If you are a human being, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World is for you.
You might expect a book written by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu to be religious in nature (they do speak of their faith), but this book crosses all political, religious, and ethnic boundaries speaking to us as human beings living on Earth with other human beings. The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu embody kindness, courage, humility, compassion, and joy and they inspire us to be our best selves.
Not long ago, I had finished reading four excellent books for a post series about GMOs and bioengineered food and I still had one book to go. However, I found I just could not read another book right then about pesticides or corporate ownership of the food system.
I wanted to read something that would be uplifting and hopefully enlightening. Scrolling through my ever-growing “books to read” list, I spotted The Book of Joy and I thought, “Yes, this is the book that I need.”
“No dark fate determines the future. We do. Each day and each moment, we are able to create and re-create our lives and the very quality of human life on our planet. That is the power we wield.” —The Book of Joy
The dialogue in The Book of Joy occurs between April 18 and April 24, 2015, when Archbishop Tutu traveled to Dharamsala, India to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s eightieth birthday and to engage in a multi-day conversation with him about joy.
The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu are both world-renowned spiritual leaders and Nobel Peace Prize Laureates who are rarely in the same place at the same time and may never be again so that week in April was a momentous occasion for the two of them and the world. Constantly surrounded by a film crew, they seemed to be able to ignore all the hubbub talking and teasing each other as if they were just two people having a conversation (which they were).
The Book of Joy covers the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu’s teachings on joy, the latest science on joy, and stories of being in Dharamsala that week.
Day 1 – The Nature of True Joy
From the beginning, the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu included all of us, the entire human population, in the conversation and reiterated repeatedly that we are all responsible for developing a happier more joyful world.
They expressed concern that today people focus too much on external, materialistic values and not enough on inner values like kindness and compassion and that unfortunately; this is what we are teaching our children.
Days 2 and 3 – The Obstacles to Joy
Two days were devoted to all the ways that human beings suffer from fear, stress, anxiety, anger, frustration, sadness, grief, loneliness, envy, illness, and fear of death.
It might seem like it would be depressing or distressing to read these chapters, but the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu approach suffering from a different perspective and share how joy can coexist with suffering and that suffering may actually lead to unexpected joy.
Days 4 and 5 – The Eight Pillars of Joy
The last two days were devoted to talking about the foundation of joy including qualities of the mind: perspective, humility, humor, and acceptance and qualities of the heart: forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity.
“Ultimately, joy is not something to learn, it is something to live. And our greatest joy is lived in deep, loving, and generous relationships with others.” —The Book of Joy
The Bottom Line
The Book of Joy is a beautifully crafted work of inspiration, hope, and joy co-created by the three men listed on the book jacket and many people behind the scenes.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual leader of Tibet. Forced to flee Tibet in fear of his life, the Dalai Lama has been living in exile in Dharamsala, India since 1959. He has traveled all over the world advocating for non-violence, peace, inter-religious understanding, human rights, and compassion and has worked tirelessly for over fifty years to free Tibet from Chinese control.
Desmond Mpilo Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Southern Africa, was a leader in the decades-long crusade to end apartheid in South Africa and bring about reconciliation between the people. He is a staunch believer in non-violence, an outspoken campaigner for the oppressed, and a co-founder of The Elders, a group of global leaders working together for peace and human rights.
Douglas Abrams is an author, editor, and the founder of the literary agency Idea Architects.
The Book of Joy refreshed my spirit and reminded me that joy is available to every person every day.
Featured Image at Top: The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu blow out candles on a birthday cake during the Dali Lama’s 80th birthday celebration at the Tibetan Children’s Village School in Dharamsala, India on April 23, 2015. Photo by Tenzin Choejor/OHDL.
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