calm state of mind is rooted in affection and compassion. There is a very high level of sensitivity and feeling there.
Summarizing he said: “As long as there is a lack of inner discipline that brings calmness of mind, no meter what kind of external facilities or conditions you have, they will never give you the feeling of joy and happiness that are you seeking. On the other hand, if you possess this inner quality, a calmness of mind, a degree of stability within, then even if you lack various external facilities that you would normally consider necessary for happiness, it is still possible to live a happy and joyful life”.
Understand what truly leads to happiness and what doesn’t.
My initial impulse might be, “Oh, I want this; I want that.” Then the second thought that arises, I ask myself “Oh, do I really need this?” The answer is usually no. If you follow after that first impulse, then very soon your pockets will be empty.
…we don’t need more money, we don’t need a greater success of fame, we don’t need the perfect body of even the perfect mate – right now, at this very moment, we have a mind, which is all the basic equipment we need to achieve complete happiness.
The first step of seeking happiness is learning.
The more sophisticated the level of our knowledge is, the more effective we will be in dealing with a natural world.
The notion that human behavior is essentially egoistic, that fundamentally we are all out for ourselves, is deeply ingrained in Western thought.
They (anger, violence and aggression) arise when we are frustrated in our efforts to achieve love and affection.
Our underlying or fundamental nature is gentleness, and intelligence is a later development. And I think that if that human ability, the human intelligence, develops in an unbalanced way, without being properly counterbalanced with compassion, then it can become destructive. It can lead to disaster.
When you combine a warm heart with knowledge and education, we can learn to respect others’ right.
Scientists are discovering that those who lack close social ties seem to suffer from poor health, a higher level of unhappiness, and a grater vulnerability to stress.
Interconnectedness and interdependence of all human beings.
Intimacy is central to our existence.
Today, so many of us are oppressed by a feeling of something missing in our lives, intensely suffering of a lack of intimacy.
The romantic notion of that “One Special Person” with whom we have a passionate intimate relationships is a product of our time and culture.
Eros, the drive toward passionate, romantic love, can be seen as this ancient desire for fusion with the other half. Psychologists call this the collapse of ego boundaries.
Dalai Lama’s approach to building a strong relationship: basing our relationship on the qualities of affection, compassion and mutual respect as human beings.
Compassion can be roughly defined in terms of a state of mind that is nonviolent, nonharming, and nonaggressive. It is mental attitude… associated with a sense of commitment, responsibility and respect towards others.
Realization of the suffering nature of one’s existence.
If your basic outlook accepts that suffering is a natural part of your existence, this will undoubtedly make you more tolerant towards adversities of life.
There is a possibility of freedom from suffering. By removing the causes of suffering it is possible to attain the state of Liberation, a state free from suffering.
According to Buddhist though, the root causes of suffering are ignorance, craving and hatred. This are called “the three poisons of the mind”.
Through constant familiarity and thinking, we ourselves can make our emotions more intense and powerful.
Your pain is your own personal creation.
The mental attitude makes a tremendous difference.
Karma means “action”.
What type of future will come about, to a large extent, lies within our own hands in the present.