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Tutu & the Dalai Lama on Finding Joy

The Book of Joy on my desk, in front of Saraswati, Hindu goddess of creativity.


I had planned this as my next post, but it's even more appropriate after the recent passing of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a man who was a great gift to humankind, with so much wisdom to impart, in this case in collaboration with the HH the Dalai Lama in The Book of Joy, with Douglas Abrams, (Avery/Penguin 2016)


And because of my own personal quest to maintain happiness (and defend it as appropriate) in the midst of the current world, this 'book report-style' post is enormous.


Here are the top six quotes that moved me – and the rest are in ten pages (wow!) sorted by topic by me*...

  • "The three factors that seem to have the greatest influence on increasing our happiness are our ability to reframe our situation more positively, our ability to experience gratitude, and our choice to be kind and generous." Page 49
  • "Grateful people do not seem to ignore or deny the negative aspects of life; they simply choose to appreciate what is positive as well. Page 247 "Gratitude moves us away from the narrow-minded focus on fault and lack into the wider perspective of benefit and abundance. Page 242
  • "It is that ability to see wonder, surprise, possibility in each experience and each encounter that is a core aspect of joy. Page 241
  • "Schadenfreude is an outgrowth of envy. Mudita [being heartened by other's joy] is a natural outgrowth of compassion." Page 141
  • "Unforgiveness seems to compromise the immune system ... disrupting the production of important hormones and the way that our cells fight off infections. Page 237
  • Resignation and cynicism are easier, more self-soothing postures that do not require the raw vulnerability and tragic risk of hope." Page 122


What is Joy?

"There is a Buddhist teaching that says what causes suffering in life is a general pattern of how we relate to others: "envy toward the above, competitiveness toward the equal, and contempt toward the lower." Page 135

The eight pillars of joy: "Four qualities of the mind: perspective, humility, humor, and acceptance. Four qualities of the heart: forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity. page 193

"Joy is the happiness that does not depend on what happens. It is the grateful response to the opportunity that life offers you at this moment," said Brother Steindl-Rast. Page 245

"The three factors that seem to have the greatest influence on increasing our happiness are our ability to reframe our situation more positively, our ability to experience gratitude, and our choice to be kind and generous." Page 49

"Compassion and generosity… Both men will insist that these two qualities were perhaps most pivotal to any lasting happiness. Page 194

What Good Does Joy Do Me? Or The Science of It

Stress and Unhappiness are Physically Damaging: Psychologist Elissa Epel…and her colleague, Nobel prize-winning molecular biologist Elizabeth Blackburn, have found that constant stress actually wears down our telomeres, the caps on our DNA that protect ourselves from illness and aging. ...The problem – or perhaps the opportunity – is how we respond to the stress. Epel and Blackburn explained that it is not the stress alone that damages our telomeres it is our response to the stress that is most important. They encourage us to develop stress resilience. Page 98

"Unforgiveness seems to compromise the immune system in a number of ways, including disrupting the production of important hormones and the way that our cells fight off infections. Page 237

"So many of the causes of suffering come from our reacting to the people, places, things, and circumstances in our lives, rather than accepting them. When we react, we stay locked in judgment and criticism, anxiety and despair, even denial and addiction. It is impossible to experience joy when we are stuck this way. Page 225

"Now medical scientists say," the Dalai Lama continued, "the constant fear, constant anger, constant hatred harms our immune system… A healthy mind is a calm mind." Page 106

During joy practices "we are literally using our attention and awareness to establish neural firing patterns that help the brain avoid the destructive reactivity that the Dalai Lama said was so toxic to our mental and physical health." Page 310... "The integrative fibers of the discerning middle prefrontal cortex seem to reach out and soothe the more reactive emotional structures of the brain. Page 179

Gratitude may stimulate the hypothalamus, which is involved in regulating stress in the brain, as well as the ventral tegmental region, which is part of the reward circuits that produce pleasure in the brain. Research has shown that the simple act of smiling for as little as 20 seconds can trigger positive emotions, jumpstarting joy and happiness. Smiling stimulates the release of neuropeptides that work toward fighting off stress and unleashes a feel-good cocktail of the neurotransmitter serotonin, dopamine and endorphins. Serotonin acts as a natural antidepressant, dopamine stimulates the reward centers of the brain, and endorphins are natural painkillers. Smiling also seems to reward the brains of those who see us smiling, making them feel better too. Smiling is contagious, stimulating unconscious smiling in others, which in turn spreads the positive effects. Page 248

Compassion and generosity: "When we help others, we often experience what it's been called the helpers' high, as endorphins are released in our brain, leading to a euphoric state. The same reward centers of the brain seem to light up when we are doing something compassionate as when we think of chocolate. The warm feeling we get from helping others comes from the release of oxytocin, the same hormone that is released by lactating mothers. This hormone seems to have health benefits, including the reduction of inflammation in the cardiovascular system. Compassion literally makes our heart healthy and happy. Page 258

Richard Davidson, the neuroscientist [says] there are four independent brain circuits that influence our lasting well-being. The First is our ability to maintain positive states… The Second Circuit is responsible for our ability to recover from negative states… The Third Circuit, also independent but essential to the others, is our ability to focus and avoid mind wandering… The fourth and final circuit is our ability to be generous. That was amazing to me: that we had an entire brain circuit, one of four, devoted to generosity. Page 56

How Does Gratitude Play into This?

"When you are grateful, you act out of a sense of enough and not out of a sense of scarcity. Page 246

"Gratitude allows us to see what is good and right and not just what is bad and wrong… Grateful people do not seem to ignore or deny the negative aspects of life; they simply choose to appreciate what is positive as well. Page 247

"Gratitude is the elevation of enjoyment, the ennobling of enjoyment… Gratitude is the recognition of all that holds us in the web of life and all that has made it possible to have the life that we have and the moment that we are experiencing… It moves us away from the narrow-minded focus on fault and lack into the wider perspective of benefit and abundance. Page 242

"It is indeed that ability to see wonder, surprise, possibility in each experience and each encounter that is a core aspect of joy. Page 241

What Good Is Hope?

"Hope," the bishop said, "is quite different from optimism, which is more superficial and liable to become pessimism when the circumstances change. Hope is something much deeper.… Hope is different in that it is based not only on ephemerality of feelings but on the firm grounds of conviction.… Despair can come from deep grief, but it can also be a defense against the risks of bitter disappointment and shattering heartbreak. Resignation and cynicism are easier, more self-soothing postures that do not require the raw vulnerability and tragic risk of hope. To choose hope is to step firmly forward into the howling wind, bearing one's chest to the elements, knowing that, in time, the storm will pass." Page 122

How Do I Get There?

"Once a person develops a strong negative emotion, like anger or jealousy, it is very difficult to counter it at the moment. So, the best thing is to cultivate your mind through practice so that you can learn to prevent it from arising in the first place. Page 143

"While changing our emotions is quite hard, changing our perspective is actually relatively easy. It is a part of our mind over which we have influence. Page 196

"We create most of our suffering, so we should be able to create more joy.… Our perspective toward life, our ability to reframe our situation more positively. Our capacity to experience gratitude and our choice to be kind and generous with the others.… Changing the way we see the world in turn changes the way we feel and the way we act, which changes the world itself. Or as the Buddha says in the DHAMMAPADA, "with our mind we create our own world." Page 194

"As the Dalai Lama has said, even 10 minutes of meditation on the well-being of others can help you and to feel joyful for the whole day – even before coffee. When you close your heart, you cannot be joyful. When we have the courage to live with an open heart, we are able to feel our pain and the pain of others, but we are also able to experience more joy. The bigger and warmer our heart, the stronger our sense of aliveness and resilience. Page 261

"Our perspective toward life is our final and ultimate freedom. Page 195 [quoting Viktor Frankl]

A gratitude practice is to say, "may my suffering spare others from a similar suffering." Page 324

"Walking, hiking, running, or any other exercise can be made into a meditative experience. The key is to avoid all external distractions like talking, music, or television. The goal is simply to listen to the wisdom of the spirit that often comes through the wisdom of the body. Page 314

"We then come to the fourth and final quality of mind, which is the ability to accept our life in all its pain, imperfection, and beauty. Acceptance, it must be pointed out, is the opposite of resignation and defeat. Page 223

"The Dalai Lama was describing the Buddhist concept of MUDITA, which is often translated as sympathetic joy and described as the antidote to envy. Mudita is so important in Buddhism that it is considered one of the Four Immeasurables, qualities we can cultivate infinitely. The three others are loving kindness, compassion, and equanimity. [Taking joy from other's happiness and good fortune. Being heartened by someone else's joy.]

"Schadenfreude is an outgrowth of envy. Mudita is a natural outgrowth of compassion. Page 141

Many people think that meditation simply means sitting and closing your eyes," the Dalai Lama continued. "That kind of meditation even my cat can do.… We Tibetans often recite mantras so much that we forget to really investigate the root causes of our suffering." Page 316

The Dalai Lama said "some forms of meditation are just trying to create a state of thoughtlessness. This works like a painkiller, where fear and anger go away for a short moment but then come back when the meditation ends. With analytical meditation, we can get to the root cause of the fear or the anger.…Page 316

Religion is Not Sufficient

"Religion is not sufficient," said the Dalai Lama. "Religion has been very important in human history, and perhaps for another thousand years it will continue to bring benefit to humanity." The Dalai Lama knew he was being controversial calling the long-term value a religion into question… "Just to pray or rely on religious faith is not sufficient. It will remain a source of inspiration, but in terms of 7 billion human beings, it's not sufficient. No matter how excellent, no religion can be universal. So we have to find another way to promote these values. I think the only way really is, as we have said, through education. Education is universal. We must teach people, especially our youth, the source of happiness and satisfaction. We must teach them that the ultimate source of happiness is within themselves. Not machine. Not technology, not money. Not power." Page 297

"We must include in formal education of our youth some teaching of compassion and basic ethics, not on the basis of religious belief but on the basis of scientific findings and our common sense and our universal experience," said the Dalai Lama. Page 272

Fun Facts:

"The astronomer royal of the United Kingdom, Sir Martin Rees, explain to me that our earth will exist for an equivalent amount of time as it has taken us to go from one-celled organisms to human beings – in other words, we are only halfway through our evolution on this planet." Page 198

"Primatologist friends do all believe that peacemaking activities are extremely common in the animal kingdom. Chimps kiss and make up, and it seems that many other species do as well. Not only apes like us but also sheep, goats, hyenas, and dolphins. Of the species that have been studied, only domestic cats have failed to show behavior that reconciles relationships after conflict (this finding will not surprise anyone who has cats.) Page 236

"Arrogance is the confusion between our temporary roles and our fundamental identity. Page 209


"In his book on happiness, Buddhist scholar and former scientist Matthieu Ricard has added three more exalted states of joy: rejoicing (in someone else's happiness, what Buddhists calls Mudita and spiritual radiance (a serene joy born from deep well-being and benevolence)" page 34

"Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional." And adage that is quoted on page 37

"There's a Tibetan saying: wherever you have friends that's your country, and wherever you receive love, that's your home. Page 38 "also," the Dalai Lama continued, "whoever gives you love, that's your parent." Page 39

"There is a Buddhist saying that trying to seek happiness through sensory gratification is like trying to quench your thirst by drinking saltwater." Page 51

"Science has a term for the unsatisfactory nature of pursuing pleasure alone: the hedonic treadmill." Page 55

The concept of Ubuntu says a person is a person through other persons. Page 60

"It is very simple," the Dalai Lama began. "Everyone knows that physical pain is bad and tries to avoid it. We do this not only by curing diseases, but also by trying to prevent them and by trying to keep our physical immunity strong. Mental pain is equally bad, so we should try to alleviate it as well. The way to do this is to developmental immunity." Page 84

"Just as a healthy immune system helps the constitution and protects your body against potentially hazardous viruses and bacteria, mental immunity creates a healthy disposition of the mind so that it will be less susceptible to negative thoughts and feelings. Page 84

"We can use our tears, our stress and frustration, as a well from which we can draw the life-giving waters of our emotional and spiritual growth." Page 92

"Even if leadership requires a show of strength during moments of crisis, our humanity is defined equally, or perhaps even more, by our weakness and vulnerability, a fact that the Archbishop often says reminds us of our need for one another. Page 94

"Stress and anxiety often come from too much expectation and too much ambition," the Dalai Lama said. "Then when we don't fulfill that expectation or achieve that ambition, we experience frustration. Right from the beginning, it is a self-centered attitude. I want this. I want that.… We must try to be conscious about how we live and not get swept away by the modern trance, the relentless march, the anxious accelerator." Page 96, 97

"So much of our stress is dependent on seeing ourselves as separate from others, which perhaps returns to the loss of our sense of communal connection, of Ubuntu. Page 99

"If I see myself primarily in terms of myself as a fellow human, I will then have more than 7 billion people who I can feel deep connection with. This is wonderful isn't it? What do you need to fear or worry about when you have 7 billion other people who are with you?" said the Dalai Lama. Page 100

The Archbishop said "righteous anger is usually not about one's self. It is about those whom one sees being harmed and whom one wants to help." In short, righteous anger is a tool of justice, a scythe of compassion, more than a negative emotion… And it is not about one's own besieged self image, or one's feelings of separation, but of one's collective responsibility, and once feeling of deep, empowering connection." Page 106

"Sadness is a very powerful and enduring emotion. In one study it was found sadness lasted many times longer than more fleeting emotions like fear and anger: while fear lasted on average 30 minutes, sadness often lasted up to 120 hours, or almost 5 days. On the evolutionary value of our fight (anger) and flight (fear) responses are clear, the value of sadness seems harder to understand.… Mild sadness can actually have a number of benefits that could reflect its value… People who were in a sad mood had better judgment and memory and were more motivated, more sensitive to social norms, and more generous than a happier control group.… The sad participants gave significantly more to the other participants. Page 110

The kind of happiness described by [the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop] is often called eudemonic happiness and is characterized by self understanding, meaning, growth, and acceptance, including life's inevitable suffering, sadness, and grief. Page 111

The Dalai Lama said, "the way through the sadness and grief that comes from great loss is to use it as motivation and to generate a deeper sense of purpose… Grief is the reminder of the depth of our love." Page 112 – 113

The Archbishop said "you must keep everything in perspective. The world is getting better. Think about the rights of women or how slavery was considered morally justified a few hundred years ago. It takes time. We were growing and learning how to be compassionate, how to be caring, how to be human." Page 117

"10th of March is celebrated by the Tibetan exile community as Tibetan Uprising Day, remembering the 1959 protest against Chinese occupation that ultimately led to the crackdown against the Tibetan freedom movement and the Dalai Lama's flight into exile. In 2008, leading up to the Beijing Olympics, they had turned violent, starting in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa and then spreading throughout Tibet and cities around the world." Page 118

In the chapter on loneliness: a study by sociologist Lynn Smith-Lovin had found that the number of close friends people report having has reduced from 3 to 2. Page 126

The Dalai Lama had explained that in Buddhism there is the recognition of our interdependence on every level -- socially, personally, sub-atomically. The Dalai Lama had often emphasized that we are born and die totally dependent on others, and that the independence we think we experience in between is a myth." Page 127

"There are at least 7 billion people in the number of sentient beings is limitless," the Dalai Lama said. "If you are always thinking about the 7 billion human beings, you will never experience loneliness." Page 129

"The paradox is that although the drive behind excessive self-focus is to seek greater happiness for yourself, it ends up doing exactly the opposite." Page 130 "With too much self-focus your vision becomes narrow, and with this even a small problem appears out of proportion and unbearable." Page 131 quoting the Dalai Lama

"We did not have to wait for others to open their hearts to us. By opening our heart to them, we could feel connected to them, whether on a mountain top or in the middle of Manhattan. Page 133

"According to happiness research "upward comparisons" are particularly corrosive to our well-being. Envy doesn't leave room for joy. Page 137

The Archbishop then went on to offer a powerful remedy for envy: gratitude… And then the Archbishop offered his final and most effective remedy: reframing. Page 138

"The Tibetan civilization has existed for 10,000 years, and in some areas of the Tibetan plateau, human habitation existed for as many as 30,000 years.… During the cultural revolution, some Chinese officials a pledge that within 15 years the Tibetan language must be eliminated. So they burned books, such as the 300-volume Tibetan canon of scriptures translated from India, as well as several thousand volumes written by Tibetans themselves. Page 149

The real secret of freedom may simply be extending this brief space between stimulus and response. Page 179

The latest brain scan research suggests that we have a rather binary understanding of self and other and that her empathy circuits do not activate unless we see the other person as part of our own group. Page 183

"The very fact of not thinking about your own frustration and pain does something. I don't know why. But it will make you feel much better. And I think it has therapeutic consequences for your own health, physical and spiritual. But what does frustration help? I mean, you feel it in the pit of your tummy, the anger. I mean, you just get more angry and after a while you're going to develop ulcers in the stomach from the fact that you got annoyed sitting in a traffic jam," said the Archbishop page 199
Larry SCHERWITZ found the people who more frequently said I, me, or mine had a higher risk of having a heart attack and had a higher risk of their heart attack being fatal. Scherwitz found at this so-called self involvement was a better predictor of death than smoking, high cholesterol levels, or high blood pressure.… This was interesting evidence that being too self-regarding really does make us unhappy. page 199 – 200

"We are meant to live in joy," the Archbishop explained. "This does not mean that life will be easy or painless. It means we can turn our faces to the wind and except that this is the storm we must pass through. We cannot succeed by denying what exists." Page 224

"Peace and equanimity come from letting go of our attachment to the goal and the method… Page 227

"The seeming paradox of pursuing a goal yet with no attachment to its outcome: our responsibility is to pursue the goal with all the dedication we can muster, do the best we can but not become fixated on a preconceived notion of a result. Sometimes, actually quite often, our efforts lead to an unexpected outcome that might even be better than what we had originally had in mind. Page 227

"This is where the power of forgiveness lies – not losing sight of the humanity of the person while responding to the wrong with clarity and firmness. Page 234

"Without forgiveness, we remained tethered to the person who harmed us," the Archbishop said. "We are bound to the chains of bitterness, tied together, trapped. Until we can forgive the person who harmed us, that person will hold the keys to our happiness, that person will be our jailer. When we forgive, we take back control of our own feet and our feelings. We become our own liberator.... Those who say forgiving is a sign of weakness haven't tried it." Page 235

"The best way to create good karma with the least amount of effort is to rejoice in your good deeds and those of others. Page 247

"People with a strong disposition toward gratitude have the capacity to be in empathetic and to take the perspective of others. Page 248

"Gratitude helps us catalog, celebrate, and rejoice in each day and each moment before they slip through the vanishing hourglass of experience. 249

Note the book in titled "A fearless heart: how the courage to be compassionate can transform our lives."  Page 252
"Compassion is one of the most difficult and courageous of all our motivations, but it is also the most healing and elevating. [Quoting someone named Gilbert.] Page 259

The Archbishop said "it is when we are closed in on ourselves that we tend to be miserable. It is when we grew in a self forgetfulness – in a remarkable way I mean we discover that we are filled with joy." Page 263 "In the end generosity is the best way of becoming more, more, and more joyful." Page 264

"Generosity was so important for our survival that the reward centers of our brain light up as strongly when we give as when we receive, sometimes even more so. As mentioned earlier, Richard Davidson and his colleagues have identified that generosity is one of the four fundamental brain circuits that map with long-term well-being.… Generosity seems to be so powerful that, according to researchers David McClellan and Carol Schmidt, just thinking about it "significantly increases the protective antibody salivary immunoglobulin A, a protein used by the immune system." Page 264-265

"A high sense of purpose correlates with a 23% reduction in death from all causes according to a cardiological study at the Mount Sinai St. Luke's medical center. Volunteering reduces the risk of death by 24%. Page 266

"When you become so inward looking, so self-referencing, you were going to end up a shriveled human being. Said the Archbishop. 268

"True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new." From The Little Prince credit on page 284

In 1990 Nelson Mandela and others were released from prison page 286

It's about an endless knot with an image "of two golden fish with large eyes, which represents sentient beings crossing the ocean of existence with a clear sight of wisdom as well as the fearlessness of not drowning in the ocean of suffering. Page 288

"You suddenly feel a lot warm glow in your heart, because you have, in fact, wiped the tears from the eyes of another, " said the Archbishop. Page 293


*Current trend is for short quick blog posts, but I believe it's one's duty to offer something of substance. Would I hold back the material to be more hip? No. Also, using voice dictation it's much easier to compile a document like this than if I had had to type it all. Anyway, not sure I should apologize but this is a long one.

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