Home Psychology The Art of Happiness

Learn the key ideas of the book by Tenzin Gyatso , Howard C. Cutler

The Art of Happiness

Discussions with the Dalai Lama on the meaning of life

The Art of Happiness is the fruit of conversations that took place in Arizona and in India during the nineties between the Dalai Lama and the psychiatrist Howard Cutler, about the meaning of life and what human beings need to do to be happy. When the book came out, in 1998, it enjoyed unforeseen success during a time when most editors said that people weren't interested in the subject of happiness. The fourteenth Dalai Lama tells us that it is possible for us all to be happy, and that we can practice happiness in the same way we would practice any other discipline. 

The Art of Happiness
Read in 17 min.
Listen in 21 min.

The purpose of our lives is to be happy, an objective that we can achieve by training our minds

In the 1990’s, the Dalai Lama stood before a large crowd in Arizona and told them that “pursuing happiness is the very purpose of life”. And he added that happiness could be achieved by “training the mind”.

At that time, to the Western world, this idea was still far beyond the mainstream, especially in the field of psychology, where happiness was not even among the goals of people in therapy. There was talk of depression, anxiety, relationship struggles and how to alleviate these problems, but happiness was not even discussed.

The word happy has its root in the Icelandic word happ, which means fate or fortune. It is as if happiness was more a matter of chance, something unexpected that happens to us, and not something we can learn to cultivate ourselves.

In short, when the Dalai Lama spoke to the Western world in the 90’s about the fact that people can train their minds to be happy, this idea was as far removed from reality as one could possibly imagine.

It should be noted that in Tibetan, when we speak of mind, we use the word “sem” which has a broader meaning because it includes feeling and intellect, heart, and brain.

According to the Dalai Lama, by developing an inner discipline, we can change our world view and our approach to life. Everything is based on a very simple starting point: identifying the factors that lead to happiness and those that lead to suffering. Once we are clear about these factors, the next step is to cultivate and strengthen the ones which lead to happiness and gradually weaken and get rid of the ones that lead to suffering.

In fact, according to Buddhism, happiness is determined more by our mental state than by external events. Great success can produce temporary euphoria, just as serious tragedy can plunge us into a gloomy depression. Sooner or later, though, our mood tends to return to our personal “normal”, because daily happiness is determined by the way we choose to view things and situations, and by how much we are able to appreciate what we have.


The key ideas of "The Art of Happiness"

The purpose of our lives is to be happy, an objective that we can achieve by training our minds
Fulfilment is that feeling we feel when we appreciate what we have, and it is very important in the pursuit of happiness
Happiness is not the same as pleasure: it is a longer lasting state which derives from a calm mind and from being open to the world
Human warmth, kindness, and compassion: by living according to these feelings, we can be happy
If we live our lives with compassion, we will never feel alone; if we practice empathy, we will be able to understand the suffering of others
Recognising that suffering is a normal part of the human experience helps to ease its burden
To free ourselves from suffering we need to accept the impermanence of life
Changing your point of view is one of the most effective ways to pursue happiness
Viewing enemies as an opportunity to grow and improve, to practice patience and tolerance
Develop a strong and firm conviction to undertake the necessary effort for change
Take-home message

Try 4books Premium for free!