Thursday, February 12, 2009

What We're Reading: The Art of Happiness

When I was 14 years old, I read a book about Buddhism published by the Robert Oppenheimer Foundation. It was part of a multivolume set about the major religions of the world. I also read a volume about Hinduism, but I specifically remember being attracted to Buddhist philosophy. It's 40 years later, and I am once again interested in reading about Buddhism and its application to everyday life. I recently read The Art of Happiness: a handbook for living by the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler. Dr. Cutler, a Western psychologist, explains the Dalai Lama’s approach to happiness through interviews conducted with His Holiness over several years and excerpts of public speeches given in the United States. The overall message of the book is that all human beings deserve happiness, and the way to achieve this goal is through acts of kindness and compassion. This seems to be a practical, common sense goal. However, in today’s world of media violence, school shootings, unemployment, and poverty, being happy seems to be harder to achieve – more like a challenge. The question that comes up for me is – when you are angry at yourself or anger is directed towards you how can you feel kindness and/or compassion? The Dalai Lama’s answer to this is to be patient and tolerant of the feelings and beliefs of others. Diversity in terms of beliefs, skin color, religion, etc. is to be respected. It's not an easy mindset to achieve when one is angry, but it is a goal to strive for. His Holiness also discusses how patience and tolerance can help erase negative thoughts and self-hatred. In fact, there is no such thing as self-hatred among Tibetan Buddhists because they are taught to love themselves from an early age. Sounds good, doesn’t it? The Dalai Lama’s approach to happiness is a much needed message in today’s world. It's a message that should be introduced to adults and children all over the world.

Submitted by Nancy

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