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Tibet's spiritual leader offers insights
Bangkok Post, Aug 25, 2001


Bangkok -- 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.

HIS HOLINESS 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 various themes.

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.

Material 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?

Throughout the 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.

The second 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 and conflict.

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.

His Holiness 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.

Deliberation on 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.


Updated: 29-8-2001

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