The Book of Joy
On my joy exploration journey, one of my favorite books has been The Book of Joy. It is a series of conversations between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, co-authored by Douglas Abrams.
Throughout the book, the reader is treated to the wisdom and warmth of the two renowned religious figures, as well as to the insights of Abrams and other researchers studying joy and happiness.
We can literally see the joy that each of the main characters feels about life and about each other in the myriad of photographs that accompany the text. Just looking at those photos can cause rampant smiling.
The book delves into the nature of joy, the obstacles to joy, and then devotes a chapter to each of the eight pillars of joy: perspective, humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity. It concludes with a section on “Joy Practices” to help readers on their own joy journeys.
The conversations focus on questions sent in by people from all over the world. As the co-author says, “It was fascinating that the most asked question was not about how we could discover our own joy but how we could possibly live with joy in a world filled with so much suffering.”
In answer to that question, the Archbishop says, “Start where you are, and realize that you are not meant on your own to resolve all of these massive problems. Do what you can…It helps no one if you sacrifice your joy because others are suffering…Give the world your love, your service, your healing, but you can also give it your joy. This, too, is a great gift.”
The Dalai Lama, framing it in a slightly different way, says, “In fact, taking care of others, helping others, ultimately is the way to discover your own joy and to have a happy life.”
According to the Dalai Lama, there are two kinds of happiness. “The first is the enjoyment of pleasure through our senses…But we can also experience happiness at the deeper level through… love, compassion, and generosity…While the joy of the senses is brief, the joy at this deeper level is much longer lasting. It is true joy.”
Similarly, the Archbishop feels that “we flourish in community.” He says “…ultimately our greatest joy is when we seek to do good for others.” The goal is not just to create joy for ourselves but “to be a reservoir of joy, an oasis of peace, a pool of serenity that can ripple out to all those around you.”
In all, it seems that joy is one big circular energy –feeling it and bringing it to others brings joy back to us. And on it goes, circling out and in, joy begetting joy, or so is the hope.