Do you want to be happier? Silly question? Of course, you do. I’ve never heard anyone say they’ve been too happy lately. Well, in this post we will discuss the summary of The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler. This book is a great self-help book like Essentialism by Greg McKeown, As A Man Thinketh by James Allen, and The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma.
This book has four distinct sections.
1. Purpose of Life
The first section is the Purpose of Life. In the first few pages of the book, the Dalai Lama states that the purpose of life is happiness. No matter what an individual seeks, the ultimate goal is a better and happier life, and this happiness can be achieved through training the mind.
The first step in training the mind is to identify the sources of happiness and then cultivate these factors which create happiness such as kindness, compassion, and friendship and eliminate the factors which create unhappiness such as anger, hatred, and envy. He also says that happiness can be affected by one’s state of mind and then secondly training the mind for happiness.
Well, firstly we have to learn how our emotions and behaviors affect us and see that negative emotions and behaviors harm us. Moreover, positive emotions and behaviors benefit us and then we apply the causal principle. This is the relationship between events and emotions. Then we practice increasing the events which create happiness such as events that cause you to be compassionate or kind. Then we decrease events that create unhappiness such as those events which cause you to be angry selfish or envious. And because this process can take a bit of time, the Dali Lama suggests reviewing each day so that you can see your progress daily and over the long run.
2. Human warmth and compassion
Let’s move on to the next section of this book, human warmth, and compassion. In this section, the Dalai Lama talks about intimacy and compassion as these factors have shown to improve overall well-being
The Dalai Lama gives three aspects which you can follow.
- Firstly, you have to establish compassion. Here, you see how the other person is suffering and then you try and put yourself in their shoes and show that you care. Another way to develop compassion is to often experience other people’s suffering or by practicing compassion meditations as these two things help remind you how common suffering is.
- The second aspect is to respect the other person’s background and views.
- And finally be honest, open, and try and find common ground
3. Transforming Suffering
Let’s move on to the third section of this book, Transforming Suffering. The Dalai Lama gives many different ways to deal with suffering.
- The first way is to accept suffering as a natural part of life and something that we share with all other living creatures.
- Secondly, to confront problems that cause suffering and look for solutions.
- Thirdly, be aware of self-created suffering. We can often cause unnecessary suffering by overreacting or taking things too personally
- Fourthly, all things change and one must be aware of this and not try to resist it because if you resist change this creates suffering.
- The fifth way is to find meaning in suffering. This can help make the suffering feel less overwhelming. And one way to do this is as a religious or spiritual practice.
- Then the sixth way is specifically related to dealing with physical pain. Here you have to understand that pain is essential to life as it prevents injuries and is an important learning tool. Furthermore, knowing the pain’s purpose can help you manage it.
- And finally, he talks about how Buddhism sees suffering. In Buddhism, there are three root causes of suffering; Ignorance, craving, and hatred.
4. Overcoming Obstacle
The last section of this book is Overcoming Obstacles. Here the Dali Lama is talking specifically about negative emotions and behaviors and the process of change. This is a three-step plan
- The first step involves education and learning. Here, you have to see why you want to change and what are the positives and negatives of making this change
- The second step is determination and enthusiasm. Here, you remind yourself of why you wanted to change. You use a long-term view to help create perspective and you remind yourself of your own impermanence. These three things will help motivate you and create a sense of urgency to create the change
- Then the third step is action. Here, you use habituation to your advantage. Consistent effort over time will develop habits.
Next, the Dalai Lama talks about dealing with specific negative emotions. In Buddhism, one of the main ways to combat negative emotions is with their corresponding positive emotions. So, in dealing with anger and hatred he says you should cultivate patience and tolerance. This can be difficult at first but when anger arises, try and take a timeout and then analyze the situation. This is not an easy process and at times you may not be able to stop yourself, but it will happen eventually
Secondly, dealing with anxiety and building self-esteem. The corresponding positive emotion here is sincere motivation. But the Dalai Lama also gives a simple approach to fear and worry. The approach involves asking this question; Can the problem be solved? If it is such that it can be remedied, then there’s no need to worry about it.
Alternatively, if there’s no possible solution, then there’s no point in being worried about it anyway because you can’t do anything. Even after knowing this concept, you might still find yourself worrying just keep reminding yourself of this question.