Title: The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World
Authors: His Holiness, The 14th Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams.
Publication Date: 2016
One of my goals for Lent was to read one nonfiction book dealing with self-improvement. I chose this one after a patron requested our library purchase it and then it was a deal of the day. I couldn’t pass it up. I’m glad I didn’t as it is my…
Book of the Month for April 2017
This is a new feature where on the last Sunday of each month, I will review the best book I read for that month. Likewise, I am doing two similar features at the end of each month: Movie of the Month and Album of the Month, with reviews of the best movie we watched that month and the best album I listened to that month. Earlier this week, I wrote about our Movie of the Month for this past month, and my intent was to write about my Album of the Month on Friday. However, since I didn’t do that, I will announce my Album of the Month sometime later this week.
Before reading this book, I had read one other book by the Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, which was in answer to a series of questions from Howard C. Cutler, an American psychiatrist. Like that one, this book is in answer to a series of questions to the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu from Douglas Abrams, another American writer – over a week’s meeting. However, unlike The Art of Happiness, I didn’t find Abrams to be quite as intrusive into the conversation as Cutler was. Abrams did inject himself into the conversation, but I think it seemed more natural than when Cutler did it in the previous book.
I think also what helped was the inclusion of scientific research on joy and comments from the Dalai Lama’s translator Jinpa, or Thupta Jinpa Langri, the Dalai Lama’s principal translator since 1985. The only issue I have with Abrams’ inclusion of Jinpa is that Abrams doesn’t identify who Jinpa is, only introducing him from time to time with “Jinpa explained” or “Jinpa said,” which was a bit frustrating for those of us not familiar with his relationship with the Dalai Lama.
After setting up the impetus of the pair’s meeting, which was the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday, the trio, or really quartet, of writers get to the heart of the book: the nature of true joy, obstacles to that, and then the eight pillars of joy. Those eight are: perspective, humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity. The main section of the book ends with a birthday party for the Dalai Lama at the Tibetan Children’s Village with more than a thousand children, several hundred teachers, staff, and guests from the Tibetan Community and a brief final session before Tutu leaves. The Tibetan Children’s Village is in Dharamsala, India, where the Dalai Lama and his followers fled in 1959 from their native Tibet.
However, that truly isn’t the end of the book as the trio collect a series of “Joy Practices” or meditation exercises. The bulk of the exercises can be found in two categories: “Overcoming the Obstacles to Joy” and “Cultivating the Eight Pillars of Joy.” They are bookended with practices that Tibetan monks do at the beginning and end of each day. For me, this appendix is what puts this book “over the top” for me as it just doesn’t tell you about joy, but also how to practice joy in your own life.
So what book that you read this past month would you choose as your Book of the Month?