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A Dalai Lama Reading List

The 14th Dalai Lama, Lhamo Thondup, Gejong Tenzin Gyatsho (also Tenzin Gyatso,) is called Sku ‘dun (pronounced “Kundun”) out of respect, which means literally “the presence before us.” He spent his early years between the Potala and the Nor bu gling kha summer palace, studying Buddhism under the supervision of scholarly Dge lugs pa monks. This altered suddenly in 1950 when, at the age of fifteen, a political predicament forced the Tibetan government to ask him to undertake both political and spiritual authority.

When Mao Zedong declared Tibet an integral part of the Chinese homeland and China’s Red Army marched in to Tibet, easily defeating the badly equipped Tibetans in 1950 at on the traditional border between central and eastern Tibet. In despondency, Tibet’s political leaders invested the young Dalai Lama with full political authority. In 1951 China forced a totally conquered Tibet to sign the Seventeen Point Agreement in which it was declared that Tibet had always been a part of China.

The Dalai Lama finished his traditional studies in 1959. Soon after, when the Chinese army suppressed a Tibetan uprising in Lhasa protesting tightening Chinese control, the Dalai Lama fled as a refugee to India. He was eventually followed by about 100,000 of his people. Now he travels widely, giving explanations of Buddhist teaching and exchanging ideas with scientists and leaders of other faiths.

  • 'The Art of Happiness' by Dalai Lama (ISBN 1594488894) The Art of Happiness (2009) … In the Dalai Lama’s best-selling tome, he sits down with Dr. Howard Cutler to investigate the keys to happiness in the face of life’s complications. From anxiety, anger, and discouragement to relationships and loss, the Dalai Lama presents how we can find inner peace amongst the problems of modern life.
  • Ethics for the New Millennium (2001) … The Dalai Lama offers a moral philosophy based on universal rather than religious principles. Its definitive goal is happiness for every individual, regardless of religious beliefs. Reasoning for basic human goodness, he points out that the number of violent or dishonest people is tiny compared to the great majority who wish others well.
  • For the Benefit of All Beings: A Commentary on The Way of the Bodhisattva (2009) … The Way of the Bodhisattva by Shantideva is one of the best-loved texts of Mahayana Buddhism and a distinct preference of the Dalai Lama’s own Buddhist tradition. With this classic text as his guide, he shows how all of us can develop a good heart and aspire to become enlightened for the sake of all beings.
  • The Essence of the Heart Sutra (2005) … The Heart Sutra is a core text of Mahayana Buddhism, declaring its central doctrine that all things are empty of self. The Dalai Lama offers his interpretation on the Heart Sutra and places the text in historical and philosophical context. Since the Dalai Lama’s Gelugpa school concentrates in the philosophy of emptiness, this is an authoritative discussion of one of the world’s foundational religious texts.
  • 'A Profound Mind' by Dalai Lama (ISBN 0385514689) A Profound Mind: Cultivating Wisdom in Everyday Life (2012) … In Buddhism, wisdom is defined as the realization of non-self. The Dalai Lama unpacks the Buddhist view of emptiness and explains why it helps us lead a more meaningful, happy, and loving life. Using the arduous logic for which he is famous, he takes us on a step-by-step journey to understanding the reality of unselfishness.
  • My Land and My People (1997) and Freedom in Exile (2008) … The Dalai Lama’s first autobiography, My Land and My People, was published in 1962, just three years after he reinstated himself in India and before he became an international celebrity. His second autobiography, Freedom in Exile, was released in 1990. The Dalai Lama regards both as accurate and reissued My Land and My People in 1997 to coincide with the release of the film Kundun, saying, “The sense of immediacy and urgency in my writing then would be difficult to recreate today.”
  • The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality (2006) … Discussing Darwinism, quantum mechanics, neurobiology, meditation, and the study of consciousness, the Dalai Lama draws substantial parallels between the scientific and contemplative examinations of reality. His conclusion is that these different approaches to understanding ourselves, our universe, and one another can be brought together in the service of humanity.
  • Toward a True Kinship of Faiths (2011) … Interfaith harmony, the Dalai Lama argues, does not require accepting that all religions are fundamentally the same or that they lead to the same place. He shows how believers can be pluralist with regard to other religions without compromising their commitment to their own faith.
  • 'Beyond Religion' by Dalai Lama (ISBN 054784428X) Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World (2012) … The Dalai Lama is one of the world’s most famous religious leaders, yet he often supports a nonreligious path to an ethical, happy, and truly spiritual life. Transcending the religion wars, he outlines a system of ethics for our shared world and makes a stirring appeal for deep appreciation of our common humanity.
  • Stages of Meditation (2003) … The Dalai Lama explains the principles of meditation in a practice-oriented format especially suited to Westerners. Topics include the nature of mind, developing compassion and loving-kindness, and how to establish a union of calm abiding and insight. He draws on a favorite text that he calls “a key that opens the door to all other major Buddhist scriptures.”
  • Dzogchen: Heart Essence of the Great Perfection (2004) … The Dzogchen teachings are the heart essence of the ancient Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Exploring this mysterious subject in print for the first time, the Dalai Lama offers comprehensions into one of Buddhism’s most profound systems of meditation. He discusses both the philosophic foundations and practices of Dzogchen and explains why it is called “the pinnacle of all vehicles.”
  • How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life (2003) … Buddhism is often described as the practice of samadhi, prajna, and shila—meditation, wisdom, and morality. The Dalai Lama breaks down the Buddhist path into a series of distinct steps we can take to practice these three components of enlightenment. This accessible book will help you open your heart, refrain from doing harm, and maintain mental tranquility.
  • 'The World of Tibetan Buddhism' by Dalai Lama (ISBN 0861710975) The World of Tibetan Buddhism: An Overview of Its Philosophy and Practice (2005) … In this book, the Dalai Lama delivers a survey of the entire Buddhist path that is both concise and profound, accessible and engaging. He writes, “I think an overview of Tibetan Buddhism for the purpose of providing a comprehensive framework of the path may prove helpful in deepening your understanding and practice.”
  • Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions (2017) … The Dalai Lama joins with American Buddhist nun Thubten Chodron to map out the convergences and the divergences between the Mahayana and Theravada schools of Buddhism. They examine the different ways these traditions treat foundational Buddhist principles such as the four noble truths, meditation practice, and the meaning of enlightenment.
  • How to See Yourself as You Really Are (2007) … The Dalai Lama explains how we recognize and dispel misguided notions of self and embrace the world from a more realistic—and loving—perspective. Through step-by-step exercises, The Dalai Lama helps readers see the world as it actually exists and explains how, through the interconnection of meditative concentration and love, true altruistic enlightenment is attained.
  • An Open Heart: Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life (2002) … How does one actually become a compassionate person? What are the mechanisms by which a selfish heart is transformed into a generous heart? In An Open Heart, the Dalai Lama writes simply and powerfully about the everyday Buddhist practice of compassion, offering a clear and practical introduction to the Buddhist path to enlightenment.
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The 14th Dalai Lama’s Favorite Buddhist Prayer

Dalai Lama

Here’s the Dalai Lama’s Favorite Prayer. It is a passage from Shantideva’s Bodhisattvacaryavatara.

As long as space endures
As long as sentient beings remain
May I, too, prevail
To dispel the misery of the world

And, in his acceptance speech at The Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in 1989, the Dalai Lama asserted,

I pray for all of us, oppressor and friend, that together we succeed in building a better world through human understanding and love, and that in doing so we may reduce the pain and suffering of all sentient beings.

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