D.V. Pasupuleti,
Change Your Mind:
A Neurologist's Guide
to Happiness

(Synergy, 2006)

Self-help and how-to books abound on just about every topic, so why shouldn't one provide advice on achieving happiness? Dr. D.V. Pasupuleti, a neurologist and professor based in Michigan, wrote this book based on his own introspection, religious study and interactions with patients. He maintains the only way anyone can reach true happiness is through self-awareness and self-knowledge. "A person with self-knowledge, who has no likes or dislikes, and who isn't hung up on the positives or negatives of life, has no fear of the world. That person enjoys happiness at all times." (p. 243) The book concludes with Pasupuleti's "Five Golden Rules for Happiness," which are basic affirmations suitable for posting around the house as reminders. "I am content, complete and limitless" is one of them.

Unfortunately, the author doesn't provide any exercises or guidance for generating the kind of introspection necessary for self-knowledge. He prefers to hint at the process, saying he's providing only pieces of the puzzle so individuals can figure it out themselves after several readings of his book. And though the author claims Change Your Mind "is not about psychology, theology, philosophy, or religion," (p. 9) a substantial portion of the text addresses those very topics. Entire chapters include discussions about the creation of the universe, the individual's relationship with God, the definition of heaven and hell and the benefit of prayer. To Pasupuleti's credit, he evens the playing field by saying mankind's various religions have more similarities than differences, and that specific practice hardly matters. "I can guarantee you that terrorism will fade away over a period of time if we teach children at home and in school that all religions are the same in their essential teachings and differ only in nonessential aspects and that no single religion is superior to another religion or has a monopoly on God or one's personal salvation." (p. 145) This is a noble remark, indeed, and one some folks are apt to disagree with. Why is it hidden in a guidebook about happiness?

A bit disturbing is the author's own demeanor regarding his colleagues in the medical profession. The reader gets the impression that Pasupuleti isn't well liked by some of the people he works with, and he doesn't care. Though he faces "negative situations on a daily basis," he continues to strive for patient advocacy. "Even if I am one against hundreds of my colleagues, it does not make me weak and I do not get scared. Temporarily, I may not be invited to everybody's house for dinners, or they may try to make me an outcast. Despite my entire professional and educational background, and the good name I have among patients and peers, certain people don't stop doing things to oppose me. If I give up and join them, play by their rules and standards, than the purpose is lost. Then I am also like people who have no interest in attaining self-knowledge." (p. 255) That doesn't sound like a happy situation. Are we to believe that the achievement of personal happiness comes only by sacrificing the ability to work and play well with others? Each reader must ultimately decide.

A similar book that is much easier to understand and implement is The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living (Riverhead Books, 1998) by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and psychiatrist Howard C. Cutler. Conversations between the two men cover happiness, compassion, romance and a variety of everyday situations. Individuals looking for a more concrete, step-by-step approach to the subject should pick up How to Live Nobly & Well: Timeless Principles for Achieving True Success & Lasting Happiness (Sophia Institute Press, 1999) by Jesuit priest Edward F. Garesche. His short chapters address such practical issues as "Learn to do without nonessentials" and "Develop your power of observation."

No matter which of these books you consult, the underlying message is the same: being happy is an innate human condition that is not based on the accumulation of material items or wealth. It is a conscious choice that an individual makes, and a relatively easy one, at that.

by Corinne H. Smith
16 September 2006

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