About "The Book of Joy" - “The ultimate source of happiness is within us.” Dalai Lama
Both the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have faced incredible hardship in their lives. Despite this, both men have been able to find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering.
Having only met a handful of times, the Dalai Lama and Tutu immediately connected with each other during one of their first meetings and are said to share an incredibly special bond. In their most recent encounter, where Tutu visited the Dalai Lama for his 80th birthday, the two got together to work on a gift they would give the world: the secrets to finding true joy.
Along with author Douglas Abrams, who took notes during the week-long meeting, Tutu and the Dalai Lama shared many moments about their lives and how they’ve been able to maintain their own personal levels of joy. These moments have been captured in an inspirational book, aptly called Book of Joy.
The obstacles to joy
In the first chapters, both men share their own personal experiences of hardship and how they were able to see them for what they were: obstacles of joy.
The archbishop, when Abrams asked about these obstacles, said, “Life is filled with challenges and adversity. Fear is inevitable, as is pain, and eventually death.”
There are eight categories of obstacles to joy that the archbishop and Dalai Lama speak about. They’re the reason for unhappiness and usually originate in your own heart and mind. They’re what cause you to react to certain situations in your life the way you do. They are:
1. Fear, stress, and anxiety. Many people deal with varying degrees of these, and they’re closely associated to money, power, fame, and influence. Your obsession with – and current lack of – any one or more of these can be one of the greatest reasons you think you may not be able to find true joy. The Dalai Lama says stress and anxiety often come from too much expectation and ambition. Following this, you experience the obstacles to joy relating to the next category.
2. Frustration and anger. Even though fear and frustration seem like two completely different factors of emotion, they share significant commonality. Think about your natural response to a situation. Health experts call it the fight or flight response where the former can be brought about by anger, and the latter by fear. However, where there is fear, there is frustration and where there is frustration, there is anger, explains the Dalai Lama.
3. Sadness and grief. Sadness is a long-lasting emotion and one of the biggest challenges to joy. It can seem all-consuming, but there is a silver lining in that it’s one of the emotions that brings people closer together.
4. Despair. One of the questions that often comes up with regard to how to build joy in your life is actually about sorrow. Many people have asked the Dalai Lama how it’s possible to live with such joy when there is such a great amount of turmoil and sorrow in the world. Tutu says turning despair around is about seeing the greatness of your compassion for others, whether you know them or not.
5. Loneliness. Being lonely is not always about being alone. You can feel joy when you’re alone, but you’re unlikely to be joyful when you’re lonely.
6. Envy. Envy is not an emotion you can closely control, especially when you’re already feeling frustration and anger towards something you’re aspiring to and you see someone else who already has it. Envy is particularly severe when you perceive that a person has not worked as hard as you for what they have.
7. Suffering and adversity. Suffering is another obstacle to joy that may be hard to overcome. The Dalai Lama says, however, that adversities may present you with different opportunities to what you may have thought were set for your path. He refers to a Tibetan saying: it is actually the painful experiences that shine a light on the nature of happiness by bringing joyful experiences into sharp relief.
8. Illness and fear of death. Before his trip to meet with the Dalai Lama, the archbishop attended a number of funerals of close friends. He says that death is a fact of life. However, the fear of approaching death, or regarding the suffering that precedes it, can have a severe impact on joy.
You shouldn’t berate yourself for having negative thoughts, as they’re completely natural and unavoidable, Tutu continues. It’s about learning to develop mental immunity, which is what the Dalai Lama calls it.
This, the Dalai Lama explains, is a case of learning how to avoid the destructive emotions and instead, work on the positive ones. Working on healthy and healing emotions can bring about true joyfulness.
The eight pillars of joy with qualities from the mind and heart
Both men sum up the ability to bring about true joy in your life by learning and developing the eight pillars. Four are about qualities you can relate to the mind, while the other four are qualities of the heart.
Qualities of the mind
1. Perspective. Putting your life and struggles into perspective can help you overcome them by looking at the bigger picture and moving beyond your own self-limitations.
2. Humility. Both the archbishop and Dalai Lama insist that humility plays an extraordinary role in developing true joy. It’s about seeing yourself as an equal to others. It brings you back down to earth, free from ego, pride, arrogance, and insecurity.
3. Humour. When together, the two men do lots of laughing. Deep, belly-laughing to be exact. Even in times that are tough, they find time to laugh and to overcome the obstacles to joy with humour.
4. Acceptance. You may already know that your life is filled with turmoil, suffering, and adversity, but have you accepted it? Once you do, there’s opportunity to live life on your own terms, and with complete joy.
Qualities of the heart
5. Forgiveness. Forgiving is not to forget, but to release the negativity associated with the wrong that was done. Once you change the emotion of the experience, you can move forward.
6. Gratitude. Be thankful for what you have, what you have achieved, and who you are and you can find joy in the things you do.
7. Compassion. There is a sense of true joy that can come out of the wish for others to be free from suffering.
8. Generosity. Giving – truly giving without wanting to receive in return – can have an immense effect on your ability to develop joy. A study in the journal Science shows that a sense of happiness is greater when people spend money on others instead of themselves.
This is only a short explanation of the fascinating and inspiring concepts described in the book, where there is an entire chapter dedicated to each. At the end of the book, there’s even an entire additional section on how to overcome the obstacles and how to learn, cultivate, and develop the eight pillars of joy.
Whether you’re in a situation in your life where you need some help to being about joy or not, this book is truly a great read. It offers some perspective of a world that is often only seen in turmoil, and from the view of two people that have been through more than most in their lifetime.