Art of Happiness: Connecting Study and Meditation Practice

Join us on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of the month from 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m at Unity of Charlottesville’s Fillmore House for a new reflection and meditation series based on H.H. the Dalai Lama and psychiatrist Howard Cutler’s bestselling book, The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living.

Advance registration is requested due to space limitations. Learn more about the series below. To register for individual events in the series, click on the links on the right side of this webpage. (Note: on a mobile device, scroll down to the bottom to see the registration links.) 

The first book we are going to engage with in this reflection and meditation group is His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s The Art of Happiness, co-written with the American psychiatrist, Howard Cutler. This book was first published in 1998 and has sold millions of copies. We chose it because it is an excellent introduction to thinking, “How do I apply, and practice, Buddhist principles in the modern world? Won’t I possibly get bogged down by the cultural differences between East and West?”

The dialogue between His Holiness, and the skeptical and rational psychiatrist, reveals how Buddhist teachers actually embrace doubt and scientific thinking. The Dalai Lama has initiated and developed dialogues with many Western scientists including Francisco Varela, Howard Benson, Aaron Beck, Martin Seligman, Richard Davidson, Paul Eckman, Jeremy Hayward, and many others.

As we can all benefit from adopting a ‘beginner’s mind’ in our study of Buddhism, this approach of exposing our doubts and misgivings about an ancient wisdom tradition having relevance in the West can be helpful. In this group, we want to ask, “Can we experience the truth of what these teachings say for ourselves, does it meet the test of our own experience?”

Interestingly, His Holiness affirms that Buddhism needs to always be open to the truth, and has publicly stated that if science proves something about the dharma to be wrong, then Buddhism itself needs to change.

The Art of Happiness also does an excellent job at revealing the personal struggle of His Holiness to live a spiritual and moral life, how he practices what he preaches, his views on the discipline of compassion and how important altruism is to one’s motivation, and many other facets of the mind-training path to happiness. We will take the book one section at a time, going at the speed of the group.