The Dalai Lama’s devotees will no doubt be thrilled by this new offering; others may wonder what distinguishes His Holiness...

Familiar wisdom from the Dalai Lama: a collection of lectures that His Holiness (The Path to Tranquility, 1999, etc.) has delivered in recent years.

The world we live in is now dominated by science and technology, the Dalai Lama observes sadly. But we don’t all have to be reduced to mindless technocrats: we can practice altruism, love, and compassion. Some nonbelievers, His Holiness says, may write off such Pollyanna-ish virtues as applying only to religious folk, but they are imperative for us all. His lectures are filled with aphoristic nuggets: self-discipline can be tough, but it ultimately leads to a life filled with happiness and respect; education should pay as much attention to spiritual development as to developing gray matter; one should be involved in spirituality even if one eschews organized religion; people (and even pets) know when we’re treating them dishonestly or unfairly. It must be said that some of the Dalai Lama’s wisdom is a touch Hallmark-ish: “If one wants more smiles in one’s life, one must create the right conditions for it.” And sometimes he simply serves up the obvious: if you are concerned about your neighbors and you’re friendly, “other people will . . . respond appropriately.” Although not intended as a Buddhist primer, this collection does painlessly introduce readers to concepts like karma and pratityasamutpada (the theory of interdependence). That is its main virtue.

The Dalai Lama’s devotees will no doubt be thrilled by this new offering; others may wonder what distinguishes His Holiness from Robert Fulghum.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2001

ISBN: 0-670-89671-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2000



This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955


A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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