Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Book Review: The World of the Dalai Lama

After seeing and hearing the Dalai Lama at the California conference, I’ve been very interested in reading about him and about Tibetan Buddhism. A trip to the library turned up two excellent books:

* The World of the Dalai Lama: An Inside look at His Life, His People, and His Vision by Gill Farrer-Halls, and
* Transforming the Mind: Teachings on Generating Compassion, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

In addition to being an interesting biography of His Holiness and a short history lesson on the Chinese occupation of Tibet, The World of the Dalai Lama contains page after page of gorgeous photos. Even if you only look at the pictures, I recommend you check out this one.

The book written by the Dalai Lama is a beginner’s guide to Tibetan teachings on thinking positively and compassionately. Although the discussions of emptiness and the seven-point cause-and-effect method were beyond me, I especially enjoyed the transcript from an address His Holiness gave in London in 1999. The speech, titled “Ethics for the New Millennium,” contains many of the points he made at the conference:

* We can either use the time allotted to us properly and constructively or negatively and destructively. The decision is in our hands.

* All human beings are fundamentally the same, with the same potential to transform our own mind and attitudes.

* The gap between rich and poor is very troubling, even in a rich country like the UK or the US.

* The problems in areas of unrest in our world have developed over decades. Besides working on these problems, we must be proactive in taking care of problems now that will result in similar unrest and violence in the future.

* The problem with violence is that it is unpredictable. Violence always creates unexpected implications and counter-violence, so it is the wrong method for the modern era.

* “The future of humanity is very dependent on our own thinking and behavior.” It is imperative that our educational system not only address “intellectuality,” but also secular ethics. Secular, by his definition, does not mean anti-religion, only that religious faith is an individual matter and there are some basic human values that all humans must follow: gentleness and non-violence, compassion, love for others, and respect. This will give us inner strength and self-confidence, which will reduce fear and doubt.

* “The critical importance of inter-religious harmony and understanding…We must ensure that all the major world religions harness the human potential for the betterment of humanity – to serve humanity, and to save the planet – while, in the meantime, we try to reduce conflict waged in the name of religion.”

* “If, from the outset, you feel you can’t do anything because there are difficulties, then that self-defeatist, pessimistic attitude becomes the real source of failure.”

No wonder so many Westerners have become Buddhists and people around the world are enthralled (as I am) with what His Holiness has to tell us.

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