The Book of Joy
Lasting Happiness in A Changing WorldBook - 2016
Two great spiritual masters share their own hard-won wisdom about living with joy even in the face of adversity.
The occasion was a big birthday. And it inspired two close friends to get together for a talk about something very important to them. The friends were His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The subject was joy. Both winners of the Nobel Prize, both great spiritual masters and moral leaders of our time, they are also known for being among the most infectiously happy people on the planet, despite having experienced great personal and national suffering.
From the beginning the book was envisioned as a three-layer birthday cake, the first being their personal stories and teachings about joy. Both the Dalai Lama and Tutu have been tested by extraordinary adversity, oppression, and conflict. The second layer consists of the exciting research into joy as well as the other qualities essential for any enduring happiness, like gratitude, humility, humour, compassion, generosity, and forgiveness. And the third encompasses practical exercises and guidance based on the Dalai Lama's and Tutu's own daily practices, which anchor their emotional and spiritual lives.
Most of all, during that landmark week in Dharamsala, they demonstrated by their own exuberance, compassion, and even wise-cracking humour, how joy can be transformed from a fleeting emotion into an enduring way of being.
From the critics
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“... everywhere in Dharamsala were reminders that this was a community that had been traumatized by oppression and exile. The town clings to winding hillside roads, and craft stalls hang over the edges of sheer cliffs. Like construction throughout India and so much of the developing world, building codes and security precautions were waved aside to make room for the exploding population. I wondered how these structures would fare in an earthquake, and feared that the whole city might be shaken off the back of these mountains like a leaf from a waking animal.” (p. 22-23)
“March 10, 2008 ... I could not do anything. I felt helpless. I knew that if they really carried out demonstrations, it would actually result only in more suffering, more problems. And that is exactly what happened, with the violent crackdown and the death and imprisonment of so many Tibetans who had participated in the process. Over the next few days, during my meditation, I actually visualized some of those Chinese local authorities and did one of our practices, called tonglen, literally meaning ‘giving and taking.’ I tried to take on their fear, anger, suspicion, and to give them my love, my forgiveness. Of course, this would have no physical effect on the ground. It would not change the situation. But you see, mentally, it was very, very helpful to keep a calm mind.” (p. 115)
The Dalai Lama used the terms wider perspective and larger perspective. They involve stepping back, within our own mind, to look at the bigger picture and to move on beyond our limited self-awareness and our limited self-interest. Every situation we confront in life comes from the convergence of many contributing factors. The Dalai Lama had explained, "We must look at any given situation or problem from the front and the back, from the sides, from the top and bottom, so from at least six angles. This allows us to take a more complete and holistic view of reality, and if we do, our response will be more constructive." (p. 196)
"I think it takes time to learn to be aid-back," he continued. "You know, it's not something that just comes ready-made for you. No one ought to feel annoyed with themselves. It just adds to the frustration. I mean, we are human beings, fallible human beings. As the Dalai Lama points out, there was a time… I mean, we see him serene and calm. Yet there were times when he, too, felt annoyed and perhaps there still are. It's like muscles that have to be exercised to be strong. Sometimes we get too angry with ourselves thinking we ought to be perfect from the word go. But this being on earth is a time for us to learn to be good, to learn to be more loving, to learn to be more compassionate. And you learn, not theoretically. "The Archbishop was pointing his index fingers at his head. "You learn when something happens that tests you." (pp. 91-92)
We concluded, "There is nothing wrong with faiths. The problem is the faithful."
(P. 70 Desmond Tutu)
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