Best Quotes from The Book of Joy

About a month ago, I finished The Book of Joy, which narrates a series of conversations between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The main premise of the book is how one can cultivate and maintain long-lasting joy in a world where joy can be so difficult to obtain. I picked this book up on a whim at Target run, unaware of the fact of how much it would ultimately shift my perspective.


At the time, I was relatively new to self-help books, so I felt uncertain as to whether or not I’d actually get through this book. The only thing I knew is that if I can’t get at least one little nugget of wisdom from the Dalai Lama then I was doomed. (Spoiler alert: there were a lot of good nuggets of wisdom. Hence, this blog post).


Whenever I read a self-help book, I tab the parts that force me to go back and re-read them because they were so remarkable. Throughout this book, I had A LOT of little tabs, which is a good sign.


Lucky for you, I’ve scanned back over my little-tabbed spots and picked some of my favorites. You don’t even have to read the whole book to hear these powerful messages (though I HIGHLY recommend that you do). If you do decide to get the book, I wrote the page numbers for my copy so you can get a more in-context view.


(Note: these are in no particular order other than chronological).
  • “All of a sudden a car cut across the lanes in front of us and the Archbishop has to swerve out of the way to avoid hitting the other car. ‘There are some truly amazing drivers on the road!’ the Archbishop said with exasperation and a head-shaking chuckle. I asked him what went through his head at moments like this, and he said that perhaps the driver was on his way to the hospital because his wife was giving birth or a relative was sick. There it was. He reacted with the inevitable and uncontrollable surprise, which is one of our instinctual responses, but then instead of taking the low road of anger, he took the high road of humor, acceptance, and compassion. And it was gone: no fuming, no lingering frustration, no raised blood pressure.”
  • “My friend Gordon Wheeler, who is a psychologist, explains that grief is the reminder of the depth of our love. Without love, there is no grief. So when we feel our grief, uncomfortable and aching as it may be, it is actually a reminder of the beauty of that love, now lost.”
  • “Joy, it seemed, was a strange alchemy of mind over matter. The path to joy, like with sadness, did not lead away from suffering and adversity but through it.”
  • “The Archbishop had once explained to me that suffering can either embitter us or ennoble us and that the difference lies in whether we are able to find meaning in our suffering. Without meaning, when suffering seems senseless, we can easily become embittered. But when we can find a shred of meaning or redemptions in our suffering, it can ennoble us.”
  • “While we may not be special, we are essential. No one can fulfill our role but us in the divine plan or karmic unfolding.”
  • “…there is an important distinction between forgiveness and simply allowing others’ wrongdoing. Sometimes people misunderstand and think that forgiveness means you accept or approve of a wrongdoing. No, this is not the case. We must make an important distinction…The actor and action, or the other person and what he has done. Where the wrong action is concerned, it may be necessary to take appropriate counteraction to stop it. Toward the actor, or the person, however, you can choose not to develop anger and hatred. This is where the power of forgiveness lies – not losing sight of the humanity of the other person while responding to the wrong with clarity and firmness.”
  • “When you are grateful, you are not fearful, and when you are not fearful, you are not violent. When you are grateful, you act out of a sense of enough and not out of a sense of scarcity, and you are willing to share. If you are grateful, you are enjoying the differences between people and respectful to all people. A grateful world is a world of joyful people. Grateful people are joyful people. A grateful world is a happy world.”

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