Book Review: “The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World” by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams

Reviewed by Bev Scott

The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The Book of Joy records a delightful conversation between two spiritual masters of our time, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, facilitated by Douglas Abrams. This conversation celebrated their special birthdays. They offer this as a birthday gift to others with an invitation for more joy and more happiness.

Many awful things have happened to the Dalai Lama. He was exiled from his home and from what is precious to him. Yet people experience compassion, joy and mischievousness when they speak with him. He offers another angle to look at his exile as giving him new opportunities. He shares a Tibetan saying ‘Wherever you have friends that’s your country, and wherever you receive love, that’s your home.”

Modeling moral leadership

The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu are moral leaders who transcend their own traditions. Given this, they speak with a concern for humanity as a whole. They want to ensure that they include the over one billion people on the planet who are non-believers. Everyone has a right to become happier human beings and to be good members of the human family. To them, religious faith is not necessary to educate our inner values.

The Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu The Bpok of Joy

Their lives model the way. Yet, the Archbishop has never claimed sainthood. And, the Dalai Lama considers himself a simple monk. They believe in humanity despite the world’s cynicism and despair. Their own joy does not come from living easy and comfortable lives but rather from facing adversity, oppression and struggle. They argue that lasting happiness is not found in the pursuit of any goal or special achievement, nor in fortune or fame. Rather, lasting happiness is found only in the human mind and heart. They hope that readers of this inspiring book will find it.

Joy is bigger than happiness

The Archbishop said that “Joy is bigger than happiness” since happiness is often seen as dependent on external circumstances, joy comes from a state of mind and is rooted in the purpose of life. The Dalai Lama said that one of the great questions underlying our existence is

What is the purpose of life? After much consideration I believe that the purpose of life is to find happiness…The ultimate source of happiness is within us. Not money, not power, not status…Sadly, many of the things that undermine our joy and happiness we create ourselves.

If we create most of our suffering, it should be logical that we also have the ability to create more joy. It simply depends on the attitudes, the perspectives and the reactions we bring to situations and relationships.

Suffering and compassion

Suffering, even intense suffering, is a necessary ingredient for life, certainly for developing compassion. It is how we face all of the things that seem to be negative in our lives that determines the kind of person we become. Even in pain we can find some positive experiences, some opportunities and some blessings.

Too much self-centered thinking is the source of suffering. A compassionate concern for others’ well-being is the source of happiness.

They both say that the way we heal our own pain is actually by turning to the pain of others. It is a virtuous cycle. The more we turn toward others, the more joy we experience, the more joy we experience, the more we can bring joy to others. Being joyful is about being more empathetic, more compassionate and more engaged with the world.

The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu The Book of Joy

With this foundation for happiness and joy, the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop discuss with insight and from experience how to heal and turn away from the obstacles to joy such as fear, stress, anger, grief, despair, envy and suffering. Then they offer a path to happiness through the Eight Pillars of Joy: perspective, humility, humor, acceptance forgiveness, gratitude, compassion and generosity.

Their message for us

The message of The Book of Joy is that this is the cycle: the more we heal our own suffering and obstacles, the more we can turn to others to help their pain and suffering and, amazingly, the more we turn away from our own selfish issues toward the concerns of others, the more we can transcend our own suffering. This is the true secret of joy.