Notes & Quotes: The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams

The following are my favorite quotes from Douglas Abrams' The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World. This book is a conversation between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu written by Douglas Abrams.
  1. No dark fate determines the future. We do. Each day and each moment, we are able to create and re-create our lives and the very quality of human life on our planet. This is the power we wield.
  2. Lasting happiness cannot be found in pursuit of any goal or achievement. It does not reside in fortune or fame. It resides only in the human mind and heart, and it is here that we hope you will find it. 
  3. Every day is a new opportunity to begin again. Every day is your birthday.
  4. There's a Tibetan saying: "Wherever you have friends that's your country, and wherever you receive love, that's your home."
  5. The question is not: How do I escape? It is: How can I use this as something positive?
  6. It is how we face all of the things that seem to be negative in our lives that determines the kind of person we become.
  7. According to Lyubomirsky, 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.
  8. "Not eating out of greed," the Dalai Lama explained. "Eating only for the survival of the body. One must think about the deeper value of nourishing the body."
  9. One individual, no matter how powerful, how clever, cannot survive without other human beings. So the best way to fulfill your wishes, to reach your goals, is to help others, to make more friends.
  10. When we are able to move beyond our own pain and suffering, we are more available to others; pain causes us to be extremely self-focused. Whether the pain is physical or mental, it seems to consume all of our focus and leave very little attention for others.
  11. Perhaps that is what it means to be fully present, available for each moment and each person we encounter, untethered by the ruminating memories of the past and not lured by the anticipatory worry about the future.
  12. We need unbiased love toward entire humanity, entire sentient beings, irrespective of what their attitude is toward us. So your enemies are still human brothers and sisters, so they also deserve our love, our respect, our affection. That's unbiased love. You might have to resist your enemies' actions, but you can love them as brothers and sisters.
  13. Often people ask me for the quickest and best solution to a problem. Again, this is impossible. You can have the quickest or you can have the best solution, but not both.
  14. You are made for perfection, but you are not yet perfect. You are a masterpiece in the making. 
  15. When you are irritated or angry with someone, you should remember that they are made in the image of God.
  16. God has such an incredible reverence for freedom that God would much rather we went freely to hell than compel us to come to heaven.
  17. What can you do to help change the situation? You might not be able to do a great deal, but start where you are and do what you can where you are.
  18. You know human beings are basically good. You know that's where we have to start. That everything else is an aberration. Anything that swerves away from that is the exception -- even when now and again they can be very frustrating. People are remarkably, remarkably, remarkably good, incredible in their generosity.
  19. In the materialistic way of life, there's no concept of friendship, no concept of love, just work, twenty-four hours a day, like a machine. So in modern society, we eventually also become part of that large moving machine.
  20. If you live with fear and consider yourself as something special, then automatically, emotionally, you are distanced from others.
  21. There is a Tibetan 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."
  22. Life is not a zero-sum game, that there is not just one slice of cake in which someone else's taking more means we get less.
  23. We try so hard, with our natural parental instinct, to save our children from pain and suffering, but when we do, we rob them of their ability to grow and learn from adversity.
  24. You must long for the best for that other as you would want the best for you.
  25. If there are no difficulties and you are always relaxed, then you complain more.
  26. The path to joy, like with sadness, did not lead away from suffering and adversity but through it.
  27. One has learned in very many instances that for us to grow in generosity of spirit we have to undergo in some or other a diminishing, a frustration. You may not always think of it as being so. There are very few lives that just move smoothly from beginning to end. They have to be refined.
  28. Perhaps death and the fear of death is truly the greatest challenge to joy.
  29. We are guests here on this planet, visitors who have come for a short time, so we need to use our days wisely, to make our world a little better for everyone.
  30. This is one of the greatest challenges humanity faces: removing the barriers between who we see as "us" and who we see as "other."
  31. A healthy perspective really is the foundation of joy and happiness, because the way we see the world is the way we experience the world. Changing the way we see the world in turn changes the way we feel and the way we act, which changes the world itself.
  32. We see that in the most seemingly limiting circumstance we have choice and freedom, even if that freedom is ultimately the attitude we will take.
  33. When we meet anyone, first and foremost we must remember that they, too, have the same desire to have a happy day, a happy month, a happy life. And all have the right to achieve it. 
  34. We are not created for independence or self-sufficiency, but for interdependence and mutual support.
  35. While we may not be special, we are essential. No one can fulfill our role but us in the divine or karmic unfolding.
  36. Acceptance means not fighting reality. Gratitude means embracing reality. It means moving from counting your burdens to counting your blessings.
  37. We humans have a special brain, but this brain causes a lot of suffering because it is always thinking me, me, me, me. The more time you spend thinking about yourself, the more suffering you will experience.
  38. One of the differences between empathy and compassion is that while empathy is simply experiencing another's emotion, compassion is a more empowered state where we want what is best for the other person. As the Dalai Lama has described it, if we see a person who is being crushed by a rock, the goal is not to get under the rock and feel what they are feeling; it is to help to remove the rock.
  39. It's hard to love others as you love yourself if you don't love yourself.
  40. Generosity was so important for our survival that the reward centers of our brain light up as strongly when give as when we receive, sometimes even more so.
  41. In Buddhist teachings there are three kinds of generosity: material giving, giving freedom from fear (which can involve protection, counseling, or solace), and spiritual giving, which can involve giving your wisdom, moral and ethical teachings, and helping people to be more self-sufficient and happier.
  42. I hope that books such as this one will awaken in us that sense of being human. And then we will realize just how obscene it is for us to spend the billions or trillions that we spend on what we call a budget of defense. When a very small fraction of those budgets would ensure that... I mean, children die daily, die because they do not have clean water. That should not be the case if we were aware of our interconnectedness. And there's no way in which one nation is going to be able to prosper on its own. It can't. That's not how we were made. We were wired for this complementarity, this togetherness, this being family. And even if you think it is sentimental, it isn't sentimental. It's for real.
  43. It helps no one if you sacrifice your joy because others are suffering. We people who care must be attractive, must be filled with joy, so that others can recognize that caring, that helping and being generous are not a burden, they are a joy. Give the world your love, your service, your healing, but you can also give it your joy. This, too, is a great gift.
  44. In order to create a peaceful family, first the individual person himself or herself should create inner peace, joyfulness.
  45. In order to become a happy person, we need to live more from the compassionate part of our nature and to have a sense of responsibility toward others and the world we live in.
  46. Could there be a truer sign of love, to see another's face at the time of death?