Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Art of Happiness

I'm up to twelve books read so far in 2014 - lagging behind my dad by quite a few unfortunately. He's had a few flights for work to his advantage. 

Still! I press on. 

Today's review is:

Not actually written by the Dalai Lama, this book is a compilation of conversations Howard Cutler had with the spiritual leader. I've wanted to read it for a long time as Pema Chodron often refers to tidbits from it in her talks. 

I think what I appreciate most about this is how the Dalai Lama shares his insights so openly, with a total lack of spiritual materialism. To give that some context, in case the phrase doesn't automatically make sense to you, 'spiritual materialism' is that air of knowing that someone can put on which just comes across as dogmatic arrogance. It's not really dogmatic in a Buddhist context since Buddhism is non-theistic, but the idea is that spiritual materialism breeds fundamentalism. 

The Dalai Lama is in no way a fundamentalist and genuinely seeks to encourage a path of enlightenment for all beings regardless of their belief system. As he says in the book, "Whether one believes in this religion or that religion, we are all seeking something better in life. So, I think, the very motion of life is towards happiness." 

The idea is that happiness is not a thing but the very way in which we view our world. His way of communicating these ideas is poignant and beautiful, and he encourages use to test everything he says against our own reason. Blind faith has no value and the Dalai Lama recognizes that in today's age those who follow a religion faithfully are far fewer than it used to be. He embraces this fact and even rejoices in the shift from faith as religious belief to faith as general human practice, without the need to believe in something mythical. 

Loved it and can't recommend it enough! Whether you want a better understanding of Buddhism, you would like to understand people better or you just want some good common sense to read, this is a lovely book. 

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