Two great spiritual masters share their own hard-won wisdom about living with joy even in the face of adversity.
The occasion was a big birthday. And it inspired two close friends to get together for a talk about something very important to them. The friends were His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The subject was joy. Both winners of the Nobel Prize, both great spiritual masters and moral leaders of our time, they are also known for being among the most infectiously happy people on the planet, despite having experienced great personal and national suffering.
From the beginning the book was envisioned as a three-layer birthday cake, the first being their personal stories and teachings about joy. Both the Dalai Lama and Tutu have been tested by extraordinary adversity, oppression, and conflict. The second layer consists of the exciting research into joy as well as the other qualities essential for any enduring happiness, like gratitude, humility, humour, compassion, generosity, and forgiveness. And the third encompasses practical exercises and guidance based on the Dalai Lama's and Tutu's own daily practices, which anchor their emotional and spiritual lives.
Most of all, during that landmark week in Dharamsala, they demonstrated by their own exuberance, compassion, and even wise-cracking humour, how joy can be transformed from a fleeting emotion into an enduring way of being.
Cultivating joy was the subject of a five-day conversation between the Dalai Lama and Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of South Africa, held in 2015 at the former's residence in exile in Dharamsala, India. The two Nobel Peace Prize recipients argued for a "true joy that was not dependent on the vicissitudes of circumstance," writes Abrams, who moderated the rare meeting between the two friends on the occasion of the Dalai Lama's 80th birthday. Highlighting the men's playful joking and delight in each other's company, Abrams carefully balances their strong voices during intense discussions on the many obstacles to joy (including fear, anger, and adversity) and ways to cultivate greater well-being, using as a framework the "eight pillars of joy" (perspective, humility, humor, acceptance, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, and generosity). Throughout, Abrams skillfully incorporates information about each leader's life and work, basic Buddhist principles undergirding the Dalai Lama's perspectives, and current scientific research. The dialogue intentionally focuses on areas of common ground accessible to readers of any faith or none, though Christians can be assured that Tutu's contributions are infused with his deep love of God. This sparkling, wise, and immediately useful gift to readers from two remarkable spiritual masters offers hope that joy is possible for everyone even in the most difficult circumstances, and describes a clear path for attaining it.