Happiness: A guide to developing life’s most important skill [Book review]

image Matthieu Ricard’s subtitle reveals his premise – that ‘achieving durable happiness as a way of being is a skill’ (page 7). Although some people are happier than others, he notes, such happiness is not durable and complete.

How then is the skill of durable happiness achieved? Ricard – a Buddhist monk and both monk and son in the popular book The Monk and the Philosopher: A Father and Son Discuss the Meaning of Life – advocates ongoing mind training and the development of qualities including inner peace, altruistic love and mindfulness.

But this is not a Buddhist book so much as ‘Buddhist in spirit’ (page 14). It’s written for ‘anyone who aspires to a little more joie de vivre and to let wisdom and compassion reign in his or her life’ (page 15).

As such, the book synthesizes ancient Buddhist wisdom with current research findings to offer a happiness program built on spiritual awareness, scientific knowledge and simple exercises. It explores conditions that support happiness – like a deep sense of wellbeing, wisdom, and love for fellow beings – and those that undermine it – including ignorance, mental toxins and disturbing emotions like desire, hatred and envy. In this way, it leads readers away from a life built on grasping for pleasure and self-absorption toward one of contentment and altruism.

In short:
Ricard’s approach to cultivating happiness is deep but wonderfully wide-ranging. It takes findings from neuroscience, psychology, positive psychology, sociology and economics and ideas from philosophy and ethics, and presents them through a prism of ancient Buddhist wisdom. The result is a gentle, wise and motivating guide to happiness that spans suffering, death, emotions, time and ego.

Please note that all of Ricard’s share in the book’s proceeds go to humanitarian and educational projects in Tibet, Nepal, India and Bhutan.

Title: Happiness: A guide to developing life’s most important skill
Author: Matthieu Ricard
Publisher information: Atlantic Books, London, 2007

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One Response

  1. Timothy November 20, 2007

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