Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Art of Happiness

(By His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.)

This is a refreshing book that happily doesn’t read like a self-help book, but is helpful. Because the Dalai Lama talks about feelings rather than diagnoses, there is something for everyone in this book.

Though the Dalai Lama is Buddhist and obviously draws on that experience, the book is non-dogmatic but does devote a chapter to the positive and negative influences of religion, in general.

I had one strong disagreement with the Dalai Lama’s point of view. For a meditation exercise, readers are asked to visualise a ‘…self-centred person…” on one side and a ‘group of people who are in desperate need of help’ on the other. He goes on to say, ‘the well-being of a group…is more important than that of a single individual.” It seemed cruel to me to label the self-centred person as not as needy of help. Certainly we should look for ways to help all of those in need. And while helping a group may mean helping more people directly, it is also important to remember that by helping the individual, we are also helping all the people that individual comes into contact with. The author of the book also had a problem with this, but never brought it up with the Dalai Lama.

I think it is good to read a little bit of this book everyday to encourage regular positive thinking (not unlike doing a daily gratitude list).

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