Book Review — The Dalai Lama’s Little Book of Buddhism

Discipline is the supreme ornament and, whether worn by old, young or middle-aged, it gives birth to happiness.
Dalai Lama XIV

The Dalai Lama is one of the most recognized men in the world. For such a surprisingly well-known person in the modern world and, outside of China, he has few enemies. Business leaders pay to hear him speak, although he has much more in common with Marx than Adam Smith. He is a man of compassion and peace. His exile from Tibet, although devastating, is probably what has brought him to the world stage and allowed his voice to be heard.

The Dalai Lama’s Little Book of Buddhism is an introduction to Buddhist beliefs. The belief system is formed around a few core beliefs, but none of them have to with a deity. It is about discovery. From the introduction:

“So Buddha might have been wrong, the Dalai Lama might be wrong. Actually they both encourage us to try to find out where they do go wrong.”

That is quite a statement to make about a belief system and quite a system to allow such a statement. In Buddhism, it is recognized that all is change. It is also a belief system that sees purpose in all things:

“The creatures that inhabit this earth — be they human beings or animals — are here to contribute, each in their own particular way, to the beauty and prosperity of the world.”

This ties into the vegetarianism. Buddhism does not explicitly prohibit the consumption of meat. It is killing that is prohibited. Buddha did, however, prohibit the eating of any meat that was killed on the Buddhist’s behalf. Others find some conflict with eating meat and the first precept “I undertake the precept to refrain from taking life.” The Dalai Lama agrees with the former. He tells the reader that animals have toiled to make our lives more comfortable — from our food to our clothes — and we should be thankful to all our fellow creatures. It does make me wonder what Buddha would say about modern industrialized meat production.

Importantly, much of what Buddism is is in our minds. The mind is our tool that must be sharpened. We must be aware of our actions. We must develop a stable and calm mind that remains so even in the hardest of times. It is in the time of greatest adversity that the potential to do good, for others and ourselves, is the greatest.

This book is quite small, smaller even still when one realizes there is a lengthy introduction and the last third of the book is a glossary and a mini biography of the Dalai Lama. That being said, there is a wealth of information in the Dalai Lama’s words. It almost seems like the book is condensed and the act of reading it expands it exponentially. I have only covered a few points in this review and feel that I could write more than what was written if given the opportunity. An excellent introduction to Buddhism and an excellent sermon for those already on the path.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Book Review — The Dalai Lama’s Little Book of Buddhism

  1. And HH the Dalai Lama only speaks about Tibetan Buddhism, so there all the other Buddhist schools and sects to consider as well. 🙂 It surprised me to learn that HH does eat meat, as do a lot of Tibetans, because it was pretty hard to grow other food sources in Tibet. Apparently HH eats meat for health reasons, although what that might mean is not clear to me.

    I find Tibetan Buddhism fairly impenetrable because it is so intertwined with Tibetan cultural beliefs and practices. The basic tenets are the same, but not all Buddhists believe in reincarnation, or a spirit world, etc.

    It was that ‘try me and see if any good comes of it’ attitude to practising Buddhism that attracted me to it. No one tries to tell you they know the ‘truth’, in fact, they say the truth is unknowable and it just doesn’t matter anyway. 🙂

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