Each Thursday I will be posting a few reflections and questions on The Book of Joy, one reflection for each “day” depicted by the book. Please use the comments feature to add your own reflections!
One general theme that struck me in the beginning of the Book of Joy are the photos and the descriptions of the physical interactions between the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop (his “mischevious spiritual brother”). They are playful and physical with one another—the Arch kissing the Dalai Lama, the exchange of scarves, the dancing. They also joke with one another and have mock arguments and disagreements. What do you see in their interactions? Is there a physical aspect of friendship/community/healthy relationship that is important and contributing to a joyful life? Is play—verbal and physical—a key aspect of a joyful life? With whom are you physical? How and where do you play?
The relationship between suffering and joy is a theme throughout the book. In this section, there are descriptions of the Arch who “…cries easily and often, for that which is not yet redeemed, for that which is not yet whole” (pg. 13) and the Dalai Lama stating “The suffering from a natural disaster we cannot control, but the suffering from our daily disasters we can.” (pg. 14) What suffering in your life is of the “daily disaster” sort? What are you capable of controlling, and what is out of your control?
Later, the Dalai Lama quotes an ancient Buddhist teacher, “If something can be done about the situation, what need is there for dejection? And if nothing can be done about it, what use is there for being dejected?” (pg. 36) And later, from a scholarly work: “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.” (pg. 49) How do we shift our anguish into compassion by observing the suffering of others, and by cultivating gratitude?
The place of faith can be helpful or unhelpful to joy practices; in discussing the refusal of South Africa to issue a visa to the Dalai Lama to attend the Archbishop’s 80th Birthday party, the Arch says, “A spiritual leader is something that should be taken very seriously.” But he also quotes the result of a UN Panel, “There is nothing wrong with faiths. The problem is the faithful.” (pg. 70) How does your faith help or hinder you in your search for joy and happiness?