Authors: His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Douglas Abrams
The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Douglas Carlton Abrams 2016
The meeting of two friends – the brightest spiritual leaders of our time (The Book of Joy)
Authors: His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Douglas Abrams
The Book of Joy: Both His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu are the great spiritual teachers of the modern world. Although they belong to different faiths, their teachings go far beyond religious traditions. They care about the fate of all mankind, and by their example, they inspire millions of people around the world to spiritual growth.
Although Archbishop Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama met only a few times during their lives, they developed a close friendship and jokingly refer to each other as “mischievous godbrothers”. In 2015, they met in Dharamsala (the city in northern India, where the residence of the Dalai Lama is located) to celebrate the 80th anniversary of His Holiness and spend time together. This visit was being prepared for a year and was repeatedly in danger of failure – both because of the state of health of the Archbishop and due to political reasons. They looked forward to this opportunity, knowing that it would probably be the last time they saw each other. And one of the important goals of their meeting was the creation of this book, which His Holiness called “a gift for everyone.”
Throughout their lives, they have faced many hardships and losses – the fight against apartheid, in which the Archbishop took an active part, and the life of the Dalai Lama in exile, are just the most obvious of them. Nevertheless, they managed to maintain the ability to enjoy life and be in a state of awareness. In this book, they decided to share what they have learned over the years and together answer the question: “How can we find joy in the face of the inevitable suffering of our lives?” It turned out to be the most common among the questions collected around the world by Douglas Abrams specifically for this meeting.
From the point of view of both spiritual leaders, in order to become happy, we need to remember our responsibility to all people and develop love and compassion in ourselves. These qualities lead to peace of mind and true joy. According to Archbishop Tutu, true joy fills life with meaning and makes us more spiritual.
And any suffering is an opportunity to develop positive qualities that will support this joy. Through difficulties and suffering, a person is able to become more attentive to others, more compassionate, and generous. Our reaction to difficulties and suffering is a reflection of the level of our spiritual development and the path we are following. If each person perceives difficulties as growth steps, together we will save the Planet from true suffering, say the two most joyful people in the world.
During the week, Douglas Abrams asked His Holiness and the Archbishop questions and recorded their responses. Thanks to this, several views on the nature of joy are intertwined in the book at once – the view of the Buddhist Dalai Lama, the view of the Christian Archbishop Tutu, and the view of scientists presented by Douglas Abrams. This combination of positions is what makes the book so authentic and useful for anyone who would like to make life more joyful and meaningful.
1. The nature of true joy
Douglas Abrams, watching the fellowship of His Holiness and the Archbishop during the week, was struck by how open and cheerful these great people are, who have experienced a huge amount of suffering in their lives. They sincerely rejoiced at every moment of their communication: they could start a heated argument, but after a second they would exchange friendly handshakes and make fun of each other. Talking about sad events from their lives, they were not shy about tears, but as soon as the story was over, sincere smiles immediately appeared on their faces. Their ability to maintain inner joy and regularly return to this state has become the central topic of this week’s conversations.
In the modern world, we pay great attention to gaining material prosperity and stability, but in return, we experience only anxiety and lose contact with other people. A real lasting state of joy cannot be found in the pursuit of material values, it does not depend on fate or luck, and right now is within us. According to the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop, such a state of mind is an important condition not only for personal development but also for building a peaceful society.
Psychologist Paul Ekman, in his writings, lists the various sensations that joy is associated with, ranging from pleasure (sensual joy) and fun to awe at the kindness and compassion of others.
The Buddhist scholar Mathieu Ricard also describes three states of spiritual joy: Joy (the ability to rejoice in the happiness of others); Delight (the ability to be deeply satisfied) and Spiritual Radiance (peaceful joy born from a deep state of balance and goodwill).
Mathieu Ricard received his Ph.D. in molecular genetics from the Institut Pasteur (Paris, France), but abandoned his career as a scientist in favor of studying Tibetan Buddhism.
According to the Dalai Lama, joy is the state that we acquire by achieving the main goal of our life – the elimination of suffering and the acquisition of happiness. While achieving joy won’t save us from life’s inevitable hardships, it will make it easier for us to deal with them.
Of our four basic emotions—anger, fear, sadness, and joy—only joy is positive. By studying it, we will be able to understand what actually makes us happy, and find the answer to the question “ How to develop a state of joy to such an extent that it becomes permanent? “.
First of all, you need to learn to distinguish between two types of happiness. The first type, happiness from sensual pleasures such as food or sex, is limited in time and can quickly be replaced by negative experiences due to its absence. The second type – mental inner happiness – is deeper: at this level, joy is felt more fully and lastingly.
There is a term in psychology called “Hedonic Adaptation”: scientists have found that an overabundance of sensory pleasure dulls the senses, causing us to take pleasure for granted.
Neuroscientist Richard Davidson created a unified theory of the happy brain, according to which four brain states affect the duration of our well-being: the ability to stay positive, which directly affects the ability to experience happiness; the ability to recover from the consequences of negative conditions; the ability to concentrate, which is developed through the practice of meditation; and the ability to be generous.
Barriers to enjoying life
There are many factors that prevent us from experiencing joy – from everyday stress and anxiety to catastrophes that completely change people’s lives. We all have an idea of what physical pain is and how to deal with it, but often we have no idea how to deal with emotional pain, and we try our best to change what is happening. And although we cannot always do this, we are able to control the degree to which external circumstances affect us.
• Pain and suffering
Even painful situations can actually bring satisfaction and happiness.
The archbishop cites the example of a mother on the eve of childbirth. She knows that she will experience great pain, and accepts it. And as soon as the child is born, she experiences incredible joy.
The first noble truth of Buddhism is: ” Everything is suffering .” To develop joy, it is necessary to accept that suffering is inevitable. And often the main cause of our suffering is ourselves: refusing to accept reality and trying to control what is not subject to control. We react to events by evaluating them as good, bad, or neutral.
This is the first of the Four Noble Truths that underlie Buddhism:
1. The truth about the existence of suffering (Life is suffering).
2. Truth about the source of suffering (Suffering has caused).
3. Truth about the cessation of suffering (Suffering can be stopped).
4. The truth about the path to the cessation of suffering (There is a path to the cessation of suffering).
We spontaneously react to bad events with fear, anger, or irritation. But if we fixate only on the negative side of our experience, it is impossible to develop a state of joy. When we develop spiritually, we learn to accept what happens to us, including negative emotions, which cease to be a source of suffering for us but become just a passing experience.
Our lives are not determined by suffering and disappointment, but by how we relate to them and process them into the experience: only by shifting the focus of perception from ourselves to others, by developing empathy and compassion, can we create the basis of a joyful state.
Research by psychologists Philip Brickman, Dan Coates, and Ronnie Janoff-Bulman in 1978 showed that there is a “set point” that determines our level of happiness throughout our lives. Once in a new situation (for example, winning the lottery), after a while, we get used to it and return to the original state. At the same time, research by Sonya Lubomirskaya shows that three factors make us happier – a positive assessment of the situation, gratitude, and the manifestation of kindness and generosity.
• Fear, stress, and anger
Fear is a protective biological reaction of the body that we need to survive. But in the modern world, this mechanism is not so relevant, and often we experience exaggerated or groundless fear. And it’s not in a large number of sources of stress but in our reaction to them. Exaggerated expectations and unfulfilled ambitions only exacerbate the situation, and we do not even think that most of our fears are just mental projections that have no real basis.
When danger arises, the hormones cortisol and adrenaline are released into the bloodstream, which causes pupils to dilate so we can see clearer, as well as rapid heart rate and breathing, speeding up our reactions and blood flow to the muscles so that we can defend ourselves or run.
Explaining why most of our fears are usually unfounded, His Holiness explained that the palace in the Potala where he lived as a child had a very dark room that was said to be haunted. Every time he passed by this place, he constantly felt someone’s presence. In fact, no one was there, but it was this experience that helped the Dalai Lama realize that fears are projections of the mind that we pay excessive attention to. (After listening to this story, the Archbishop jokingly said: “No! They really were there!”)
We also tend to think that fear and anger are independent emotions. However, the Dalai Lama claims that anger is due to fear. For example, we want to be loved and feel angry because of the fear of not getting what we want. The cause of anger can be both physical and mental pain, and mental pain causes anger much more often. Recognizing and accepting your own fears helps you deal with anger. But at the same time, it is necessary to be ready to admit our vulnerability, which we are often ashamed of, believing that we need to be strong in order not to experience pain. But the Archbishop emphasizes that guilt and shame only increase negative emotions.
Psychologist Elissa Eppel and molecular biologist Elizabeth Blackburn found that one of the negative effects of chronic stress is the destruction of telomeres. At the same time, they are affected not so much by stress, but by the reaction of our mind to the situation: if we stop perceiving what is happening as a threat and begin to perceive it as a challenge, the degree of influence of stress on telomeres is significantly reduced.
Telomeres are the end sections of chromosomes, which are characterized by the lack of the ability to connect with other chromosomes or their fragments and perform a protective function against aging and disease.
If we accept that for a true state of happiness we need only love and a sense of community with other people, we can already achieve a certain degree of inner peace. And the pursuit of material goods will cease to be relevant for us.
Both the Archbishop and His Holiness have repeatedly said that the best way to deal with most negative states of mind (including anxiety, fear, and anger) is to think about other people. According to them, once you think about how many people found themselves in the same or worse situation than yours, you’re able to cope with them and became stronger, as these experiences recede. Thinking about our commonality with other people, and not about our differences, is the best medicine for life’s difficulties.
Separately, it is worth mentioning the fear of death, which often prevents the development of joy: if we worry too much about death, there is no room for happiness in our lives. Acceptance of reality helps to cope with this fear – everything is impermanent, and death is an inevitable part of life. No matter how much we want to, we cannot avoid it, and therefore, instead of worrying about the inevitable, it is much better to spend our energy on filling our lives with meaning and joy while we can.
• Sorrow, grief, and despair
While sadness appears to be an obstacle to joy at first glance, the two are actually intertwined. The archbishop argues that it is a sadness that prompts us to empathize and be compassionate. It is sadness and grief that makes us want to help people who are experiencing a similar condition since tears are a signal that now we need support and sympathy.
Psychologist Joseph Forgast found that a state of slight sadness not only improves our ability to remember and objectively assess the situation, increases the motivation to change the situation and sensitivity to social norms compared to happy people, but also helps us become more generous. And although we tend to withdraw into ourselves when we are depressed, when we are sad, we expand the circle of people we care about.
Interesting fact: we experience sadness much longer than anger and fear. Anger and fear pass on average in 30 minutes, while sadness can last up to 120 hours (that is, almost 5 days).
On the other hand, the more empathy and compassion we have, the more we feel the pain of others. As a result, we can fall into despair, trying to find the answer to the question “How to experience joy when there is so much grief in the world?”. But, according to the Archbishop, people are not only capable of terrible deeds, each of us has a huge potential for good. As we think about this, we will begin to notice those who bring good to the world, such as MSF. And after a while, we will learn to see the balance of good and evil on which this world is built.
Despair can occur as a defensive reaction to mental pain. Cynicism and indifference do not require us to accept our own vulnerability, and therefore often become a reaction to grief. But there is an alternative here – hope, which is an antidote to despair. Unlike optimism, which depends on the circumstances, hope is a deeper feeling: the basis of hope, which can unite us with others, is always faith. At the same time, it does not have to be faith in God, it can be, for example, faith in goodness or love.
We can have a thousand friends on social media and none in the real world. The habit of paying attention only to the differences between us only exacerbates our own fears and insecurities, forcing others to keep their distance from us. And we feel more and more alienated, forgetting that in reality each of us is part of a huge global community.
However, in pursuit of happiness, people focus on achieving power, fame, and wealth. From the point of view of both spiritual leaders, this is short-sighted: no matter how rich or famous a person is, he cannot be happy alone. And it is impossible to achieve wealth or recognition without the participation of other people. Therefore, the best way to get what you want and achieve your goals is to make friends. And first of all, this requires trust. But for people to start trusting us, we need to show that we genuinely care about their well-being.
Another obstacle to the development of joy is envy. In Buddhism, envy is considered one of the main causes of suffering. The Jewish and Christian traditions fully share this position. Envy destroys not only peace of mind, but also interpersonal relationships. On the one hand, the genetically inherent desire for justice leads to the fact that any inequality causes discomfort. On the other hand, absolute equality is not part of reality, there will always be those who are superior to us in some way. By focusing on “injustice” and desiring unrealistic equality, we only increase the alienation between ourselves and those around us.
The issue of envy and the emotions associated with it is one of the few issues on which the Archbishop and the Dalai Lama disagree. The archbishop claims that negative emotions are natural and inevitable, we cannot control or manage envy.
In turn, the Dalai Lama considers such an attitude towards negative emotions and envy, in particular, to be erroneous. We can prepare our minds for them by developing concern for the welfare of others. In this case, seeing someone’s success, we will no longer experience envy, but instead, we will experience joy, which is an important component of Buddhist teachings.
In Buddhism, there is the concept of the Four Immeasurable States of Mind, the attainment of which is an essential part of Buddhist practice. In addition to compassion (the ability to enjoy the happiness of others as one’s own), these include loving-kindness (the desire that all living beings find happiness), compassion (the ability to empathize with and understand the suffering of others), and equanimity (an open mind towards all living beings).
While talking about envy, His Holiness recalled a parable:
“A certain king invited the Buddha and his disciples to dinner. On the way to the palace, the Buddha met a beggar who praised the king and sincerely admired the beauty of the palace. At the end of the meal, the Buddha, contrary to the expected reward to the host, dedicated the practice of “dedication of merit” to that beggar. The astonished disciples asked him why he did this. The Buddha replied that the self-satisfied king boasted of his kingdom, and the beggar sincerely rejoiced at his good fortune, although he himself had nothing.
2. Eight pillars of joy
According to the Dalai Lama, in order to develop a state of inner joy that helps to avoid suffering, we first need to strengthen ” psychological immunity .” And this can be done only by filling the mind and heart with positive thoughts and emotions, among which there are eight qualities that are the basis of joy.
• View from the outside
Any event in life can be viewed from different points of view, and even the most difficult situation will eventually cease to seem insoluble. If we cannot change the situation, a broader and more global view of it helps to reduce our anxiety and anxiety. By moving away from our own “I” and studying the picture as a whole, we begin to perceive the situation more fully, and our reactions become constructive. However, when we focus only on ourselves, we cannot remain neutral and understand what role we ourselves play in what is happening and how important our actions are.
To look at what is happening from the outside, it is enough to describe the problem in a third person and ask yourself: will I remember this in a month, a year, or several years? Will the problem still be relevant? What is its significance from the point of view of all mankind?
The archbishop gave this example here: imagine that you are in a traffic jam. At this point, you have two options for reacting to this situation – either get angry or look at other drivers and think that someone is significantly worse now – for example, someone may have a spouse with cancer who is waiting for help. Even if we do not know exactly what other people’s problems are, our attitude towards what is happening is changed by the fact that we have tried to change our point of view.
We are all characterized by pride and selfishness, but arrogance is characteristic only of those who are not confident in themselves. It is the fear that we will be inferior in some way that underlies the desire to feel superior to others. You can get rid of it only by realizing how huge the world is and what our place in it is, by accepting our ordinariness.
The Dalai Lama told several stories about how being aware of himself and others as ordinary people helped him overcome his inhibitions in communication and learn to find a common language. One of them happened in 1954 during an official visit to Beijing. His Holiness was very nervous at the time before public speaking. At this meeting, everyone present behaved with restraint and formality, not showing any emotions until the bowl of fruit on the table fell. At that moment, they, like all ordinary people, began to collect fruits that rolled on the floor together. This situation helped His Holiness overcome his fear as he realized that he was just a person performing in front of the same people.
Humility also comes from understanding that we cannot solve all our problems and manage everything. When we begin to understand how much we need other people and how much we need their support, we inevitably come to the conclusion that we ourselves must support others.
Often we take everything too seriously, and this prevents us from relaxing and interacting with other people. Laughter not only breaks down social barriers and makes you feel free and at ease, but it is also the best remedy for any conflicts. At the same time, it is important to distinguish between sarcasm, which elevates us in our own eyes, and humor. Laughter does not humiliate, but invites fun and shows that people have something in common. And although it is believed that a sense of humor is spontaneous, it can be developed. To do this, it is enough to look at yourself from the outside and try to find something funny in your own manifestations and shortcomings. By laughing at ourselves, we inspire others to accept themselves for who they are. If we treat what is happening with humor, we help to relax not only ourselves but also those around us.
The best example of how humor and self-irony not only help people feel freer but also testify to trust is the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop themselves – their sense of humor and constant jokes about themselves and each other. According to the Archbishop, even in the most difficult situation, a good joke can prevent a growing conflict: during the anti-apartheid era, any political gatherings were banned, and the only place for political rallies was the funerals of comrades-in-arms. People were embittered and could explode at any moment, but in this case, he always had a few jokes in reserve that helped everyone relieve tension and thus avoid another tragedy.
Acceptance allows us to learn to experience joy in its fullness, but often we confuse acceptance with admitting defeat. In fact, the ability to enjoy life does not mean that there is no suffering in it: denying the painfulness of life, we cannot change it. The essence of acceptance is not to let circumstances and our reactions to them consume us. The goal of most Buddhist practices is to learn to see reality, perceive and accept things as they really are, getting rid of our own expectations and projections that determine our perception. By comprehending reality, we get the opportunity to more effectively and adequately interact with it.
Speaking of acceptance, the Dalai Lama suggests imagining that you have a neighbor with whom you don’t get along. No matter how much you get angry and condemn him or try to ignore him, it will not change reality. Start by accepting that the relationship is bad and it’s nobody’s fault. If you cultivate empathy and kindness in yourself, perhaps in the future relationships will become better. But even if not, accepting reality will restore your peace of mind, and you will be able to enjoy life no matter what kind of person your neighbor is.
Both His Holiness and the Archbishop affirm that every person is by nature merciful and capable of extraordinary compassion and forgiveness. And while it is easier for us to have compassion for those who experience adversity, Buddhism places a lot of emphasis on developing compassion for those who commit negative actions. Causing evil, these people first of all harm themselves, creating the prerequisites for their suffering in the future. By refusing to forgive them, we only increase anger and hatred, thus harming ourselves. But forgiveness does not mean that we forget what was done to us or allow impunity. Even while keeping unpleasant memories, it is important to avoid a negative reaction to them and to separate the person and his actions… Our desire to stop someone’s negative actions should be dictated by care. In addition, forgiveness is the only way to get rid of the burden of the past: until we forgive, we are attached to the person who harmed us and cannot experience true happiness.
Psychologist Charlotte van Oyen Whitwilt’s research has shown that when we think about people who have harmed us, we have a stress response – high blood pressure and heart rate, we lose control of ourselves and experience anger. If we begin to think about them with compassion and a desire to forgive, all indicators return to normal.
According to the Archbishop, gratitude is the ability to feel gratitude for everything that has made our life possible. A broader view of the world allows us to see that there are people who are much less fortunate and learn to appreciate what we have. And Buddhism teaches us to be grateful even to enemies who contribute to our spiritual growth – they teach us to remain calm in any situation. It may seem that a grateful person is naive, but Professor Robert Emmons, who has studied the phenomenon of gratitude for more than 10 years, came to the conclusion that in fact such a person does not deny the negative aspects of life, but focuses on its positive aspects. Such people are more inclined to empathy, and more likely to help and support others.
Scientists suggest that the feeling of gratitude is associated with stimulation of the hypothalamus (which controls the body’s stress response) and the central parietal region of the brain (responsible for transmitting pleasure signals to the brain). According to studies, smiling for 20 minutes a day leads to a state of happiness, as it stimulates the production of “happiness hormones” – serotonin, which is a natural antidepressant, dopamine, which stimulates pleasure centers, and endorphins, which also have an analgesic effect.
According to scientific research, developing a joyful state not only benefits us but also those around us. Having overcome our own pain and suffering – both physical and mental – we become more open to other people. In other words, we develop the capacity for empathy. Both the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop emphasize that it is in our nature to seek compassionate concern for others. In South African philosophy, there is the concept of “ubuntu”, which means that a person can only be a person surrounded by other people. We are all complementary—on our own, we would not be able to speak, think, or interact as human beings. But often we do not think about this relationship until some kind of catastrophe occurs. Only at such moments do we notice that we care about the victims, even if we have never seen them.
On the other hand, we often fear that we will begin to sympathize. We are accustomed to believing that help obliges, and no one will help just like that. Moreover, we are afraid to sympathize with ourselves, because we see this as a manifestation of weakness, although in fact, compassion is the strongest motivation for action. Unlike empathy, which only allows you to feel the feelings of another, compassion prompts actions that will help relieve someone’s suffering. And compassion for ourselves not only allows us to accept our shortcomings and make efforts to become better but also is the basis for developing compassion for others.
Generosity is central to all religions. And although generosity is a consequence of compassion, in order to show it, there is no need to wait until we develop compassion. And we can share more than just our money or time. In Buddhism, there are three types of generosity: giving material goods, giving fearlessness (which includes giving protection, advice, or comfort), and giving wisdom (giving moral and ethical teachings that help people become happier and more self-sufficient). Practicing all kinds of generosity, we develop a special kind of generosity in ourselves – generosity of spirit, which allows us to be generous and share the greatest gift that we have – joy.
3. Practicing Joy
Both His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu begin each day with spiritual practices that are an important part of their lives. These simple practices help strengthen the eight pillars of joy and remove obstacles to achieving a peaceful state. Each of them can be customized and performed at a convenient time, but like any exercise, these practices are effective when performed regularly.
• Morning practice of setting an intention
Any of our actions begin with an intention or with the establishment of a goal. Tibetan monks do this morning practice to set themselves in the right mood.
First of all, you need to take a comfortable position – you can sit on the floor, on a chair, or in an armchair. This practice can be done even while lying in bed as soon as you wake up. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths through your nose, and ask yourself, “What does my heart want? What do I want for myself, my loved ones, and for the whole world?” . Our deepest desires usually lie deeper than immediate goals and are associated with the desire to live in accordance with the values \u200b\u200bthat lead to happiness. The Dalai Lama suggests testing your desires by asking yourself simple questions: “Do I want this for myself or for others? Will it benefit me in the future?”
Now set the intention of the day. It can be anything: for example, “Today I will be more attentive to my colleagues” or “Today I will be more patient with my children.” If you cannot formulate your intention, you can lean on the lines of the traditional Tibetan meditation on the Four Immeasurable States of Mind:
May all sentient beings find happiness and reasons for happiness.
May all living beings be freed from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May all living beings not part with happiness devoid of suffering.
May all living beings be in balance, free from attachment to their own and others.
• Concentration on breathing – the practice of getting rid of stress
Such practices are present in many religions since breathing is both an external and an internal process. Take a comfortable position, try to straighten your spine, put your hands on your knees or hips and close your eyes. Concentrate on your breathing: Breath into your belly, take a deep breath in through your nose and then exhale slowly. You can say to yourself “Inhale – exhale” or keep count. After 5-10 breaths, start again, then gradually increase the duration of the practice. If you feel that concentration has weakened and the mind has begun to wonder, return again to 5-10 breaths. If you are under a lot of stress, imagine that when you inhale, your body is filled with cool air, and when you exhale, the stress leaves your body.
Any physical activity can also become such a meditation practice. For example, the Archbishop takes a meditative walk every morning, and he did not break this habit even during the anti-apartheid activism. It is very important to avoid any external stimuli at this time: conversations, music, etc., since the main goal is to listen to the wisdom of the spirit, which often comes from the wisdom of the body.
• Analytical meditation
There are many types of meditation: for example, meditation without thoughts or concentration on the breath. One of the main practices of the Dalai Lama, analytical meditation, is a form of mental analysis in which we watch thoughts arise and strive not to become attached to them. It helps to realize that our thoughts are not necessarily true. During such meditation, you need to constantly ask yourself the questions: “Are my thoughts true? How can I check this and how can they help make a difference?”. To do this practice, you need to choose a topic or event that bothers you.
If fear is your object of meditation, imagine the worst that can happen. Consider the situation from all sides, trying to answer the questions: can you and your loved ones survive this? Maybe this situation will benefit you and you can learn something? Then ask yourself, is this really going to happen and what is your role in this situation? Will anxiety help you? When we turn to face fear, it loses power over us.
If the object of your meditation is anger, ask yourself the question: is there any point in being angry? Think about what you expected from others and what is your role in this conflict. Ask yourself what is the use of your anger and think about the harm it can do by destroying your relationship and robbing you of peace of mind.
If the object of your meditation is sadness, try to find solace. Consider that everything, including your sadness, is impermanent and will eventually end. Our mood depends on where we put our attention. Try to focus on something good, something that has enriched you.
If the object of your meditation is death, also think about impermanence. Consider that although we have no way of escaping death, we can make our lives meaningful. Imagine that you are already dead and ask yourself these questions: Did I love people? Did I show them joy and mercy? If not, then think about what you can change right now and formulate an intention to make your life more meaningful.
• Acceptance meditation
To do this practice, sit comfortably, close your eyes, and concentrate on your breath. While maintaining concentration, follow the flow of your thoughts without judging, stopping, developing, or clinging to them. Then think of a situation that you cannot accept. Recognize that negative events occur independently of our will and we cannot know about everything that influences the situation and what caused it. What has happened has already happened; the past cannot be changed. Remind yourself that without recognizing the reality of the nature of the problem, we will not be able to deal with it. In addition, you can repeat lines from The Way of the Bodhisattva by the Buddhist philosopher Shantideva or the Prayer for Peace by the Christian thinker Reinhold Niebuhr:
Why be sad
If everything can be improved?
And why be sad
What if nothing can be fixed?
— Shantideva. “Way of the Bodhisattva”
God, give me the strength to calmly accept
That which cannot be changed;
The courage to change
What can be changed;
And wisdom to distinguish
One from the other.
— Reinhold Niebuhr. “Prayer for Serenity”
• The practice of developing a sense of community with others (Loving Kindness)
Although there are many differences that separate us, we are all of the same species, and we are united by the desire to avoid suffering and find happiness. This practice helps to understand more deeply how interconnected we are. Imagine a person close to you – a mother or father, a child or a friend. Feel how the love for this person fills you with warmth. Consider that he, too, strives for happiness and does not want to suffer – what does he do to avoid this? Then imagine a person you don’t know that well, and try to understand how your feelings for him differ from feelings for a loved one. Reflecting on his life, you will understand that he also wants to be happy and does not want to suffer. That is what unites you. Treat the world with trust, kindness, and compassion, and do not be upset if
• The practice of developing joyfulness – getting rid of envy
Archbishop Tutu offers three antidotes against envy:
• Gratitude, allowing you to enjoy what you have; • Motivation that allows you to use the power of envy to achieve your own goals; • Looking at the situation from a different angle – thinking about whether we really need what we envy, and how it will affect us and others if we get what we want?
In Buddhism, there is also a practice for getting rid of envy, the essence of which is to learn to enjoy the achievements of others. Imagine a person you envy. Realize that you both belong to the human race, and remember that he, just like you, wants to be happy. Think about how happy he is with what he has and what it means to him and his loved ones. Find a place in your heart for this person and rejoice for him, as if he were close to you.
• Lojong and Tonglen. Practices for Developing Compassion
In Mahayana Buddhism, Lojong and Tonglen are at the heart of all mind training and compassion practices. By practicing them, we take on the suffering of others, giving them our love, courage, strength, and joy in return.
As you practice Lojong, remember all the people you owe your life to, those who taught you, who created the things you use. Think about what brings you suffering and pain, and that these people also experienced similar or maybe worse suffering. Feel love and gratitude towards them for everything they have done for you, and rejoice in their happiness. Then spread those emotions to all people. Realize how much we depend on each other – because without these people our life would be completely different. Such reflection helps develop empathy and compassion, as well as to endure adversity more easily.
Then move on to Tonglen practice. Take a few deep breaths in and out as you tune into it. Think of a person (it could be someone close to you or a whole group of people) who is currently suffering. Imagine that you breathe in his pain and suffering in the form of black smoke, and in your heart – joy, and love in the form of a bright light in which this smoke melts without leaving a trace. As you exhale, imagine that you are sending this light back to the object of your practice – and he gains courage, strength, and confidence. You can repeat these steps for as long as necessary. Then try to include in this practice not only people close to you, but also everyone who surrounds you, and then all of humanity.
You can also pray for the happiness and well-being of others, like Archbishop Tutu, asking God to help all those in need and grant them everything they need.
• Four steps of forgiveness
In their Book of Forgiveness, Archbishop Tutu and his daughter Mpho Tutu proposed a universal way of forgiveness, consisting of four steps.
First, tell your story to someone you trust – to forgive, you need to remember what happened and look at the situation from the outside.
Secondly, try to name your emotions and understand what exactly caused them.
Third, forgive: think about the fact that you and the one who hurt you are part of humanity, and this person, just like you, is in pain and suffering. Perhaps they were the reason for his actions.
And the fourth step to forgiveness will be thinking about whether it is worth continuing the relationship with this person? Any decision has its pros and cons, but in any case, we get the opportunity to move on.
• Practicing the joy of the day
The end of the day is just as important as the beginning. Both Buddhist and Christian monks have a practice of reflecting on the past day, during which we check how it corresponded to the intention we set in the morning, express gratitude and set ourselves up for the next day. Remember everything that happened during the day – events, conversations, emotions, trying to avoid excessive analysis.
Then ask yourself: does the past day match your morning intention? Reflect on the emotions you experienced during the day and take them for granted, whether they were positive or negative. Feel gratitude for everything that happened to you, even if you made a mistake. All this is the source of your experience. Remember all the good things you have done and dedicate your merit to the benefit of all sentient beings.
One way to develop gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal, in which you can write down all your successes and all the good things that others have done for us for which we can thank them.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu are probably the most joyful people on earth despite all the hardships they have gone through. By their example, they inspire millions of people, and both strive to make our world a better place. They claim that the way to get rid of the violence that surrounds us is to realize our connection with each other, develop compassion for other people, and find a calm state of mind.
Material values, which are given great attention in the modern world, are not able to make us really happy, since happiness from sensual pleasures is fleeting. It is much more important to develop inner joy, which brings true happiness, independent of external factors. However, there are a huge number of obstacles to achieving such a state, most of which lies in our own negative emotions and a distorted perception of reality.
At the same time, any suffering can be turned to your advantage: the state of true joy is achieved not in spite of difficulties, but thanks to them, since they teach us to be more attentive to others. According to both His Holiness and the Archbishop, each of us is by nature merciful and kind – we are simply not taught to develop these qualities, although it is possible.
To do this, it is very important to fill your mind and heart with positive emotions and develop the “Eight Pillars of Joy”: an outside perspective, humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity. At the same time, the highest form of generosity is giving joy to others. By practicing this kind of giving, we strengthen all the other pillars of joy. When we look at the situation from the outside, we see our connection with others, we are aware of our place – and humility is born in us. A sense of humor helps you take yourself less seriously and learn to accept yourself and life as it is. As we embrace life, we become able to forgive those who harm us and become grateful for what we have. As a result, compassion for others and the desire to give them joy bloom in us.
We can also be helped by the daily practices that the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop use: setting intentions for the day, prayer, analytical meditation, acceptance meditation, forgiveness practice, compassion development practices, and others.
If you choose one thought that is worth remembering from this invaluable creation of three wise people, remember this one: “The state of joy and happiness is internal, it does not depend on external circumstances, but only on how you yourself have chosen to perceive them, it is not born from the desire to acquire as much as possible, but from the desire to give as much as possible!”