The Dalai Lama and his teachings may be far away from what you’d consider typical life and self-help advice in general but “The Art of Happiness” has been co-written with a psychiatrist Howard Cutler to suit the Western audience better. It may not be the most engaging read ever but it has a number of good tips on how to live well.
The Dalai Lama’s book will tell you one of the most important truths that so many people want to escape and/or ignore: life is suffering. It’s not suffering all the time but you must accept that suffer you will, seems to be a Master Yoda reading of the book. People can entirely escape suffering only by enlightenment, which comes from years and years of earthly pleasure deprivation and meditation. The Dalai Lama isn’t there yet so let’s agree that it may not be the way to go for all of us, regular mortals. However, with meditation and acceptance of feelings that comes with it, we can all learn to live more in the present moment and less in our heads. Meditation practice doesn’t make the pain of every day existence disappear but it helps us alleviate it. There’s plenty of modern research showing benefits of meditation. I’m a regular meditator myself and I can tell you that it has done wonders to my anxiety, stress levels and much more.
Apart from the meditation practice, the Dalai Lama encourages us to seek happiness and not pleasure in life. What we need is contentment and serenity, while pleasure brings us only short-term highs and lows. Happiness, on the other hand, is long-term. Think about the difference in this way: this slab of chocolate may make you feel better when you’re eating it and when the sugar rush hits you but soon you’ll feel low because of eating it. It’s an indulgence, it’s not particularly healthy and it doesn’t give you much nutrition. Eating healthy is, of course, better for your long-term well-being. We make similar choices between pleasure and happiness all the time in life. Do I want to have a one night stand? Do I want to get completely wasted? Impulsive choices may serve us as temporarily pain killers and distractions but pursuing them actually makes us less not more happy long-term. You want to be happy? Then choose happiness above pleasure in life as often as you can. And yeah, no one said it’ll be easy.
The love and dating advice from the Dalai Lama also goes with the pleasure vs happiness principle. If you get hooked on the drama in the relationship or just the sex, it’s not a good relationship. You should look for wholesome relationships that give you stability and at the same time you shouldn’t depend on your partner entirely. You may wonder what someone who has never had sex or a partner may know about these things but if you think about it, these are the same rules he preaches otherwise. Besides, you would agree his tips are apt, even if they completely dismiss how difficult it may be to find the wholesome relationship, right?
The Dalai Lama teaches us also how to connect to human beings in general. I think a lot of us may feel disconnected and somewhat lonely in this world. We look for people who are almost exactly like us and get upset when others don’t meet our expectations. The Dalai Lama has a solution to that! Instead of getting hanged up on the differences between you and other people, like for instance that you’re Team God and someone isn’t or the other way round, you can try to relate to them on a basic, interconnecting level. We’re all humans, we all want to avoid suffering and find happiness. By applying such thinking it’s easier to grow compassion and empathy towards others and therefore feel more connected.
The Dalai Lama discusses some meditations techniques and some Buddhist teachings in the book but doesn’t go into too much detail. Where his advice may seem unclear, Cutler uses Western examples to make it more understandable for a typical reader. All in all, it’s a good but somewhat unsubstantial read. It will make you maybe ponder on some issues and introduce some better life habits but I think “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” is doing a better job at selling unpopular yet crucial views to the modern audience. The Dalai Lama’s book will probably only be picked up by those who’ve been doing some soul searching for a while and to those people it’ll look very superficial and basic.
Are you actively searching for happiness, Dear Rinser? Any meditators hear? How do you try yourself to lead a happy life?