This is the third in a series of books by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler beginning with the bestselling The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living (1998) and continuing with The Art of Happiness at Work (2003). Both of these focused on the level of the individual. The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World puts the emphasis upon broader societal issues and includes material on prejudice, racism, terrorism, violence, and fear. Underlying many of these problems is a widespread and disturbing lack of community and the trust and feelings of mutual solidarity that support it. Three other volumes are planned for this series in which Cutler recounts conversations and interviews with His Holiness.

Cutler shares a revealing story early in the book: "On a recent Friday afternoon, an unemployed twenty-year-old posted a message on YouTube, simply offering to 'be there' for anyone who needed to talk. 'I never met you, but I do care,' he said. By the end of the weekend, he had received more than five thousand calls and text messages from strangers taking him up on his offer."

Coupled with this incident are the results of a national survey that found the number of people who have no one with whom they can talk about important matters has nearly tripled. This lack of community and sense of intimate connection with others has prompted the Dalai Lama to suggest that people spend more time being aware of the commonalities they share with others. His favorite motto is: "We are one."

This spiritual outlook is even more important when we consider the escalation of prejudice, hatred, conflict, and violence that emanates from a dualistic "us versus them" perspective. The Dalai Lama discusses various strategies to overcome prejudice, warped biases, and stereotyped beliefs; they include personal contact, education, and seeing others as individuals. A final cause of separation and conflict in our troubled world is nationalism that promotes self-interest and eschews diversity.

Cutler and the Dalai Lama next consider the darker side of human nature and extreme acts of violence. Whereas His Holiness believes that human nature is essentially compassionate and gentle, many divide the world into good and evil people. This perception leads to greater inflexibility and a failure to see any possible middle ground. The Dalai Lama finds the root of violence in human emotions and ways of thinking. He goes on to a thoughtful assessment of fear as one of the greatest destroyers of human happiness. Again this wise teacher points to practical steps which can be taken to deal with it, such as sharing one's fears with others, cognitive techniques, and calling upon one's faith.

One of the Dalai Lama's favorite passages is from the Buddhist scholar Shantideva: "As long as space remains, As long as sentient beings remain, Until then, may I too remain, and dispel the miseries of the world." He finds in these words an expansive long-term perspective and a source of hope for service of humankind. Despite his close encounters with hardship, disappointment, and failure, the Dalai Lama maintains his belief in the value of optimism and resiliency. In the concluding chapters of the book, he salutes the importance of finding our common humanity, contemplating our interdependence, and incarnating positive emotions such as empathy and compassion. The troubled world could be transformed by these qualities which are the most profound sources of inner and outer happiness.