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Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill Paperback – January 5, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
What a joy to find such an intelligent and creative approach to the universal quest for happiness and well-being! Matthieu Ricard begins by examining our definitions of happiness and then leads us on a journey that explores the causes and conditions for happiness, our own inner mechanisms that do or don't create happiness, how to deal with death and difficulties, the sociology of happiness, and so on.
The book's emphasis is on how to develop inner resources for a sense of happiness and fulfillment that is not dependent on outer circumstances. There is real freedom in the knowledge that we can move towards an authentic sense of well-being by working with our ways of relating and processing the obstacles and circumstances that present themselves. This is all helped along by the short enjoyable exercises that lead the reader through a process of getting to know the mind and how it works.
Matthieu Ricard's voice is quite unique and I liked his use of metaphor to describe various emotional states and how to deal with them. I also found the sociology of happiness an interesting chapter, revealing the trends of our society, and I especially liked learning "first-hand about the work of neuroscience and the brain.
Buddhist psychology, developed over many centuries, is consistent with much that we have recently learned and continue to learn about our minds and our brains from neuroscience, cognitive science, and "western" psychology. Ricard, a Tibetan monk, is equally at home in Buddhist teachings and contemporary science--he was a scientist before his days as a monk.
In a world with so much violence, so much sadness, and so much negativity, Ricard teaches us how to cultivate happiness, not by blinding ourselves to reality or by looking to some other world above and beyond our own, but by looking upon ourselves and others with the loving eyes of the Buddha. And these teachings have nothing to do with believing any doctrines or even "the truth" of Buddhism. They are practical teachings to be applied in everyday life. The "truth" is in the practice. The Buddha did not want anyone to believe anything just because he said it. He invited people to see for themselves. So see for yourself.
Even if you are not and have no interest in "becoming a Buddhist," I highly recommend this book. I would not consider myself a Buddhist, but the values expressed by Ricard are values I cherish and aspire to embody in my day to day life.
The chapters are also relatively short, so each one can be read and fully digested before moving to the next. (Perfect for reading in bed or on public transportation.)
If taken to heart, this book will surely benefit you. I hope that it does.
But there are limitations and not-so-great things about the book which could have been improved.
- Too much quoting philosophers and famous people
Almost every chapter is filled with various philosopher's take on things like happiness, emotions etc. I was more interested in Ricard's own experience and his Gurus' opinions (which were also there at places) rather than a big collection of differing thoughts of other philosophers.
- Lack of explanation on 'how to do'
There is a clear lack of explanation of how to deal practically with the issues Ricard brings up. His theory that negative thoughts like hatred need antidotes like patience is great, but there is not much detail on how to cultivate them. Ricard says the solution is meditation, but how and what to exactly meditate on is short in content.
A recurring theme is that when say, you are very angry, look at the anger itself without attaching it to the target of the anger and meditate, and it will melt away.Read more ›
Ricard is a man who knows science. And, as a Frenchman, is deeply familiar with pessimism. He says, in France, happiness is considered boring, while pessimism and misery is considered quite interesting. "Happiness is only for the naive" is a common Western mindset. However, Ricard says: "Not true."
Not only is happiness interesting - it is a skill, a challenging skill to be acquired only through intense practice. Pessimism, on the other hand, is boring - for it creates apathy, and a general lack of zest for life.
As a man deeply interested in science, Ricard knows what he's talking about. He explains amazing discoveries made by the Mind & Life Institute. Placed under MRI brain imaging, Tibetan monks have shown to experience far greater happiness and are more emotionally balanced than any 'average' person. Scientists can gauge happiness by the amount of activity in the frontal lobe related to positive emotions. (There's also a section of the brain related to negative emotion, and criticism, which remains relatively dormant.)
In one experiment, testing what's called a "startle" reflex - something that every human has (it's an uncontrolled flinch of one's facial muscles that occurs whenever a loud noise goes off) - a spiritually advanced monk was monitored for this reflex. When the loud noise went off, unlike anyone else ever tested, he did NOT flinch.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I am writing a book on how to achieve happiness. I have read 12 books on the subject. This one is the best. (James Baraz's book is next best. Read morePublished 28 days ago by Richard Mcknight
Read anything by Matthieu Ricard to gain a greater understanding of the value of meditation.Published 2 months ago by MA worker
This is an ok book. It has some good ideas and was worth the read.
I highly recommend Lauren Ostrowski Fenton's "Daily Rituals for Happiness" instead.