The Art of Happiness, a book written by Howard Cutler, M.D. in collaboration with the Dalai Lama, illustrates non-religiously how one can lead a happier and more spiritual life.
His premise is simple: our purpose in life is to seek happiness. He then proceeds to concisely and clearly illustrate how to capture this sometimes elusive feeling.
He emphasizes that even though you might have experienced great tragedy and suffering, it is also important to remember how this tragedy can foster incredible personal growth and even allow you to find greater, however different, happiness.
Dr. Cutler retells the following story about facing suffering.
In the time of the Buddha, a woman named Kisagotami suffered the death of her only child. Unable to accept it, she ran from person to person, seeking a medicine to restore her child to life. The Buddha was said to have such a medicine. Kisagotami went to the Buddha, paid homage, and asked, “Can you make a medicine that will restore my child?”
“I know of such a medicine,” the Buddha replied. “But in order to make it, I must have certain ingredients.”
Relieved, the woman asked, “What ingredients do you require?”
“Bring me a handful of mustard seed,” said the Buddha.
The woman promised to procure it for him, but as she was leaving, he added, “I require the mustard seed be taken from a household where no child, spouse, parent, or servant has died.”
The woman agreed and began going from house to house in search of the mustard seed, but when she asked them if anyone had died in that household, she could find no home where death had not visited; in one house a daughter, in another a servant, and in others a husband or parent had died. Kisagotami was not able to find a home free from the suffering of death. Seeing she was not alone in her grief, the mother let go of her child’s lifeless body and returned to the Buddha, who said with great compassion, “You thought that you alone had lost a son; the law of death is that among all living creatures there is no permanence.”
The Dalai Lama states that in order to relieve suffering, you must first accept suffering as a natural part of life. You must learn to confront your problems and courageously deal with them. Just as if you were in a war – know thine enemies. If you examine them and know their depth and nature, you can fight them more accurately. You can also think about the different types of suffering you might encounter and then plan some strategies to deal with them. When the time comes you are more mentally prepared to handle the situation.
Next up ... a few highlights from The Art of Happiness