June 10, 2012
Lama Marut, an ordained Buddhist monk in the Tibetan tradition and a retired professor of comparative religions and Sanskrit, begins this book with his proposition that the purpose of our lives is to be happy. He claims that this desire for happiness is hardwired into our nature and that the greatest minds in the East and the West have recognized this search for happiness as central in our lives. He spends the rest of the book demonstrating that we can control our own happiness, now and in the future, and tells us how we can do so through changing our thoughts and our actions.
Although the author’s ideas are strongly influenced by his Tibetan Buddhist background, the material is presented with a lightheartedness that makes the book a fun and easy read. No prior study of Buddhist thought or practice is necessary to make good use of his suggestions for enhancing our happiness through changing the way we think and how we treat others. His suggestions include focusing on gratitude, forgiving others and ourselves, treating others with compassion, letting go of the expectation that things or people outside of us will make us happy, and focusing on the present moment.
Each chapter concludes with a “Couch Potato Contemplation,” leading the reader into deeper contemplation of that chapter’s content, and an “Action Plan” for putting the material into action right away. These features help bring the “happiness” suggestions to a practical level for immediate use. Throughout the book, there are scannable images called QR codes that allow users with the downloaded smartphone app to connect directly to videos of Lama Marut’s additional teaching on the information presented in that section of the book. (For those without smartphones, the videos can also be accessed online via links printed in the book.)
Marut’s philosophy in this book is heavily based on the concept of karma and its effect on our lives; consequently, to my mind he could have done a better job of defending the validity of karma up front. However, even without a firm grounding in karmic principles, this book offers much for changing our relationship to the idea of happiness as a valid goal and how to achieve that goal through our thoughts and actions.