The Book Of Joy: Summary Review & Takeaways

This is a summary review of The Book Of Joy containing key details about the book.

What is The Book Of Joy About?

The Book Of Joy offers us a rare opportunity to experience the Dalai Lama and Desmond Mpilo Tutu astonishing 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.

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Who is the author of The Book Of Joy?

Dalai Lama is a bestselling author. He travels extensively, speaking eloquently in favor of ecumenical understanding, kindness and compassion, respect for the environment, and, above all, world peace.

Desmond Mpilo Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 and was only the second black person ever to receive it. His policy of forgiveness and reconciliation has become an international example of conflict resolution, and a trusted method of postconflict reconstruction.

Book details

  • Print length: 354 Pages
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Self Help, Spirituality

What are key takeaways from The Book Of Joy?

Takeaway #1: - Suffering is an Essential Part of Life

Suffering is essential and often leads to something fruitful. In childbirth, the mother has lots of pain. However, after suffering, the mother is blessed with a new child. Another good example can be seen in the life of Nelson Mandela, who suffered for 27 years in a South African prison. After being released, he had empathy for his country and became the President of South Africa. When one uses their suffering to take their focus off of themselves, they will find happiness. Lojong, a Buddhist principle, says that conceit leads to sadness. On a trip, the Dalai Lama had severe stomach pains. On his way to the hospital, he encountered a man who was sick and close to death. When he focused on this man, he forgot about his own pain and suffering.

Takeaway #2 - Control How You React to Suffering

In terms of your physical health, if you have a strong immune system, you have better health. A sluggish immune system makes you more susceptible to colds and the flu. It is the same with mental health. If your mental state is weak, suffering might be ongoing. Fear and frustration come from the mind and you can control it and even turn it into something positive. Once the Dalai Lama had a flight canceled. Instead of getting frustrated, he and his traveling companion turned it into a fun experience. Another example comes from Bishop Desmond Tutu. He shares a story about running late for a meeting and using it as a time of prayer and meditation. You can do the same when you encounter situations you can’t control.

Takeaway #3 - Control Your Expectations and Learn Compassion

Many in Western society have unrealistic expectations and believe that more is always better. Setting expectations is fine, but how you respond or react when you cannot meet these expectations is important to your emotional well-being. A common reaction is fear, which can lead to anger. This fear, however, can be overcome with compassion. One example can be seen in the life of the scientist, Paul Ekman who was angry from childhood. He, however, learned to control his anger after meeting and experiencing love from the Dalai Lama. The psychologist, Joseph Forgas, having some sadness, however, can actually have positive outcomes. Being able to relate to sadness can make you more sensitive and generous. Another example comes from the Dalia Lama who was overcome with sadness when his teacher died. Instead of giving into his feelings, he turned his grief into something positive by fulfilling the wishes of his teacher.

Takeaway #4 Envy and Loneliness Can Impact Your Health

Low social interaction can lead to loneliness and other emotional problems. Loneliness can be avoided by simply opening up and sharing your life. In a study conducted at Columbia University, researchers found that individuals who practiced using possessive pronouns like I and me, were more prone to stress and physical ailments. Envy can also have a negative effect on one’s life. It, however, is harder to overcome because it is more natural behavior. A primatologist once did a research project in which he treated one monkey better than another. The monkey that wasn’t treated fairly became furious. This shows that desiring fairness, when not received, can make one unhappy. In the 1990s, a group of Tibetans worked in the United States and sent money home to help their families. Although this was a positive thing, it turned negative when neighbors and others became jealous of their newfound prosperity.

Takeaway #5 Near-Death Experiences Can Lead to Joy

Escaping death or overcoming great difficulty will almost always make one happier. During the Democratic election in South Africa in 1994, people showed up in record numbers because they were elated with having the freedom to vote. In contrast, voter turnouts in the United States that same year were quite low because of a lack of appreciation. Under Chinese rule, the Tibetan language was abolished and the works of many Tibetan authors were destroyed. This motivated the Dalai Lama to preserve what remained of the Tibetan book collection. Facing and realizing death is central to a life of joy. Bishop Desmond Tutu was very sick in his teenage life. He even faced death many times. He credits these near-death experiences to a joyous life.

Takeaway #6 - Humility and a Wider Perspective Bring You Closer to Joy

Now that you know how to gain control of negative emotions, let’s deal with positivity and happiness. There are eight pillars of joy, the first two being perspective and humility. Perspective encourages you to live in the now, which brings you happiness. An Australian neurologist once told a story about a sick prisoner who was on the brink of death. She regained her health when she thought that she’d be released by Christmas. But, she became ill again when she wasn’t released. Another pillar, humility, says you can’t have joy when you always think you’re better than others. When the Dalai Lama was younger, he’d become nervous when speaking because he felt superior to his listeners. As a mature spiritual leader, he now practices humility, which eases his anxiety and makes him more relatable.

Takeaway #7 - Keeping a Good Sense of Humor Can Relieve Stress

Humor is the third pillar of joy. Amid war, Bishop Desmond Tutu was given the opportunity to speak to the two opposing sides. Of course, it was a very tense situation with both being in the same room, but Tutu used humor to address the reasons for the war, that is, racism and prejudice. He had the audience laughing, which put them at ease but still got across his message. The fourth pillar of joy is acceptance. Without acceptance, it is hard to feel joy. For example, if someone has a conflict with a neighbor, they could be anxious about the relationship, blame the neighbor, or ignore the conflict completely. None of these, however, will help to resolve the problem but acceptance can. Acceptance further includes understanding that you can’t fully control relationships with others. This eases a lot of pressure over relationships which increases joy.

Takeaway #8 - Forgiveness and Gratitude Moves You Toward Joy

Everyone can benefit from being grateful. Therefore, gratitude is the fifth pillar of joy. Forgiveness is the sixth pillar of joy. Anthony Ray Hinton served 30 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Decades later, the Supreme Court reversed the decision, and he was released. To move forward in his life, Hinton had to forgive. In South Africa, during Apartheid, they killed several children by tricking them into entering booby traps. When the perpetrators sought forgiveness, one mother embraced them and accepted their apology. She said that continuing to hold on to her anger would not bring her son back and unforgiveness would not bring her joy.

Takeaway #9 - Learning Compassion Increases Happiness

It is natural to feel happy when giving gifts to others. So, it is no surprise that compassionate concern is the seventh pillar of joy. Scientists have proven this concept through research. Watching young children play, they saw that children were more attracted to toys that involved helping others. Showing compassion increases endorphins and makes one feel good. The last pillar of joy is spending time on others’ happiness. Entrepreneur James Doty didn’t keep all of his wealth to himself. He donated a lot to charity. Eventually, he lost a lot of his wealth in the stock market and was advised by his lawyer to cut back on giving. He refused because giving to others made him happy. Researcher, Elizabeth Dunn, found that people feel better spending money on others than on themselves. These acts can heal and uplift anyone.

What are the chapters in The Book Of Joy?

The Nature of True Joy
Why Are You Not Morose?
Nothing Beautiful Comes Without Some Suffering
Have You Renounced Pleasure?
Our Greatest Joy
Lunch: The Meeting of Two Mischievous People Is Wonderful
The Obstacles to Joy
You Are a Masterpiece in the Making
Fear, Stress, and Anxiety: I Would Be Very Nervous
Frustration and Anger: I Would Shout
Sadness and Grief: The Hard Times Knit Us More Closely Together
Despair: The World Is in Such Turmoil
Loneliness: No Need for Introduction
Envy: That Guy Goes Past Yet Again in His Mercedes-Benz
Suffering and Adversity: Passing through Difficulties
Illness and Fear of Death: I Prefer to Go to Hell
Meditation: Now I'll Tell You a Secret Thing
The Eight Pillars of Joy
Perspective: There Are Many Different Angles
Humility: I Tried to Look Humble and Modest
Humor: Laughter, Joking Is Much Better
Acceptance: The Only Place Where Change Can Begin
Forgiveness: Freeing Ourselves from the Past
Gratitude: I Am Fortunate to Be Alive
Compassion: Something We Want to Become
Generosity: We Are Filled with Joy
Celebration: Dancing in the Street of Tibet
Departure: A Final Goodbye
Joy Practices.

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What are some of the main summary points from the book?

Here are some key summary points from the book:

  • "The Book of Joy" is a collaborative work between two renowned spiritual leaders, the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who come together to explore the concept of joy and how to cultivate it in our lives.
  • The central message of the book is that true and lasting joy can be found even in the face of adversity and suffering.
  • The book emphasizes the importance of shifting our focus from external circumstances to inner qualities in order to experience joy.
  • Joy is described as an innate human quality that can be accessed and cultivated through practices such as gratitude, forgiveness, compassion, and generosity.
  • The authors discuss the obstacles that prevent us from experiencing joy, including fear, anger, and self-centeredness. They provide guidance on how to overcome these obstacles.
  • The book explores the idea that joy is interconnected with other positive emotions, such as love, compassion, and kindness. By cultivating these qualities, we can enhance our overall sense of joy.
  • The authors stress the importance of embracing suffering as part of the human experience and finding meaning in difficult situations. They offer insights on how to transform suffering into a source of growth and compassion.
  • The book explores the power of mindfulness and present-moment awareness in cultivating joy. It encourages the practice of meditation and self-reflection as tools for developing inner peace and happiness.
  • The authors share personal stories and anecdotes from their own lives, illustrating how they have found joy amidst challenging circumstances.
  • The book emphasizes the importance of cultivating a sense of interconnectedness and recognizing our shared humanity. It explores the role of compassion and empathy in fostering joy.
  • The authors offer practical exercises and reflections throughout the book to help readers incorporate the teachings into their daily lives and experience more joy.
  • Ultimately, "The Book of Joy" encourages readers to approach life with a mindset of joy and to actively cultivate the qualities and practices that lead to lasting happiness.

What are good quotes from The Book Of Joy?

"The more time you spend thinking about yourself, the more suffering you will experience.” (Meaning)

“We create most of our suffering, so it should be logical that we also have the ability to create more joy. It simply depends on the attitudes, the perspectives, and the reactions we bring to situations and to our relationships with other people."

“... 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.”

“Wherever you have friends that’s your country, and wherever you receive love, that’s your home.”

“When you are grateful, you are not fearful, and when you are not fearful, you are not violent. "

“The Dead Sea in the Middle East receives fresh water, but it has no outlet, so it doesn't pass the water out. It receives beautiful water from the rivers, and the water goes dank. I mean, it just goes bad. And that's why it is the Dead Sea. It receives and does not give. In the end generosity is the best way of becoming more, more, and more joyful.”

“There are going to be frustrations in life. The question is not: How do I escape? It is: How can I use this as something positive?”

“Seek to be an oasis of caring and concern as you live your life.”

“... It’s like a flower. You open, you blossom, really because of other people.”

“If you are filled with negative judgment and anger, then you will feel separate from other people. You will feel lonely. But if you have an open heart and are filled with trust and friendship, even if you are physically alone, even living a hermit’s life, you will never feel lonely.”

“You show your humanity by how you see yourself not as apart from others but from your connection to others.”

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“We are fragile creatures, and it is from this weakness, not despite it, that we discover the possibility of true joy.”

“If something can be done about the situation, what need is there for dejection? And if nothing can be done about it, what use is there for being dejected?”

“Joy is the reward, really, of seeking to give joy to others. When you show compassion, when you show caring, when you show love to others, do things for others, in a wonderful way you have a deep joy that you can get in no other way. You can’t buy it with money. You can be the richest person on Earth, but if you care only about yourself, I can bet my bottom dollar you will not be happy and joyful.

“Meditative practice allows us to quiet the distracting thoughts and feelings so that we can perceive reality, and respond to it more skillfully."

" The ability to be present in each moment is nothing more and nothing less than the ability to accept the vulnerability, discomfort, and anxiety of everyday life. "

“Adversity, illness, and death are real and inevitable. We chose whether to add to these unavoidable facts of life with the suffering that we create in our own minds and hearts... the chosen suffering."

“It probably takes many years of monastic practice to equal the spiritual growth generated by one sleepless night with a sick child.”

“Discovering more joy does not save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak. In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily, too. Perhaps we are just more alive. Yet as we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreak without being broken.”

“If you consider yourself as something special then automatically, emotionally, you are distanced from others. You then create the basis for feelings of alienation from others and loneliness. So, I never consider, even when giving a talk to a large crowd, that I am something special... A thousand people -- same human being. Ten thousand or a hundred thousand -- same human being -- mentally, emotionally, and physically. Then, you see, no barrier. Then my mind remains completely calm and relaxed. If too much emphasis on myself, and I start to think I'm something special, then more anxiety, more nervousness.”

― Dalai Lama XIV, The Book Of Joy Quotes

What do critics say?

Here's what one of the prominent reviewers had to say about the book: "[An] exquisite book...An intimate glimpse into the minds of two of the world's spiritual guides, and their foundation for an attainable and practical approach to experiencing a more enriching and sustainable life of abundant joy." — Shelf Awareness

* The summary points above have been concluded from the book and other public sources. The editor of this summary review made every effort to maintain information accuracy, including any published quotes, chapters, or takeaways

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Chief Editor

Tal Gur is an author, founder, and impact-driven entrepreneur at heart. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living, has led him to found Elevate Society.

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