His Holiness Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.
"Ã¢ If you want others to be happy, practice compassion; and if you want yourself to be happy, practice compassion.' The Buddhist tradition has, like many of he world's great spiritual traditions, exhorted us to live our lives compassionately. These spiritual traditions teach us to feel connected with our fellow human beings and with the world we live in. They celebrate service to others as one of the highest virtues. Today, growing scientific data confirms this insight. Researchers on human happiness identify compassionate service to others to be one of the key characteristics shared by many of the world's happiest people."
-His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama
The above quote is an excerpt from the preface of The Art of Happiness. It discusses the book's primary theme: the scientific and spiritual importance of happiness for both the human psyche and physical well-being.
The Art of Happiness draws from the experiences of two important men. It was written by Dr. Howard Cutler, a leading expert on the science of happiness who currently serves as a diplomat for the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Cutler met the world-renowned Fourteenth Dalai Lama in India in 1982 while he was researching Tibetan medicine there. Cutler was impressed by the affable and good-natured demeanor of the Dalai Lama and the insight he was able to share as the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. The Art of Happiness is Cutler's report on conversations the two shared on the subject of happiness.
Cutler couldn't have found a better source of wisdom on happiness. Through decades concentrated meditation and intensive Buddhist studies, the Dalai Lama has discovered a number of secrets on this essential human condition. For example, he believes that compassion is key to controlling negative emotions and engendering positive thoughts and making a point to laugh and smile can help make a person find happiness.
There are four principal themes found throughout The Art of Happiness that ULC ministers - and everyone who wishes to become ordained - would do well to remember. The most fundamental is that the purpose of life is happiness. Second, the Dalai Lama believes that happiness is determined primarily by the state of a person's mind and not what goes on around them. Third, temporal happiness can be achieved by everyone through the astute training of our hearts and minds. Finally, the key to finding happiness is possessed by everyone.
Every Universal Life Church minister - and everyone who wishes to become a pastor - should read this book at least once. Overall, The Art of Happiness is an easy book to read and has a message relevant to everyone. The Art of Happiness also refrains from using overly-complex terms and ideas from psychology and Buddhism, so no background knowledge on these subjects are necessary to read it. The Dalai Lama's stories also provide a good introductory look into Buddhist teachings, so ULC Ministries ministers with an interest in getting a cursory look at Buddhism will find the knowledge they seek within this book.
The Art of Happiness skimps on discussions of Buddhist beliefs and relies more on the Dalai Lama's experiences as one of the world's most compassionate individuals. The book also draws heavily from Cutler's experiences with his patients and the medical fields of psychiatry.
The Art of Happiness begs several questions. The first is: what does it mean to be happy? Is it necessary to act or talk in a certain way in order to be considered a happy individual? Second, is everyone capable of becoming a compassionate, loving, and happy person? While certain exemplary individuals - like the Dalai Lama - embody these qualities to the extreme, is it reasonable to expect everyone to possess them as well? Finally, what is the role of religion in happiness? If so, can online ministries like the ULC Ministries help foster happiness, too?
Please let us know what you think about The Art of Happiness, Cutler's or the Dalai Lama's work, and the above questions. The Universal Life Church Ministries is keen on having everyone who becomes an ordained minister online discuss topics like the one found in this book. Thank you for reading this review and for visiting ulc.org!