Have you ever read a book that just made you smile? Like, you read the words in the voices of the people speaking and a smile breaks across your face?
This is how I felt for the whole of my reading of “The Book of Joy” by His Holiness the Dalia Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams. I could hear the years of laughter and friendship throughout the pages of this book. But that laughter was the result of lives lived with a heart turned toward suffering. This is a beautiful meditation of how joy and suffering intertwine and worthy of time and conversation.
From the Inside Cover:
Nobel Peace Prize Laureates His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have survived more than fifty years of exile and the soul-crushing violence of oppression. Despite their hardships—or, as they would say, because of them—they are two of the most joyful people on the planet.
In April 2015, Archbishop Tutu traveled to the Dalai Lama’s home in Dharamsala, India, to celebrate His Holiness’s eightieth birthday and to create what they hoped would be a gift for others. They looked back on their long lives to answer a single burning question: How do we find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering?
They traded intimate stories, teased each other continually, and shared their spiritual practices. By the end of a week filled with laughter and punctuated with tears, these two global heroes had stared into the abyss and despair of our time and revealed how to live a life brimming with joy.
This book offers us a rare opportunity to experience their astonishing and unprecendented week together, from the first embrace to the final good-bye.
We get to listen as they explore the Nature of True Joy and confront each of the Obstacles of Joy—from fear, stress, and anger to grief, illness, and death. They then offer us the Eight Pillars of Joy, which provide the foundation for lasting happiness. Throughout, they include stories, wisdom, and science. Finally, they share their daily Joy Practices that anchor their own emotional and spiritual lives.
The Archbishop has never claimed sainthood, and the Dalai Lama considers himself a simple monk. In this unique collaboration, they offer us the reflection of real lives filled with pain and turmoil in the midst of which they have been able to discover a level of peace, of courage, and of joy to which we can all aspire in our own lives.
There are lots of things to talk about in this book and all of them center around all three of my core beliefs about book conversations. When talking about joy and suffering, conversation, camaraderie and compassion are natural companions. The back of the book has a Reader’s guide with questions, but it feels more like a personal study and reflection guide. The questions below are meant to help foster a conversation between two or more people.
Questions for Conversation
- Before starting this book, how did you define or think about joy? How was it different/not different from happiness?
- Throughout the course of the book, whose words resonated more with you? The Dalai Lama’s? Archbishop Tutus? or the “narrator” Douglas Abrams?
- Are there any words or phrases in the book that stuck with you?
- Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama are obviously deep and true friends. How did that make you feel? Do you have any friendships like that?
- How do you feel about the connection that was made between suffering and joy? Thinking back on your life, does it feel true to you?
- There is a base understanding of the place of spirituality and faith in these men and the way that they practice their lives. Did they encourage you in your spiritual practice.
- In the middle of the book, Archbishop Tutu and Dalai Lama “trade” spiritual services. How do you feel about this “trading”?
- Both men recommend meditation as a practice that helps to increase joy. Do you practice meditation? Do you find their words about it to be true? Could a meditation practice, grounded in your faith tradition, be beneficial to you?
- The book ends with 8 pillars of joy. The first 4 (perspective, humility, humor, and acceptance) are qualities of the mind. The second 4 (forgiveness, gratitude, compassion and generosity) are qualities of the heart. As you read, which of the qualities feel easy to you? Which feel like work?
- Finally, the last section of the book offers a number of “joy practices”. This section includes suggestions for meditations, morning intentions, ways to overcome the obstacles to joy, and ways to cultivate the 8 pillars of joy. Which of these help improve the amount of joy in your life?
I loved this book. Even though it’s a non-traditional choice, I think it would be an excellent one for conversation. And if you don’t have anyone to talk about it with, I’d be more than happy to discuss it with you.
What about you? Have you read this book? What were your takeaways? Let’s chat in the comments below.
Also, need to get a copy, grab your copy here!