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Excerpted from The Art of Happiness by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler, M.D. Copyright © 1998 by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler, M.D. Excerpted by permission of Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.  HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.
 


"As we conversed, I soon discovered that we had some hurdles to overcome as we struggled to reconcile our different perspectives: his as a Buddhist monk, and mine as a Western psychiatrist."

Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness, Part 3

As we conversed, I soon discovered that we had some hurdles to overcome as we struggled to reconcile our different perspectives: his as a Buddhist monk, and mine as a Western psychiatrist. I began one of our first sessions, for example, by posing to him certain common human problems, illustrating with several lengthy case histories. Having described a woman who persisted in self-destructive behaviors despite the tremendous negative impact on her life, I asked him if he had an explanation for this behavior and what advice he could offer. I was taken aback when after a long pause and reflection, he simply said, "I don’t know," and shrugging his shoulders, laughed good-naturedly.

Noting my look of surprise and disappointment at not receiving a more concrete response, the Dalai Lama said, "Sometimes it’s very difficult to explain why people do the things they do… You’ll often find that there are no simple explanations. If we were to go into the details of individual lives, since a human being’s mind is so complex, it would be quite difficult to understand what is going on, what exactly is taking place."

I thought that he was being evasive. "But as a psychotherapist, my task is to find out why people do the things that they do…"

Once again, he broke into the laugh that many people find so extraordinary – a laugh saturated with humor and goodwill, unaffected, unembarrassed, beginning with a deep resonance and effortlessly climbing several octaves to end in a high pitch of delight.

"I think that it would be extremely difficult to try and figure out how the minds of five billion people work," he said, still laughing. "It would be an impossible task! From the Buddhist viewpoint, there are many factors contributing to any given event or situation… There can be so many factors at play, in fact, that sometimes you may never have a full explanation of what's going on, at least not in conventional terms."

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