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.