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Book: The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama & Howard C. Cutler

My knowledge on Buddha and Buddhism is limited to my school text books and some documentaries. I always wanted to know more about Buddha, his preachings and the philosophy of Buddhism. Few months back, I reached out to a book recommendation group on FB. Just within minutes, I received multiple suggestions on books on Buddhism, out of which I chose "The Art of Happiness" (the one with the highest number of recommendations). I decided to read it as the first book of 2024. 

If you had been following me regularly, you would have known I wasn't successful at meeting my yearly reading goals. So unlike previous years, I wanted to adopt a different approach and goal towards reading, that could enable me to read more. I have explained about it at the end of this article. 

For now, let me get into the topic "The Art of Happiness" is authored by the 14th Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler. His Holiness Dalai Lama needs no introduction. HH Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. Howard Cutler is an American writer and psychiatrist. He coauthored this book with HH Dalai Lama. The Art of Happiness is the first volume of The Happiness Series by both. It became a cult success with getting translated into 50 languages. Based on its success, the duo went ahead to write two more books - The Art of Happiness at Work and The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World. The 4th one is in progress.

This book is designed in the form of dialogue between HH Dalai Lama and Cutler, where Cutler posing questions on how to achieve Happiness. HH Dalai Lama explains that the very purpose of Human life revolves around being Happy and it is something which is determined by one's mind rather than the external sources or events. This book is divided into multiple chapters the first setting the context and what to expect out of the book and the rest dealing with sources of happiness, training the mind for happiness, achieving inner state of happiness, adopting human warmth and compassion, handling pain and suffering, dealing with negatives like anger, hatred, anxiety etc. and cultivating spiritual values. 

Through this book, HH Dalai Lama explains that Happiness can be achieved through training our mind and heart by tweaking our attitude, perspective and approach towards living. Below are few key takeaways from this book of wisdom.
  • Given the hustle and bustle around us, I many a times feel everyone of us are running like headless chicken, without a direction. When life becomes too complicated and we are overwhelmed, HH Dalai Lama suggests us to stand back and take an hour, an afternoon or even several days to simply reflect on what will truly bring us happiness and reset our priorities on the basis of that. This enables us to put our life back in proper context, gives us a fresh perspective and helps us to see the right direction to adopt
  • Focus and appreciate on what we have rather than on those what we want, so that we can achieve inner contentment, in other words peace of mind, which is critical for a happy state of mind
  • Avoid overthinking. If the situation or problem is such that it can be remedied, then there is no need to worry about it. The appropriate action is to seek its solution. It is more sensible to spend the energy focusing on the solution rather than worrying about the problem. On the other had, if there is no way out, no solution, no possibility of resolution then there is also no point in being worried about it, because you cannot do anything about it anyway
  • As per Dalai Lama, the closer one gets to being motivated by altruism, the more fearless one becomes. In simple terms, by simply ensuring you and your motivations are sincere and means no harm to others, can help reduce anxiety in ordinary daily situations
  • He also emphasizes that inner discipline is fundamental to achieve happiness. A happy life is built on a foundation of a calm, stable state of mind and regular practice of meditation helps to quiet our thoughts and develop a "still mind"
  • The purpose of our life is happiness. Understanding this simple, yet powerful mantra of life, helps us discard the things that lead us to suffering and accumulating the things that lead to happiness. Make it a daily practice that involves a gradually increasing awareness and understanding of what truly leads to happiness and what doesn't
  • The purpose of life needs to be positive. So develop basic good human qualities like warmth, kindness, compassion. He advises this can be achieved by employing methods to enhance empathy by using our imagination, creativity and by visualizing ourselves in other's situation. Then our life becomes more meaningful and more peaceful - happier
Well that's a lot. While reading, I didn't realize the depth of wisdom this book carries (as I read it in multiple sessions), until I put them all together here. While I didn't get answers to all my questions which I was looking for, this book is quite a revelation in terms of finding and building a life of genuine and lasting happiness.

In 2024, I wanted make reading an everyday affair rather than treating it a free time activity. I decided to read at least 10 pages each day, so that I can read more often. Initially, I have had hiccups due to sickness or other commitments, but I have been genuinely trying to finish 10 pages (on an average) daily. As I publish this article, I am into my 4th book for the year already. In case, if you are in a reading slump or trying to read more or more regularly, try incorporating reading into your daily routine by reading 5 or 10 or 20 pages a day. This method is really working.

Happy Reading!!

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  1. Avoid over thinking, focus on what we have n inner decipline r the qualities in human beings to get peace n happiness in our lives. Nice article 👌👌👏😍

  2. Great explanation 😍😍 True nowadays people have everything except the word Happiness 😇😇


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