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An exceptional book for readers from any tradition
on 20 August 2000
Howard C Cutler, an experienced practising psychotherapist, spent years, in America and India, talking with HH The Dalai Lama, presenting him with problems encountered in Western life, and recording his responses. Cutler arranged the results into a sequence which leads us through the universal search for happiness, the obstacles, and how it can really be achieved.
In reading fairly widely on these subjects, from both a Western and an Eastern perspective, I have never before come across a book which compares the two, point by point, resolving apparent conflicts, and extracting the fundamental truths which lie beneath, making the differences seem essentially superficial. For me, this approach resolved problems which I have never solved before. For instance, the anomaly of perceived attitudes to anger - the Western ("don't suppress it, express it"), and the Eastern ("rise above it"). The answer isn't simple, but it's in this book.
The Art of Happiness - A Handbook for Living is, as its name suggests, a practical handbook. It is best read from beginning to end, but thereafter accessible by dipping into a section as needed. I have had my copy for a long time, and keep returning to it. For example, re-reading the section 'Dealing with Anxiety' puts such feelings into perspective and reinforces pragmatic solutions. There's a lively approach throughout, punctuated by illustrations from Howard Cutler's case-book - real examples of the problems of people he has dealt with over many years in practice, and occasionally his own worries about life. The Dalai Lama also contributes some examples from people he has met, and his own experience. Both can be enlightening and humorous. Spiritual and emotional issues are often discussed with reference to scientific research. These contrasts, and the lively pace, mean that although fundamental issues of great depth are being explored, this is no dry, theoretical discussion. In fact, it is a book which can be very hard to put down.
This is a book for those from all faiths and none. Buddhism is not an evangelical faith, and the Dalai Lama makes clear his respect for all religions, pointing out the truths common to all.
Perhaps the ultimate test - on finishing this book, I felt happier than I have for a very long time. Put into daily practice, this really is A Handbook for Living...