Happiness (2003) A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill, Matthieu Ricard

Happiness (2003)
A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill,
Matthieu Ricard

“The inability to manage our thoughts proves to be the principal cause of suffering.”

Happiness takes us through the basic philosophy of meditation and suffering in Buddhism, the reasons to cultivate this skill, its benefits being researched by western science, and how to extend it to the world. He gives a good summary – better than the other related books I’ve read – of the benefits thus far elucidated by science, and some evidence showing that we are under control of our happiness! This was an excellent, complimentary book to the rest, and I’m proud of Ricard.

He describes the Buddhist philosophy of the types of suffering and how contentment can give us inner peace, but doesn’t go too much into the doctrine that desire, per se, causes this suffering. I love that, because he doesn’t incriminate desires. In the words of the more recent meditation-author I’ve read (name?), he doesn’t alienate the household-monks – the majority of us!

Later in the book (worth reviewing) Ricard speaks out against boredom, and gives a good exercise to help people list their good strengths and advantages in order to stimulation action. He also describes that in Buddhism, it is the motivation of an action – not simply the action itself – that colors whether we can describe the action as “good,” or “bad,” or somewhere along such a spectrum.

As I develop these skills, what should I do?

The monk answered: “I was often afraid of hating my torturers, for in so doing I would have destroyed myself.” A few months before she died at Auschwitz, Etty Hillesum wrote: “I can see no way around it. Each of us must look inside himself and excise and destroy everything he finds there which he believes should be excised and destroyed in others. We may be quite certain that the least iota of hatred that we bring into the world will make it even more inhospitable to us than it already is.”