Joy in the Face of Adversity?

I know joy quite well; I’ve experienced its ecstasy, I’ve written many poems about joy and happiness but when the Book of Joy was recommended to me, I was intrigued by it, as it is based on the conversation of two renowned spiritual masters and friends – the Dalai Lama XIV and Desmond Tutu, (and reported by Douglas Carlton Abrams.)

So I am reading ‘The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World’ and must share my thoughts about it. When I started reading this book, I thought I know all this – I know suffering ennobles us, I know pain is essential for our emotional and mental growth, I know struggles make us stronger but this book made me ponder, followed me at my walks, haunted me with a number of questions and humbled me beyond words. The hubris of knowing and only knowing, not practicing, melted like thin air around me.

Living with joy even in the face of adversity! Doesn’t it seem outrageous? Only exalted souls can make such a statement and I read with added interest how one could find joy in difficult situations. 

Is it possible to be joyful in the face of our daily troubles? The answer lies within us, says the Dalai Lama, “The ultimate source of happiness is inside, not outside. Even the source of physical health is inside, not outside.”
We know that happiness is a state of mind, an attitude that needs to be cultivated but the “source of physical health too is inside?” I was bewildered by this thought and have been trying to figure out the ways to understand this.

When asked that “nothing can be more devastating than being exiled from your home, from the things that are really precious to you and yet to have wonderful serenity on your face and wonderful compassion in your heart,” the Nobel Peace Laureate enlightens us that fleeing from Tibet gave him “more opportunity to learn, to experience life.” He further says, “If you look from one angle, you feel, oh how bad, how sad. But if you look from another angle at the same tragedy, that same event, you see that it gave me more opportunities.” 

Perspective matters.
This book inspires us to “ take a holistic view” of a problem or a situation to respond to it in a more constructive manner. When we have a wider perspective, we have a natural understanding of our place in the situation. “We must look at any given situation or problem from the front and from the back, from the sides, from the top and the bottom, so from at least six different angles,” says the global spiritual leader. “One need not depend on religious faith to educate our inner values.” 

The conversation between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu is most light-hearted, exuding with love and friendship; realistic and humorous at places yet it touches the core of your heart. I was stunned by the positivity of these observations: 
“When you become a refugee, you get closer to life.” 
“Torture and hard labor tests your inner strength. Some lose hope, some keep going, education has very little to do with survival in such circumstances. It is the inner spirit that matters.”

Personal experiences are cited to emphasize that “the depth of our suffering can also result in the height of our joy.” If there is no way to overcome the tragedy, there is no use worrying too much about it. We cannot control the inevitability of occurrences but we could influence their effect in our life by adjusting our attitude toward them. So it is all about the perspective.

You must remember that “there are eight pillars of joy: four are the qualities of mind – perspective, humor, humility and acceptance.
Four are the qualities of heart – forgiveness, gratitude, compassion and generosity.”

This book is neither religious nor spiritual yet it could be a life-changing book for those who wallow in self-pity, who can’t think beyond self, who seek happiness in material things, who chase success and contentment. It is not about some “abstract or aspirational theory of joy;” it talks about life in a simple way. It discusses fear, grief, frustration, anger, loneliness, envy and self-centered attitude, which create most of our suffering. Don’t forget, says the Archbishop “you are a masterpiece in the making. You are not yet perfect.”

Joy in the face of adversity comes with resilience, it comes when we learn to move beyond our suffering, when we train our mind and develop “mental immunity,” when we learn to “avoid the destructive emotions and develop the positive ones.”

Have you trained your mind to this level?

One reading of this book may not be enough!

Thank you.
Balroop Singh.

50 thoughts on “Joy in the Face of Adversity?

  1. This has given me a totally new and different perspective on joy and happiness. It matters not the situation then, true happiness comes from within, not from external factors. Oh sweet, thanks for sharing this. 👍

    1. I am glad this little piece has stirred your thoughts. I am trying to understand many words of wisdom that have been shared in this book. 😊 Thank you for standing by to share your thoughts.

  2. This book sounds amazing, Balroop. I’m always amazed at the power of perspective, and the passage about looking at situations from six different angles is simple and profound at the same time. The eight pillars of joy is something I’m going to spend some time thinking about today. Thanks for sharing this wonderful book. 🙂

    1. This book is indeed inspiring Diana, it makes us question our inner self, it makes us realize how little our suffering is if we see around us. We are so familiar with the eight pillars but how much do they guide our perspective is what makes me think and think! Thank you for sharing your thoughts dear friend. Happy reading.

    1. I agree with you Jill, life sounds less challenging if we understand the basics that this book discusses. Thank you for coming over to read my thoughts about it.

  3. I think I would love this book, Balroop. I agree with everything said here. Perspective is everything! Thanks for sharing!

    1. You are so right Kamal, what we need is developing our inner values to match the living we visualize for us. 😊 Thanks for adding your input.

    1. Yes Robbie, such books are generally overlooked, as they sound heavy but not this one. It sounds simple and friendly. We need reminders to think beyond ourselves! 😊

  4. Thanks for sharing, Balroop! Adding The Book of Joy to my TBR. I think that joy is one of those things we all seek, but one of those things that can only come from within as we commune with our Creator. .

  5. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post about this book. I kept nodding in excitement – for it kept aligning with some of my experiences that I didn’t feel very understood for, for a long time in the general world around me.
    “the depth of our suffering can also result in the height of our joy” – this learning came as a visceral experience to me, I would not have known the amazing pure joy without the deep suffering that I now think I was ‘gifted’ with. Actually I feel I felt the truest joy of my being while I was consciously finding my way through the suffering – I have never been that close to myself without the grief that carried me through it. Often when I veer away in the worldly ways of being, I miss those magical times when the smile and glow on me was other worldly, because of the perspectives that I had managed to bring to the situations I was going through. So much of my poetry in those times came out of these revelations, I had such good humor about life 🙂 The 8 pillars are such ongoing cultivation – I am forever gloriously finding my way through and towards embodying them in renewed ways as needed.

    1. I am happy to hear that you could relate to the experiences that have been shared in this book Prag. In fact I too kept nodding while I was reading the words of wisdom that have been shared by the spiritual masters. It is only when we emerge from suffering that we can feel how precious the joy is! My book Emerging from Shadows focuses on these themes.
      Thank you for sharing your personal experiences dear friend, much appreciated. 🤗💕

  6. Thank you, Balroop ji, for this extensive review. I’m thankful to Robbie for directing me to your post. I’m sure I can learn much from the book; the wisdom in it is definitely the need of the hour and one that many around can do with. Thank you, again for sharing this review. I’ll pick it up and am sharing your post.

    1. I don’t consider myself to be wise enough to review such a book, which records the conversation of renowned spiritual masters. I have just tried to share my thoughts with my blogger buddies, I am just trying to understand the depth of words of wisdom. Yes, a young person like you would find many meaningful ways of facing life by reading this book. Life itself is a great teacher Smitha. Thank you for standing by to share your thoughts.

  7. This sounds like one for the home library! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this intriguing book, Balroop. I like this quote: “you are a masterpiece in the making. You are not yet perfect.” So true! Also remembering that our loved ones are also not perfect so not to expect perfection. It’s not as easily done as we might think. I’m still working on the idea of rising up over the obstacles.

    1. That is exactly what the great spiritual leader says – it is not easy, it takes time but to emerge from difficult situations is within us. We have to change our perspective to understand whatever is before us. 😊

  8. This sounds like an enlightening read, Balroop. No one is perfect, and I assume we’ve all slipped into the “wallowing world” but if we crawl out, permitting the light to guide us, that’s what counts. Moving forward. I’ll definitely buy this book. It can only enhance the journey ahead. I love this quote: “We must look at any given situation or problem from the front and from the back, from the sides, from the top and the bottom, so from at least six different angles,”
    Thanks for sharing! 💞

    1. Enhancing the journey of life is in our own hands Lauren, this is definitely one of the messages of this book and it has been conveyed in a very simple way, with personal examples. Thank you for sharing your views dear friend. Happy reading. 🤗

  9. I loved this, Balroop: You must remember that “there are eight pillars of joy: four are the qualities of mind – perspective, humor, humility and acceptance.
    Four are the qualities of heart – forgiveness, gratitude, compassion and generosity.”
    If we lived our lives incorporating those principles imagine how peaceful it would be ❤

    1. So true Jacquie, we know the way to peace yet some people refuse to see it, disrupting the lives of others! Arrogance and power race are the worst blinders!

  10. A perfect book to read at any time but especially now. We are responsible for our own happiness but we all need reminding. Thanks for this wonderful review, Balroop.

  11. I wish I could say that I’ve trained my mind to this level. I have not, but I do work on it, and consider finding joy in the face of adversity an ongoing work in progress. This sounds like a thoroughly amazing book, Balroop. What a great share!

    1. I am far behind Mae, I am still asking myself… how can one find joy in the face of adversity? Joy is not a commodity that can be found or bought, it comes from within, from the state of mind, probably from our positivity, which fails us in difficult situations. 😊

  12. This sounds an interesting book,Balroop!
    We all look for happiness ioutside
    When true happiness lies within
    Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.

  13. The only way forward for humanity is to practice what we’d like to see unfolding in the world. It’s a moment to moment awareness and practice. Great post, Balroop. 🙏❤️

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