Happiness in the West is still seen in material terms, as having the most toys and perks. Some people have cynically given up on the whole happiness project and are only willing to acknowledge moments of joy, elation, or bliss. Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk and internationally known author, translator, and photographer takes another approach: "By happiness I mean here the deep sense of flourishing that arises from an exceptionally healthy mind. This is not a mere pleasurable feeling, a fleeting emotion, or a mood, but an optimal state of being. Happiness is also a way of interpreting the world, since while it may be difficult to change the world, it is always possible to change the way we look at it."
The author was trained as a scientist and has also mastered Tibetan meditation techniques. This enlightening volume is filled with helpful insights into the way our minds and emotions work, two key aspects in Ricard's guide to the development of this crucial skill.
In Buddhism, sukka, or happiness, is a state of lasting well-being that unfolds when we have overcome mental blindness and afflictive emotions. As Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche put it: "Those who seek happiness in pleasure, wealth, glory, power, and heroics are as naïve as a child who tries to catch a rainbow and wear it as a coat." This state of being or skill is not linked to intelligence, sex, or ethnicity any more than it is to physical beauty. The happiest people Ricard has met are Tibetan seers who have tamed their egos through mind-training exercises and are able to approach every person and every situation with natural ease, benevolence, fortitude, and serenity.
The author also examines how thoughts such as desire, hatred, and envy become our own worst enemies. Hitting high stride in the closing chapters, Ricard discusses the connections between happiness, kindness, humility, optimism, going with the flow of time, and facing death with equanimity.