books

Published: 21/11/2002, Volume II2, No. 5832 Page 31

The Art of Happiness By the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler Publisher: Hodder Mobius.

ISBN: 0340750154. 280 pages.£7.99 (paperback).

How the Irish Saved Civilisation The untold story of Ireland's heroic role from the fall of Rome to the rise of medieval Europe By Thomas Cahill Publisher: Doubleday Books.

ISBN: 0385418493. 246 pages.£9.50 (paperback).

The Art of Happiness recounts conversations between his holiness the Dalai Lama and Dr Howard Cutler, a psychiatrist from Arizona who first met the Dalai Lama in 1982.

One of the interesting developments in the religious sphere today is the coming together of Christianity and Buddhism, which understands virtue much more clearly than Christianity.

This book is a large breath of moral fresh air - training the mind for happiness, as the Dalai Lama puts it.

In Buddhism, feelings of anger, resentment and hatred are understood as not wrong and sinful but as bad for you, impeding the individual pursuit of happiness.

When someone said to the Dalai Lama: 'How you must hate the Chinese for destroying your beautiful Tibetan culture, 'he replied: 'What is the good of that.

It will not stop them and it will do me a great deal of damage.' It would, in fact, impact in his God-instilled movement towards happiness.

To understand this, we need to adopt a radical change in our modern, Western mentality.

I am not a complete, isolated individual with my own prospects and problems.

We are all mutually motivated far more than we can ever realise.

Contemporary thinker René Girard describes us as 'interdividual'.

When you take a strong dislike to someone, something happens in you that shows in their face.

And when something occurs in you to change this feeling, they look different, too.The system of you two that got stuck through negative feeling is free to move again.

This is a book to change your life.

How the Irish Saved Civilisation is very different.

When we think of people as civilised or civilising, the Egyptians and the Greeks, the Italians and French tend to come to mind.

According to common stereotype, the Irish are reckless, charming or morose.

Yet Ireland, a small island on the edge of Europe, which has known neither Renaissance nor Enlightenment, had one moment of glory.

As the Roman Empire fell and the Barbarians descended on Roman cities, looting artifacts and burning books, the Irish, who were just learning to read and write, took up the great labour of copying all western literature.

These scribes then served as conduits through which GrecoRoman and Judeo-Christian cultures were transmitted to the tribes of Europe.

Without these wise monks, who single handedly refounded European civilisation throughout the continent, the world which came after them would have been entirely different - a world without books.

This is a playful and engaging, scholarly account of the story of the saviours of civilisation.