Book review: The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama XIV and Howard C. Cutler


The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama XIV and Howard C. Cutler
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (October 1998)
Genre: Non-fiction, Psychology, Buddhism
Pages: 336

The Dalai Lama is one of the people I respect the most. I’m not a Buddhist, but I love the way Buddhism deals with modern times. Scientific research finds something contrary to what is believed in Buddhism? Then we should change our beliefs. Should everyone become a Buddhist? No of course not, everyone should pick the (spiritual) path that suits him best. I like that approach and admire the versatility of this religion.

In The Art of Happiness the Dalai Lama discusses with the American psychiatrist Howard Cutler what the basis of happiness is and how we can achieve it. Through a series of interviews we pass the underlying mechanisms of being happy and discuss different forces that might impede it.

And it sort of worked. I picked up interesting knowledge on the way, like that happiness is the purpose of our life. Which is kind of obvious once you realize it, I just never looked at it that way. The Dalai Lama gives his Buddhist opinion about different topics and then Cutler mentions what we know from science. This makes The Art of Happiness more a series of dialogues than a well-structured self-help book. And the structure was something that I missed. There was a flow between the different parts but the chapters weren’t too clear to me. By times, that made it hard for me to pick the book up. It was not that I didn’t like it when I was reading it, it was just hard to start. At some point this became my train literature, what I would read on my travels.

About the Dalai Lama, it is almost hard to believe that he is really so compassionate, gentle and nice, so perfect. But then maybe that’s to be expected when one is raised as a Buddhist monk from the age of six. I do feel that he is one of the wisest people I ‘know’. (Of course I don’t really know him, just this book and some Youtube interviews, but you get what I mean.) Because his opinion is so interesting, I felt that it was sometimes a little in the background with all Cutlers opinions and scientific input. The ideas of the Dalai Lama, or Buddhism, in general, are not easy to grasp. I would have preferred an elaboration of his ideas and some time to think about them, rather than getting Cutlers interpretation shoved in my face.

So finally, I do not regret reading this book. But I do really want to know more about the Dalai Lama and Buddhism now, so I might pick up one of his other books soon.

Funny fact: The author claims that compassion is a feature in the human race, but look at this video of rats showing empathy:

Final rating: ★★★☆☆


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