The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living

by Dalai Lama

Hardcover, 1998




New York : Riverhead Books, 1998.


One of the world's greatest spiritual leaders teams up with a psychiatrist to share, for the first time, how he achieved his hard-won serenity and how readers can attain the same inner peace.

Media reviews

The Art of Happiness is the result of collaboration between psychiatrist Howard Cutler and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. It is a blend of the Dalai Lama’s thoughts on various issues and Cutler’s personal and scientific reflections on them.

User reviews

LibraryThing member yjeva
This book changed my life - perhaps only in a small way, but significantly - with the concept that the purpose of life is to find happiness. I had the idea that seeking happiness was "bad" - making other people happy was "good". But now I know that if I seek to be happy (as opposed to seeking pleasure) I will automatically do good for other people.
It didn't disappoint or bother me at all that it was written by someone else as the words and ideas were clearly those of the Dalai Lama.
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LibraryThing member Brianna_H
Like so many other people who have come across this book, The Art of Happiness changed my life. Reading this book taught me how to change my perspective in order to change my world. I re-read this book everytime I feel as if I am forgetting the valuable lessons contained in this powerful book. You don't need to be Buddhist or unhappy to appreciate The Art of Happiness. This is not like the typical self-help books that preach "at" you or tell you how you should behave or live. This book is inspiring.… (more)
LibraryThing member jaine9
I have owned this book for several years and keep coming back to it - particularly when I am finding life difficult. I always find something helpful in it.
LibraryThing member msvicb
The wisdom of the Dalai Lama has inspired me. He speaks from the heart and his message is simple. It is a book to come back to now and again.
LibraryThing member thimbleberry
rumor has it that its not actually written by the dali lama
LibraryThing member mikewick
Having just seen the Dalai Lama teach at Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts, I wanted to pick up one of his books and read further after being reinvigorated at his wonderful teaching. I picked this up partially because it was the only one available at the library I work at, and also because I bought it for my mother years ago and she'd never read it. It works as a secular meditation on the method to improve your relationship with yourself and the people around you through cultivating happiness and compassion, but of course comes from a Buddhist perspective. It was written from interviews that Howard Cutler, a psychologist, had with the Dalai Lama over the course of a few years, and Dr. Cutler brings to the table not only his professional background but his experience as a human trying to integrate the Dalai Lama's teachings into his life. At points Dr. Cutler portrays himself as being impatient and a little peevish, which is great because it provides opportunities for him to recount that it's not always easy to cultivate this type of compassion, and serves to ground the work and make it more approachable.… (more)
LibraryThing member kerowackie
I presented my bro and his new bride with the "Art of Happiness" by the Dalai and they both actually read it and commented on it and thanked me for it. Such a kind, simple but so profound soul is he, a major, major voice for our times. Just to be in his presence which I was once, is such an inspiration and a consolation. I don't think even the Pope could do that for me, especially not the current one, but I have not yet chanced to be near him or one of his ilk as yet.… (more)
LibraryThing member just_that_fast
a very powerful book. The psychological perspective of Dr. Cutler made it very interesting
LibraryThing member rlbenavides
The way to achieve happiness is a vague, seemingly impossible path that many avoid simply because they do not believe that they can reach this goal. Before reading The Art of Happiness, I wasn’t convinced that a book could tell me how to be content with my life—and I was right. Every human being, I believe, has a separate path leading to the same satisfaction and it takes a lot of mistakes, risks, and lessons to get to it. What I found while reading this book, however, was that the Dalai Lama feels the same. Throughout his conversation with Howard Cutler, which is what this “handbook” is comprised of, he taught many lessons that can apply to all—but there was no arrogance included. He did not try and dictate, and quite frankly, though this can be considered a “self help” book by more technical standards, there is no doctrine present in this except for what the reader gets out of it by individual interpretation. The Dalai Lama states his opinions about happiness with a very gentle firmness and confidence that doesn’t come across as anything but sage.

I enjoyed reading this because it was new for me—I don’t read nonfiction very often, particularly books with a message like this one, but I think that now I am going to look into them more. I took a lot of lessons out of this book that I can apply to my own life, and it was a pleasure to discover new depths of happiness that I had never ventured into before. It was also a great read along with Siddhartha, Herman Hesse’s novel, because I could follow the themes in the novel more closely with the help of the teachings of the Dalai Lama, and pick out the aspects of Buddhism long before they were fully introduced. I would definitely recommend this.
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LibraryThing member Fluffyblue
Excellent - it really connects and the way the book is set out makes it really easy to apply to your own life.
LibraryThing member sylverpyro
This is one of the most highly recommended introduction books to Budhism in the West* (sorry, I don't have a source to cite here other than personal experience of lots of people recommending it to me and the Amazon reviews). I cannot tell if I would have appreciated this book more if I had read it BEFORE The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.

It is written by a Western psychologist who met the Dalai Lama and was fascinated by his teachings. The book is presented as a series of excerpts from conversations on various western psychology and Buddhist topics between the psychologist and the Dalai Lama, as well as excerpts from the Dalai Lama's seminars the psychologist attended. These excerpts are gold. The psychologist's questions and topics provide a perfect character for the western-minded reader to place themselves into, because the reasoning is so familiar. This is important for the book as one gets the sense that the answers the Dalai Lama is presenting are that much more directed at 'you'.

The down side of this book is everything in-between the excerpts. The psychologist feels the need to make sure to break down the fairly simple answers being given and place them directly in place of western psychological concepts (when many times the Dalai Lama does for him during the answer). At times, he did go as far to pull on research studies being conducted that backed up the answers.

I guess for some people who are reading this book thinking 'what the heck is he talking about?, none of this crap works/is applicable', this is a good thing. Myself, I was having flashbacks from the scene in V for Vendeta after the Old Ballie is blown up with the chancellor chastising "Spare us your professional annotations Mr. Finch, they are IRRELEVANT".

But overall the book, for those not already a few steps down the path of understanding Buddhism, has some amazing and moving teaching in it. My favorite one that's going to stick with me for a while is probably going to be the Dalai Lama's view of western psychology trying to root out problems instead of dealing with the symptoms first (paraphrased):
"If you come across someone who has been shot with an arrow, you do not look around trying to discern which direction the arrow came from or who shot it. Fist, you remove the arrow!"
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LibraryThing member allin1
The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living by His Holiness the Dalai Lama (1999)
LibraryThing member egoose1
His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s understanding of life and the pursuit of happiness on earth is incredible. In this two-time New York Times Bestseller The Art of Happiness, the Dalai Lama shows us easy ways to live our lives in a way that will effectively bring about happiness. His goal in the novel is to exemplify the importance and plausibility of happiness in every human being’s life. Dr. Howard Cutler interviews him in a respectful yet original manner, asking him questions that one would most likely stray from in an effort to find real ways for us to overcome feats like anxiety, anger, sadness and jealousy. We learn in this book that it is through life’s day-to-day obstacles and the way one approaches them that happiness will come. With topics ranging from family, work and health to love and relationships, any reader will find a personal connection to the Dalai Lama’s words of wisdom. The Dalai Lama is the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet and despite the undeniable hardships he has faced in his long life, he incessantly exudes a sense of calmness, kindness and patience. His composed, nonviolent approach to finding personal, national, and world peace can be likened to that of men like Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. His words in The Art of Happiness are based on the 2,500 years of Buddhist beliefs, findings and meditations but are applicable to those of any or no religious affiliation. Dr. Cutler’s interactions with His Holiness are interesting because he challenges the eastern way of life with a western and science-based perspective. Cutler did an extraordinary job taking the Dalai Lama’s words and teachings of Buddhist beliefs and applying them to our everyday lives in a way that was more understandable and practical-for-all.
The Dalai Lama assures us that every human has happiness in their nature, meaning we all have the capability of finding happiness and remaining happy. He states, though, that happiness requires study, practice, and effort. This novel, a collection of interviews between Dr. Cutler and His Holiness, serves as an inspiration to every human in a search for deep and genuine happiness. It relates to the theme Search for Self because it is ultimately a “how-to guide” on finding happiness in one’s life. One may read this when feeling lost in the world and personally depressed looking for answers, while others may read an excerpt from it on a single bad day. The Art of Happiness explores the hardships of life that so often keep us from being happy like pain, hatred and low self-confidence, and offers alter-modems to steer away from them. The book stresses the importance of a peaceful and compassionate outlook on life and offers an alternate focus during this overly-materialistic age.
While not the most exciting and page-turning novel, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the Dalai Lama’s words, advice and wisdom. Having heard him speak in person to an audience, he sincerely radiates a sense of serenity that is unexplainable. This serenity is present throughout the entire novel. His search for peace is through happiness and tranquility. The book truly has made me look at aspects of life in a different way. I have always been a firm believer of asking myself before getting angry or frustrated, “Will this matter in ten years? Is it actually worth the anger and stress?” This novel pushes us to go further and before everyday choices to ask ourselves, “Will this bring me happiness?” Oftentimes, the answer is no, and it is fascinating to come to that conclusion on your own.
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LibraryThing member silentq
The format of the book is that Cutler meets and talks with the Dalai Lama both in India and in Arizona, and distills Buddhist wisdom for a Western audience through his training as a psychiatrist. I have some quibbles about the tone of Cutler's sections, he seems very impressed with himself for talking to the Dalai Lama, and presents scientific justifications for the advice in a tone of "wow, this really is justified". That aside, this interpretation of Buddhism resonated with me, not so much the cited studies (er, well, if he'd actually cited them, no full references were given, just PI and institute), but the Dalai Lama's actual words in response to promptings to phrase concepts in a way that a non Tibetan monk could internalise and apply in their daily life. I'd love to quote long passages that resonated with me, but I'll just refer to it when I need to find mental calm and clarity. I'm unsure if I can attain a state of compassion when riding my bike in Boston, but I have found that I've been less frustrated since reading it. :)… (more)
LibraryThing member thebookmagpie
This was a pretty interesting read and a good, light introduction to the philosophy of the Dalai Lama that doesn't lean too heavily on the more religious or mystical elements of Buddhism. At times it felt like the interviewer got in the way a bit, and to be honest, his own examples didn't really add that much to my understanding of what I felt were concepts that were clearly explained in the Dalai Lama's own words. A lot of the philosophical ideas discussed were really interesting, and, moreover, practical too - I definitely found the chapters on anger and anxiety helpful in framing my attitude towards these emotions. Worth a look - and I'll be reading more in this area.… (more)
LibraryThing member isabelx
A Handbook for Living

This book came about as a result of a series of conversations about happiness between American psychiatrist Howard Cutler and the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama believes that happiness is due to your state of mind rather than the things that happen to you. So it is therefore within your power to train yourself to be happier, by cultivating compassion and changing your attitude to events and other people. Very interesting.… (more)
LibraryThing member Cherizar
Thoughtful discourse of life and being, from the Dalai Lama.
LibraryThing member Tullius22
And the Dalai Lama is alright too, or however I should say it.

Although I'm not sure that I'd spend this much of my time talking to him. *shrugs*

{I mean, it's kinda cool that 2,500 years of Buddhist teachings and two-and-a-half years, or, whatever, of talks between the pope of zen and mister occident-- I mean, it could certainly be worse, as far as all *that* is concerned-- could be re-arranged and re-formated into the whole~ Part 1, Chapter 1, Page 7, sort of thing that the non-fiction folk is so well-adapted to, if you know what I mean.... I don't know. There's nothing so awful or terrible about it. It's just that, you know, well, if they talked in Arizona and India, I'm just kinda curious as to whether or not the place out east was a small town in the north-western corner of India which exists under the near-constant cover of clouds, or not. Or something like that.

("Even the word "happy" is derived from the Icelandic word *happ*, meaning luck or chance." Those plebbish Vikings! What happiness could they have found, worshipping Wodan and Freya? If only they had spent a few years in a university or a monk's cell, *then* they would have found the way to happiness.^^ I mean, "luck" is just another way of saying "magic", so maybe those Icelanders might understand 'the magic of Macy's' better than these monks, no?)

{~ And do you know what other word comes to us from the Old Norse? *Cake*! Yes, as in nom-nom-nom, *cake*. Yes, indeed, my friends.]

'In the Kailasa Peninsula of northwest Uttar Pradesh, a small town named *coughforkscough* exists under the near-constant cover of clouds'.

*chuckles mightily*

(It's the same type-- different land. I'm not sure how else to explain it.)

I mean, they did a decent job at what they were trying to do; I guess that it just depends on what your opinion is of *that*. ;0

So that's my whole angle on it, basically.}

[And, to be honest, it's just that-- the whole thing is soaked in a sort of sartorial correctness, but really, it's always flirting with trite-o-crity.

(I mean, it gets to the point where, how do you take some of this stuff seriously? It's like a joke.

"Generally speaking, of course, we do not wish good things for our enemies."

*nods seriously* I've noticed that as well.)

[~ "If we must fight, then let it be with our enemies, rather than with our own children."]

It's the sort of thing to make an epicurean tea garden look like an orgy....

And Tony Tanner becomes an epicurean by comparison!

....Hell, *Epictetus* becomes an epicurean by comparison! "Remember that thou art an actor in a play, perhaps."]

[I mean, the real questions, questions like--

"Gone is the summer, what will keep us, warm in the winter?"

To which: "The human condition: lost in thought."

For you, Eckhart. For you.]

[And it is amazing to me, what *hickish little ditzes* these sartorial snobs can be sometimes! (Oh, Tony, you and I are WEWE-- worst enemies without end.... Just like George Wickham, and George Long!)

"Modern science" has proven that if you give someone something for free before asking them for money, then they're more likely to give you the money. (".... I had a ton of singles left over from my sister's birthday party....")

Well, then, but it's not free, is it? Ah, but such is this magic of Macy's....]

[~ Oh, and if my manner has been at all reprehensible, then I sincerely apologize, you guys.]

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LibraryThing member shulera1
Buddhism is a beautiful practice that I love learning about, despite not agreeing with all of its teachings. This book fits with that attitude because it focuses on aspects of Buddhism that anyone can adopt into their lives, regardless of their religion or beliefs.

It also juxtaposes Eastern and Western beliefs and mindsets in a way that is respectful to both through logical exploration and a desire to understand the fundamental characteristics of human nature and spirit.… (more)
LibraryThing member jphamilton
The Art of Happiness combines the calm words of the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet with the trained observations of an American psychiatrist. Howard Cutler relays conversations, stories, and meditations in such a way that he brings an understanding analysis of Tibetan Buddhism, and its leader, to the reader without clinically removing its peaceful soul.

The enduring image of the Dalai Lama is that of his beautiful smile. This Nobel Peace Prize winner's smile lights up his entire face—and it quickly spreads to the faces of those nearby. The book's subtitle, A Handbook for Living, is apt for a book that tells of the purpose of life--happiness. The Dalai Lama has the ability to connect easily with most everyone with whom he comes in contact. He focuses not on the differences that separate us, but to see what it is that we all share. One story that has stayed with me is one of a hotel maid who runs into the Dalai Lama on his way to an “important” meeting, but he stops and takes the time to speak to her. Each day that follows, as the spiritual leader is being lead to other meetings, the maid waits in the same location, and brings more and more of her fellow maids. And, each day, the Dalai Lama takes the time to bow and speak with each of the maids, including many who can' t speak the same language. He's made a spiritual connection with these people as important as any he will make that day. The Dali Lama's smile and laugh are the very definition of contagious.

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LibraryThing member Tuggle
The Art of Happiness provides the reader with eastern views of present day happiness in the presence of pain. This is a great read for most anyone, regardless of reglious preference.
LibraryThing member BrokenTune
DNF @ 15%

I mistakenly thought this was a book by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is listed as one of the authors - or the only authors in some book databases - but it is not. This book was written by Howard C. Cutler, a psychiatrist, who spent one week with the Dalai Lama, and then used his interviews with the Dalai Lama as a basis for this book.
Now, once I found out that I was mislead by the book, I still wanted to read on and see what the author had to say. Unfortunately, I was quickly put off by two - in my opinion major - logical flaws in the construction of the book's premise:

1. The author provides the following motivation behind writing the book:

"When I initially conceived of this book, I envisioned a conventional self-help format in which the Dalai Lama would present clear and simple solutions to all life’s problems. I felt that, using my background in psychiatry, I could codify his views in a set of easy instructions on how to conduct one’s daily life. By the end of our series of meetings I had given up on that idea. I found that his approach encompassed a much broader and more complex paradigm, incorporating all the nuance, richness, and complexity that life has to offer."

You see, my problem is that the Dalai Lama's books, speeches and other communications are pretty easy to understand. He has a particular skill to explain complex issues in simple terms, but then simplicity is one of the essential elements in his way of life.

The other issue I had with the author's statement is that I find the approach of trying to create a dogma from a Buddhist point of view a rather ridiculous idea. If there ever was a spritual teaching whose essence is that it is wholly un-dogmatic and un-codified, it would be Buddhism, but then maybe I am just getting the wrong end of the stick.

2. The author's approach in this book is to try and combine Western science with the Dalai Lama's interpretations/teachings. Again, this is a flawed approach when early on in the book, the author includes the following quotation:

"In trying to determine the source of one’s problems, it seems that the Western approach differs in some respects from the Buddhist approach. Underlying all Western modes of analysis is a very strong rationalistic tendency – an assumption that everything can be accounted for. And on top of that, there are constraints created by certain premises that are taken for granted."

Basically, the Dalai Lama tried to explain that a Western approach which is mostly based on science is restricted in its understanding of the human condition. So, why the author tries to combine, or back up, the topics discussed from a Buddhist perspective in this book with references to Western scientific research (for which he often does not cite sources!!!) is totally beyond me.

Can't recommend this at all.
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LibraryThing member justicefortibet
His Holiness again makes the things we worry about seem so very simple and clear.
LibraryThing member Arkrayder
One of the important things to realize about this book is that it is not written by the Dalai Lama himself, but by Dr. Howard C. Cutler, a professional psychologist, and is based on his numerous conversations with the Dalai Lama.

Dr. Cutler provides the "western", science-based perspective on the Buddhist monk's teachings. When the Dalai Lama is quoted in the book it makes for fascinating reading. His insights are full of common sense, good will, and practicality.

Dr. Cutler I feel is a good stand – in for western way of thinking, but I find his naiveté gets a little irritating after a while. Also his constant need to ask, what boil down to, very basic questions and incessantly repeating, “How would a non - Buddhist do this or that?” is often tedious. These are questions the average person might ask and while that is all well and good I feel it is the author's responsibility to dig deeper and ask the questions we as readers might not think of.

This is an interesting book and it would serve as an introduction to the teachings of the Dalai Lama.
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LibraryThing member Auntie-Nanuuq
Well here's the thing.....most of the book is written by Howard C. Cutler M.D., with quotes & excerpts of conversations with his wonderful Holiness Dalai Lama.

So then, Howard's conjectures on the human mind, consciousness & happiness are from a clinical point of view and the "heart" of the matter does not come through as much as other books from his Wonderful Holiness.… (more)


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