“The Art of Happiness” (Dalai Lama)

Besides music, my MP3 player also contains a number of audio books. The friend who put all that stuff onto the player probably knew very well that I’ve never cared about the more spiritual writings of Tibet’s supreme monk – I was only interested in his role as Tibet’s spiritual leader, and the cultural vacuum which he unavoidably seems to fill.

I’ve listened to this audio book – probably The Art of Happiness – on my way to and from work recently. I have no plans to do the meditation exercises – I think I’m quite a happy man anyway -, but it is interesting to hear what the Dalai Lama himself says about Buddhism and about his own role in life as he sees it.

In a way, he states a lot of things most people I know would agree with. The only thing that looks strange to me so far is his idea that anger would be meaningless or fruitless. Personally, I think that anger can be very useful for self-motivation, and besides, anger seems to be simply natural in certain situations. What would life be without anger?

That said, I also feel that anger shouldn’t always be expressed, and not all kinds of personal anger should turn on people (neither on myself nor on others). But a life without anger would look sort of poor to me, just as a life full of unsatiable desires would probably feel very poor.

What the Dalai Lama wrote sounds simple. While the words themselves are simple, I imagine that the exercises he describes would take a lot of systematic effort. Some of them, those about thought, sound familiar to me. I’m used to being focused – on myself, on others, on topics. On feelings, too.

I don’t know if those among Chinese people who consider the Dalai Lama a dangerous or malicious man would take a different view if they could listen to him, and if they could do so without too much habitual anger. But I guess that listening would actually make a difference. The patterns of the Dalai Lama talks look similar to Chinese ways of talk. The main difference between his thoughts and the thoughts of most Chinese people I know is that the Dalai Lama takes so much interest in previous and future lives – reincarnation and all that – and that he not only feels about things, but talks about feelings. A majority of Chinese would arguably not rule out reincarnation – but you don’t hear much talk about such matters among Chinese people, not even during moments where no topic seems to be off-limit.

But it slowly seems to dawn on me why the Chinese authorities try to paint a dehumanizing picture of the Dalai Lama. Tibet may be at the center of their concerns, but beyond that, the Dalai Lama may have too much to say – on matters that concern China itself, too.

20 Responses to ““The Art of Happiness” (Dalai Lama)”

  1. Intriguing thoughts. I think maybe the issue of anger’s usefulness lies in what we mean by anger. If we mean the emotion that can overtake us and cause us to act without thinking and can paralyze effective communication then life without it would certainly be better. If we mean the discomfort and motivational emotion that accompanies witnessing injustice and wanting to fight/struggle to overcome it that is a whole other matter. I do think though that anger more generally does both point out divisiveness as well as increase a me vs. whoever made me angry attitude rather than foster conflict resolution and problem solving. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Hi World Citizen,
    and thanks for sharing your thoughts! I’m still thinking about the things I’m listening to currently. So far, I’d say that there is anger that comes at a price and is good for nothing, and still feels “worth it”. Could be a bit like smoking. It’s good for nothing, may be dangerous, but I’m still a smoker.
    That said, I’m almost sure that there is a constructive kind of anger, too.

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  3. This is a very interesting discussion. As someone with a quick temper, I tend to look at anger as a positive emotion. It’s my spontaneous response to something that I perceive as wrong, unjust and irritating. It helps keep me sane and keep me emotionally balanced. Having said that, I got to admit that my spontaneous expression of anger may sometimes upset other people around me. So I would sometimes try my best to restrain myself, particularly when I’m dealing with people who don’t know me too well. One thing though, I don’t usually stay angry for too long. And I almost never hold grudges against anybody.

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  4. Maybe anger driven by hate is the real problem. Grudges too, maybe – wouldn’t grudges be mortifications people can’t get over? Do you see a difference between grudges and hate?

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  5. Now, that’s spot on. Anger, when used properly and/or in moderation, can be benefitial. Hatred, however, is fundamentally destructive. So, yes, anger becomes a problem if it is driven by hatred.

    There is definitely a difference between grudges and hatred. Those who are holding grudges are aware that it is not good to hold such thought against other people. But they just can’t help it. Grudges turn into hatred when the offender attempts to find excuses to justify his emotion.

    It is probably on that basis why the Dalai Lama is warning people against anger.

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  6. Justrecently:
    I can make up more and even better preaching than what DL said in all his book. All one has to do is to close your eye and image that you are not a physical being anymore. A little bit of ecstasy also helps. Go back 30 years, what have been said and practiced in the yippie culture, is being repeated here. Said what you want about DL. He is still a liar and does not practice what he preaches. He reminds me of James Baker of the US.
    He is a very dangerous person.

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  7. Emotion is part of our physical being. Without emotion, the world is a dead zone. Control your emotion and set a boundary for yourself are individual choice essential to real freedom, spiritually and physically.
    Don’t let anybody lead you by your nose.
    DL is a spiritual dictator. Don’t let him fool you. Think for yourself.

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  8. sing666:
    Thanks for writing. I’m not sure that I can make up better preaching myself than what the Dalai Lama does. I’d only think I could make up something more amusing – but it would be less systematic than thoughts and practices that have been developed over centuries.
    I think that every religion and many philosophies contain dictatorial or totalitarian factors. I’m not trying to judge how far that was true for traditional Tibetan Buddhism (even if the Dalai Lama returned and ruled again, it wouldn’t be the same thing as it was before 1950), and it is certainly true for traditional Christian religion. But the Dalai Lama doesn’t rule Tibet any more, and the Vatican has no big say in European politics any more. I’m practicing no religion myself.
    But as someone who is under neither the Pope’s nor the Dalai Lama’s jurisdiction, I can look at what they say or write, knowing that they keep shaping the views of many contemporaries, and the world we are living in. It’s also because I’m not under the CCP’s jurisdiction that I can look at it, think about it, and comment about it on this blog.

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  9. justrecently :
    If you have any doubt about how DL will treat his people after he returns.
    Watch the following youtube video. I am sure you have seen it many times. Dictatorial spiritual practice is one thing. Encouraging physical violence towards the people who does not agree with you, is criminal. DL always claims that Tibetans are incable of violence. What a joke. DL talks the talk while he does not walk the walk. That is why he is more dangerous than the dictorial CCP.

    hthttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1dILwsmwCQ&feature=relatedtp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aboblx-0zAs&feature=related


    Think forwards X yrs from now. China disintegrates.
    DL returns to Tibet as Political and spiritual leader. In order to consolidate his power over other religious sect and the entire Greater Tibetan region that he had never had control before, the chance of him encouraging physical violence towards Tibetans and non-Tibetans are very real. Think about 2 millions dead, ethic cleansing and genocide.

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  10. It’s nice to see JR’s blog frequented by a commenter who has openly aspired to be a member of the Fifty-cent Party. JR must have done something right.

    According to an old BBC report, Xinhua made a big issue in Marc 2006 of Tibetans destroying a pair of Dorje Shugden in Lhasa. So according to our friend sing666’s logic, the Chinese government would have done so in defiance of dictatorial spiritual practice propagated by the Dalai clique. Those so-called Tibet analysts must be lying when they say China has encouraged division among the Tibetans by promoting followers of the Dorje Shugden sect to key positions of authority.

    If you agree with sing666’s logic, then the only conclusion that could be reached is: 1. China must not disintegrate; 2. DL must not be allowed to return to Tibet; 3. The CCP, with its firm grip on voices of dissent, is the world’s only hope of avoiding a major genocide.

    Nice try, You idiot.

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  11. sing666:
    I was aware that the Dalai Lama was in conflict with his peoples’ constitution, but not of the alleged thuggery or the Swiss documentary, so thanks for filling this gap. However, the question about if the Dalai Lama implicitly or explicitly orders violence remains open for me. Just as I wouldn’t expect the Palestinian authority to maintain perfect control over their cities and refugee camps, I wouldn’t expect the Tibetan government-in-exile to manage that either. If things should really explode, the Indian authorities would have to manage.

    I think my answer to your latest comments should be twofold.

    1) If you are concerned that I might take the Dalai Lama’s ways of meditation, I thank you for your concern (no irony meant), but I have no plans to do that. I don’t have too many soft spots for religious practice.

    2) I think we had some discussions on the Time Blog commenter thread before, is that right? Over there, you said that you wondered “how 250K of overseas Tibetans could take away 25% of landmass from China with a population of 1.3 billion people”. I’m wondering too, but I see no obligation for the weaker side (in or outside Tibet) to give in to whatever degree the stronger may demand. I see no obligation for the worshippers of Dorje Shugden to abandon their deity either.

    But even if an independent Tibet was more likely, I think the implications you derive from the documentary and the statements from Dorje Shugden are far-fetched. Should I base a theory of “two million dead, ethnic cleansing and genocide” on the footage you linked to?

    To be frank, your theory reminds me of how the neocons liked to inflate Saddam Hussein (a large-scale killer, btw) to a “Hitler in our times”. If I’d take the footage from your links for evidence, I could have bought Colin Powell’s “evidence” for weapons of mass destruction at Saddam’s fingertips for a reason to invade Iraq, just as well.

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  12. I think our comments crossed, C.A. Two requests though.
    To C.A.: please don’t call sing666 an idiot.
    To sing666: please don’t reciprocate with similar compliments.
    The permanent title of this stuff here was, is and will be “justrecently’s beautiful blog”, so even if the events we discuss ain’t beautiful, let’s use beautiful handwritings.

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  13. JR,

    I apologise for calling sing666 an idiot at your blog. But I do not apologise for my quick temper. I am what I am.

    More information about China’s role in manipulating the Dorje Shugden incident and its dire consequences. According to a 2007 Timesonline report, Interpol has issued wanted notices in June 2007 for two followers of a Tibetan sect accused of the ritualistic killing a decade ago of one of the Dalai Lama’s closest associates. The two suspects are Chinese citizens of Tibetan origin.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article1968987.ece

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  14. I appreciate your quick temper, C.A. Diversity is beautiful, and I like quick tempers just the more because my own temper is so slow. 😉

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  15. JC,

    I like your stand of not censoring comments. It is in line with the spirit of free speech. Let the comment described itself about the person that posted the entry.

    That will be the enlightening part of freedom of speech and expression. Happiness do come, when we are able to appreciate things both good and bad. When we have it good , we learn to appreciate it, when we have it bad, we can always think of, how to make it better ? Right ?

    In between, just moderate them.

    Have a nice day,

    -woody

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  16. Woody,
    thanks for commenting. It’s not that I don’t like ranting myself once in a while, but yes, I think it’s my task to moderate comment threads on my blog. It’s also very useful to have moderate discussions, because (in cases where I’m lucky) it helps to get more information on a topic. They say that there is a quote used in many newsrooms: “Nothing is as good or bad as first reported.” Author unknown, I guess, but a reminder not to get too excited.

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