Most of us might see being happy as a matter of luck, chance, or situation, perhaps something that can be “found”. Happiness is often confused with pleasure, joy or being in love. The English language is so full of subtleties, there is a particular word for every nuance of any emotion. The unusual aspect of this book is that it advocates that happiness is something that everyone could learn to feel all the time. It provides the ways of attaining this elusive state.
The author believes that Happiness is an art for which the mind can be trained to feel and, more importantly, to accept. He explains that, like any other discipline, working at mastering this “Art of Happiness” increases one’s chances of success. Like playing a musical instrument or learning a skill such as painting or driving a car, there will be a progression along the different stages of competence until a degree of proficiency is achieved.
Matthieu Ricard informs his readers that “happiness is to be found in controlling the mind, not circumstances”. Basically, we cannot necessarily help what happens to us, but we can control our reactions, our attitudes, to those events, those people, that upset us. He teaches that his brand of happiness is the real thing, a product of the capability of our own minds, not dependent on any external things or people, a permanent accompaniment to life when properly learnt and mastered.
Matthieu Ricard was a successful scientist specialising in cellular genetics before he became a Buddhist monk and studied Buddhism to attain a higher state of awareness of his soul. A firm believer that without inner peace and wisdom, people will not have what they need to be happy. According to him, this state of inner fulfillment is an essential human requirement for happiness, not the “gratification of the inexhaustible desires for outward things.”
The author’s guide to “developing Life’s most important skill” places the gift of happiness within the reach of all, even the “wounded beings”, and identifies the obstacles to gaining it. It helps to distinguish between true happiness and the imposters.
There are exercises to help the reader throughout, it is a like a work-out manual for the mind, with observations, scientific facts and spiritual encouragements. There is an exercise that enables the reader to distinguish between pleasure and happiness. There are exercises to help search for the “lost self” in order to be selfless, essential to happiness. There are exercises to banish hatred and to learn to feel love and compassion.
It is a good guide for those who wish to live life in a spiritual and healing way.