spiritual leader offers insights
Bangkok Post, Aug 25, 2001
When Tibet was invaded by Chinese troops some 50 years ago, not many people knew that
the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, was the Tibetan head of state, and neither was he
considered one of the greatest spiritual leaders of our time. It was not until His
Holiness the Dalai Lama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 when the world turned its
attention to Tibet and his plea for world peace and non-violence.
THE DALAI LAMA: In My Own Words is a collection of the Dalai Lama's thoughts on issues
that are often close to us _ happiness, love, trouble, death, religious belief. The book
is divided into 12 chapters, and each contains excerpts from his speeches and talks on
For example, the
first chapter, "Looking for Happiness in a Secular Society", seeks to describe
the essence of real happiness. How do we define happiness and how do we attain it? For the
Dalai Lama, there are many ways to gain happiness. We human beings can be happy by sharing
our happiness with others who are in need of help. We must give more and take less.
According to the
Dalai Lama, it is dangerous to believe that money and material wealth will bring true
happiness. Money can purchase many things and bring about sensory satisfactions, and yet
money, by itself, can never bring full satisfaction into our lives.
accumulation can, indeed, become a source of suffering in and of itself _ it causes
anxiety and a sense of possession.
Money can ruin
us, both mentally and emotionally.
As the Dalai Lama
put it, "no matter how wealthy we are, we have only 10 fingers on which to display
our rings." What is the point of acquiring more wealth than we really need?
book, the Dalai Lama emphasizes the importance of developing within ourselves the virtues
of love, compassion and kindness.
"As long as
there is a lack of the inner discipline that brings calmness of mind, no matter what
external facilities or conditions you have, they will never give you the feeling of joy
and happiness that you are seeking. On the other hand, if you possess this inner quality
of calmness of mind, a degree of stability within, then even if you lack various external
facilities that you would normally consider necessary for happiness, it is still possible
to live a happy and joyful life," he says.
chapter, "The Real Troublemakers", focuses on the importance of being aware of
what is going on in our minds. He says negative thoughts _ anger, lust, greed or hatred _
destroy our physical and mental health, that they are the real enemy and must be kept in
check at all times.
It must be noted
here that one need not be a Buddhist to understand the Dalai Lama's teachings. This book
is suitable for all.
In giving his
teachings about compassion and non-violence, the Dalai Lama does not attempt to convert
anybody to Buddhism. He believes every religion shares a similar goal of making human
society a better place to live.
Enemies are our
most valuable teachers, he says. Even though China invaded Tibet and continues to
persecute the Tibetan people, the Dalai Lama has continued the plea for non-violence and
stresses the importance of forgiving those who do harm to us.
It may be easier
said than done. To the Dalai Lama, however, forgiveness is a means of eradicating hatred
The idea is
further discussed in chapter nine, "Forgiving the Enemy". This is one of the
most thought-provoking sections in the book, reflecting the loss experienced by all
Tibetans and the Dalai Lama himself at the hands of the Chinese.
emphasises that, with tolerance, patience and compassion, those who are in trouble can
attain true happiness or develop peace of mind. If not, what starts as a mere disagreement
can intensify into a major conflict.
death is an important aspect of the Dalai Lama's daily practice. Chapter 10 _
"Suffering, Impermanence, Death" _ explores the uncertainty of our existence and
the certainty of death.
It is possible to
ignore the prospect of death, but only for a limited time. If we choose to confront it and
analyse its causes, we might succeed in reminding ourselves of the transiency of life.
This awareness may reduce our suffering and enable us to live life to the full. Regardless
of the path we choose, we cannot overcome death. It is a normal process, he says.
Much credit must
be given to compiler and editor, Mary Craig.
This little book
is not heavy reading. It contains a good combination of philosophical wisdom and personal
reflections. Even people who are unfamiliar with the Dalai Lama's teachings will find it
practical and easy to comprehend.