Thursday, April 8, 2010

A review of "The Art of Happiness"

I'm half through the Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama & Howard C. Cutler and I have a few opinions to express already.

These opinions have to be put in the context of my own lack of culture. That is the first time I'm reading anything from the Dalai Lama. I have no background regarding Buddhism whatsoever. I am a convinced atheist and a fierce religion opponent. Beside, this book includes only excerpts of the conversations between the Dalai Lama and H. C. Cutler, selected by and liven up with the latter's own interpretations, which probably helped a lot to screw the original Dalai Lama's message.

H.C. Cutler is just the perfect cliché of the western guy to whom the true meaning of life has been revealed. This is sometimes pathetic, like when he rambles about the making of his cotton shirt and how discovering that everybody is interlinked in a network of dependence make him want to cry. Yes, that's the complexity of the modern ways of production and commerce. That has nothing to do with intimacy or even self-reliance like he claims.

I understand this philosophy of reaching happiness by living a simple life filled with spirituality, so much in opposition to the current western culture that mixes pleasure and materialism with happiness. But sometimes the views of the Dalai Lama appear to me as simplistic at best, naive at worst.
I'm particularly entertained by reading about monk giving his opinions on love and passion. I don't think that a lifetime of watching and reflection can replace true-life experience. This is enough to read him say that an intimate and passionate love relationship 'can be seen as something positive'. The guy obviously never experienced it. This might be only a moment of bliss that leads later to suffering but who would let it pass by ? Anyway, the guy won't reproduce himself. He will reincarnate. That removes this hell of a problem of finding a mate.

This culture of taming emotions doesn't inspire me much. I think the mental states it leads to shouldn't be called happiness but rather blankness.

1 comment:

  1. Then again, we may have not experienced the blessings their way of life gives - we just don't know, we're not there(I presume). I remember that buddhist famous because of have been catalogued as the happiest man alive (measured in body constants and the like).

    I like your opinions apart from that.

    BTW, I just knew about your blog today!