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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...
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I first came to this book after one of my counselling clients mentioned that he had been reading it, and that he thought it had helped him to further understand how he needed to change. Intrigued, I decided to get my hands on the book to see if I could discover why he found it so useful.

As you could expect from a book that has the involvement of the Dalai Lama, what I found was a very spiritual, compassionate discourse on life. However, like a previous reviewer, I also found that the voice of Howard Cutler lets this book down. Although I can understand why they have decided to tackle this subject in the way they have - the book is set out as an interview between the two men, interspersed with anecdotes from Cutler's own experience - I feel that it takes focus away from the Dalai Lama's voice. I would prefer this book if it was just a commentary by the Dalai Lama.

That gripe aside, I think THE ART OF HAPPINESS is a delightful way to bring Western thinkers around to another way of seeing life and themselves. As a way of introducing Tibetan Buddhism, this book is a triumph - it is engaging, enjoyable, thought-provoking and an easy way of beginning an interest in this philosophy.
If you read this and enjoy it, I would also recommned that you then go and read some work by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk who writes beautiful books on Buddhism.
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on 29 August 2003
Here is a surprisingly good book, written by a psychiatrist who interviewed the Dalai Lama many times. The book is a combination of narrative by the author and extended quotes of the Dalai Lama's answers. And Cutler asks some good questions.
Sometimes the Dalai Lama's answers seem simple. Part of it is the language. English is obviously not his first language, so he uses almost nothing but ordinary, everyday English -- no jargon, no technical terms, no psychiatric lingo. And yet he obviously has a profound grasp of human nature. Another reason his answers sound simple is because they are rooted in practicality. He isn't trying to explain how things are, he's trying to describe what you can DO to become happier. Descriptions of actions are much simpler and more concrete than explanations.
I'm the author of the book, Self-Help Stuff That Works, and I found the psychiatrist's orientation and the Dalai Lama's practicality combined to make some excellent self-help. I've tried many of the Dalai Lama's suggestions and they really work. One of his suggestions is to think about the similarities between you and other people -- specifically that they want to be happy, just like you do, and they also suffer, just like you do. I know it sounds almost too basic, but when I've actually thought about that while talking to someone, I feel noticeably closer to the person, and that feeling of closeness is relaxing, soothing, calming, and very pleasant. That feeling of closeness increases my happiness.
The Art of Happiness is an excellent book and I recommend it highly.
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on 8 December 2008
This book is suppose to represent the Dalai Lama's views on happiness. Readers should know right off the bat that the Dalai Lama didn't actually write this book. Rather, the book is written by a Western psychiatrist who has had extensive converations with His Holiness. To insure that there were no "inadvertant distortions" of the Dalai Lama's ideas as a result of the editorial process, the Dalai Lama's interpreter reviewed the final manuscript. You be the judge as to whether that means this there was nothing "lost in translation".

So who is this Dalai Lama, aka "His Holiness" anyway? And, why should we read a book about happiness by him? Well, the Dalai Lama is the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people according to Tibetan Buddhism- which in my book makes him a person I'd want to listen to when he talks, especially when it's on one of my favorite subjects, happiness. And if this all sounds like an interesting topic for a book, you should read it- you won't be disappointed.

Now this is the kind of book I could write a long review of- simply because there's just so much wisdom packed into it. But, I think I'll take a short-cut with this one and just hit the highlights.

The Dalai Lama believes that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness. Other happiness books have also taken this same position. For example, the book Finding Happiness in a Frustrating World refers to happiness as "the ultimate pursuit". On this most will agree, but what exactly does the Dalai Lama tell us about finding it?

As with most of his ideas on things, the concept is clear and simple: happiness can be achieved through training the mind. According to the Dalai Lama, one begins by identifying those factors which lead to happiness, and those factors which lead to suffering.

Having done this, one then sets about gradually eliminating those factors which lead to suffering and cultivating those which lead to happiness. That is the way.

To that end, that's exactly what makes up the majority of this book's pages- ways to eliminate factors in your life that lead to suffering, and learning to foster those factors that lead to happiness. Some specific topics include:

-facing suffering
-dealing with anger, hatred, and anxiety
-building self-esteem
-deepening your connection to others

When all is said and done, I'd have to say that the time you spend mulling over the book's 300-plus pages is going to be well worth it. For most readers, the Dalai Lama's wisdom and views will probably be very beneficial, if not transforming. Happy trails!
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on 12 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.
JCB, BA(Hons) Psychology
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on 22 January 2010
I met the Dalai Lama once, in Dharamsala, although I didn't speak to him - I shook his hand, and he gave me a red cotton wristband. What impressed me was that he really looked at me with his full attention, and smiled, and seemed to radiate benevolence. This book radiates benevolence in the same way, looking at happiness from the Buddhist point of view, and suggesting how to live in such a way as to increase our well-being. There is a great deal of emphasis on compassion, and on understanding our own minds, and how our own negative thoughts and emotions create discord in our lives. It's wise and well-written, but I did miss a little bit of more practical advice, some concrete steps on what we can do increase our happiness. To make up for this omission, perhaps this book needs to read together with a book such as Authentic Happiness. I must also recommend Back to Sanity: Healing the Madness of our Minds by Steve Taylor, a great book on the factors which stop us finding harmony and happiness, and how we can overcome them. Back to Sanity: Healing the Madness of Our Minds
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on 17 February 2006
"The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living" was a gift from my girlfriend who, knowing I had an interest in Buddhism and Eastern philosophy, thought this would be a good read for me.

I've enjoyed what the Dalai Lama has to say about life and how to live it, and I'd say that the book offers some powerful and positive ways of looking at myself and the world. I particularily like the way chapters are themed around issues (eg anxiety) that might affect people.

However, it's badly hampered by Howard C. Cutler's (the narrator/interviewer) writing style. The Dalai Lama's observations are embedded in hokey anecdotes about events in the author's life that are presented as a backdrop to, or even 'evidence' to support, the DL's words. At one level this is just tedious and, at another, really dilutes the message to the point where I found it difficult to follow.

Also, some of the central themes of Buddhism are brushed over, as is the role of meditation, with a few exceptions. Maybe the author thought this would be off-putting to the lay reader, but I'm sure it would be possible to emphasise their role, without saying you have to be a practicing buddhist to believe the book.

Overall, read it if you want some positive advice and something gently life-affirming (no bad thing!), but not if you want something more objective or challenging.
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on 5 August 2013
I think everybody reaches a point in life where they start to question whether they are on the right path in life and how can they "live better". I picked up this book and have found it is very interesting to see how the Dalai Lama ("DL") sees things.

In the west we constantly feel the need to surround ourselves with "nice things" such as the over priced designer clothes, cars, nice house etc. but it is humbling to see that often the poorest people seem most grateful for what they have. *I am thinking back to a picture I saw with a child living in a war zone holding a dirty doll that made her smile* and by poor I mean poor in a third world country - not poor in a first world country (think: a nice 3 bed house paid for by the state).

If I'm honest, I think that the west has lost perspective on what is really important and this book sends the message that happiness can be achieved from within.

This book does make me think that if everyone was compassionate, caring and generous towards each other then the world would be a better place. However in reality those who are will find that they are out of pocket taken advantage of but I'd like to think the principle of Karma exists.
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on 20 November 1999
For a long time I have felt that I was searching for the meaning of life. This book provides an answer which is on the one hand simple, yet on the other hand so complex that you will spend a lifetime questing toward it. There were no glib solutions to complex and painful events that we may experience as we go through life. Some words of wisdom are shared with us which may help us appreciate life's high points and cope with the lows.
I really liked the way in which the author presented his material. It gave me a feel that I was there in the room with HH Dalai Lama. I could imagine his smiling face and feel the power and simplicity of his words. The author used a very open style of writing and real life situations were skillfully woven into the story.
I feel a happier person since reading this book even as I've been going through a painful bereavement. This is one of the most important books that I have ever read.
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on 15 October 2001
Great book this. If, like me, you've spent years trying to work out, what's it all about, putting your past to rest, etc. working in a busy stressful environment, you may have read several 'Self-Help'books.
Sometimes, paradoxically, for me they are too Scientific for the Lay-Person, othertimes too flowery (Chicken Soup, anyone?). I implore you, use this book as a bridge across that river, Ladies and Gentlemen.
However, this book needs serious attention, and concentration, it's not the lightest thing I've ever read, but easier to read than the road Less Travelled, for example.
Only on finishing the book, will it all sink in, thankyou Dalai Lama, and thanks to Dr Cutler for a job well done. Believe me you have done the world a favour with this book, I only hope it becomes mandatory to read at school one day, maybe the world would be a better place?
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