Every soul walking on this planet desires something. Love, friendship, relationships, health, money, success… it could be an endless list. But if we look deeper into the valley of our desires and aspirations, we may find that we are all just looking for happiness, under different labels and in varied forms. French writer and Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard explores this and more in his book Happiness: A guide to developing life’s most important skill. To drive home the definition of happiness, the author draws on his Buddhist teachings explaining why “happiness is the goal of all goals”.
Tackling a complex subject with effortless ease, Ricard begins the book by concluding what happiness is. It is an unorthodox approach by the bestselling author as compared to other similar works where the truth is revealed right at the end. With this approach, the Buddhist writer inspires a clear understanding of happiness using scientific research and Buddhist philosophy, which he studied under Tibetan masters in India and Nepal, and eventually became a monk.
Ricard proposes that happiness is the presence of wisdom and peace, blossoming on the inside as compared to the weeds of self-gratification and self-absorption that grow on the outside. That even if someone has most of their desires fulfilled— Love, friendship, relationships, health, money, success—they could still be as unhappy as someone who is still longing for these things.
The book urges people to look within to achieve true contentment in life, and to be aware of the choices they make at every crossroads. Ricard explains his credence through the stories of countless people—fellow Buddhist philosophers, a Japanese astronomer, an economist, poets, a Harvard professor, a Taiwanese singer, a Tibetan hermit, and many more. This way, Ricard perfectly blends the researches and philosophies of the West and the East, for readers to see ‘what happiness looks like’.
The book is a testament of Ricard’s insight as a spiritual teacher and a scientist. Happiness: A guide to developing life’s most important skill is a fine commentary on happiness, and a repository of life lessons learnt by the author. It is truly the soul-searcher’s guide to finding and embracing happiness.