Conscious Reads ~ A Review of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s New Book, Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World (& a Giveaway)
My personal journey with Religion is a long one – one I have written about briefly in the past. My upbringing included a bit of Roman Catholicism and a slightly more influential amount of Islam. This combination, along with a diverse environment throughout my school years (which included listening to prayers from different religions in elementary school each morning), led to much confusion – though I am happy to say that I have always been extremely tolerant of others beliefs.
Five years ago was when my Religion-crisis really hit home. The impending birth of my first son had me questioning my belief system – I feared that he too would grow up with the lack of faith that I had my whole life. To be clear, when I say “faith”, I am referring to the feeling of safety and confidence that “everything will be okay”.
Though I do not plan to delve into my deepest thoughts about religion, I will share that my search eventually ended and now I am confident that my children will be raised with the ethics and morals that we want them to have. A part of me still believes however, that religion is a fairly fool-proof way to instill important values into young children (ie. The 10 Commandments). It is clear however, that this could only take one so far, as there are some inherent flaws still prevalent between religious groups.
In his new book “Beyond Religion: Ethics For A Whole World”, His Holiness the Dalai Lama discusses this topic and addresses how he believes we can create a world of ethical citizens, despite the diversity of beliefs and secularism. I actually received a copy of the audiobook for free from Audible.com (you can still receive this with a 14 day trial, though you do have to provide your credit card number now.) This book in particular was read not by the Dalai Lama himself, but by actor Martin Sheen. (I hardly noticed it was him, actually I thought it was Michael Douglas the whole time!)
Once I began listening I immediately knew that I would come to appreciate the book and it would be one I would share in the future. The words are succinct, and the ideas he shares would be hard for anyone to argue.
The beginning of the book, Part I is titled, “A New Vision of Secular Ethics” and touches on extremely relevant thoughts and concepts. In the first chapter, “Our Common Humanity”, HH the Dalai Lama discusses how the word “Secular” has a bad wrap – and can often offend those who are religious. It is important in the context of the book that those reading understand that “secularism” is not a threat to religion.
I was struck by his amazing ability to foresee the possible challenges that his book would face, and how he overcame them without changing his message at all. He clearly wanted to make “Beyond Religion’ accessible to all, and this is a common theme throughout the book.
If you have read any words from the Dalai Lama, you know that he lives and breathes compassion. This is an important element of the book as well. He discusses compassion and well-being in great depth, and eventually provides tools to help us improve on our ability to access compassion.
Part II of the book, titled, “Educating the Heart Through Training the Mind”, is probably the most interesting to me. It is the most comprehensive beginners guide to the both the concept and practice of meditation that I have read or heard. He shares his own meditation schedule which begins at 3:30 am, and discusses a different kind of meditation which I had never heard of – “Mental Cultivation”.
In Chapter 11, “Meditation as Mental Cultivation”, the Dalai Lama shares “some ways to bring mindful awareness into everyday life”, “some ways to develop greater awareness so that we can regulate our emotions,” and “some ways to actively cultivate our inner values.” This form of meditation helps develop critical thinking as well, and is based on the three-level Buddhist approach of understanding, or what I would consider “conscious awareness”. This includes “understanding derived” from “hearing or learning,” “reflection,” and “contemplative experience.”
One of the lines which impacted me most was toward the end of the book, where the Dalai Lama wrote,
“Because we live in an age when much can be done at the touch of a button, some of us may expect to see immediate change in the domain of mental cultivation as well.”……. “Mental cultivation takes time and and effort and involves hard work and sustained motivation.”
I cannot imagine a more relevant book being published this year. It will change your life – if you let it.
CONTEST IS CLOSED. Congrats to Lana!
Recently I shared an Organization Spotlight focused on Acumen Fund, a global venture fund that seeks out local entrepreneurs who are providing long-term solutions to major problems within undeveloped countries.
I first heard of Acumen Fund CEO Jacqueline Novogratz giving a speech over at TED. I was so intrigued I bought a copy of her memoir, The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich And Poor in an Interconnected World. This book truly inspired me and allowed me to see the world of philanthropy in a much different light.
The Blue Sweater is part memoir and part practical guide for those looking to enter the world of philanthropy, or for those seeking to make a difference in the world. Novogratz reveals the details of her career switch from a Chase Manhattan employee on Wall Street, to a doe-eyed Non-profit employee working in Rwanda helping small businesses grow.
The trial and errors that Novogratz experienced throughout the years serve as a compelling story, but most important, they lay out the groundwork for Charities and would-be philanthropists, presenting feasible ideas on where to begin to tackling world poverty issues.
Novogratz proves throughout the book that she is an extremely strong woman, her experiences in Africa in particular attest to this. She spent much time in Rwanda helping a small bakery owned by women blossom and grow, and paints a beautiful picture of how the group worked together to thrive.
Recently Jay arrived home with a stack of books for me. He picked them up at a used Book Sale, grabbing anything he thought may interest us. There were quite a few interesting selections, and one stood out to me right away. A small red soft-cover book titled, Personhood: The Art of Being Fully Human by Leo F. Buscaglia, Ph. D.
I could see that the book was older by looking at the cover, and I had never before heard of Buscaglia. After doing a bit of research, I discovered that he eventually earned the nickname, Dr. Love, by focusing his later work on taking a close look at the relationships between individuals. In 1994 he released Love: What Life Is All About and just four years later, he passed away at the age of 74.
This review is actually a bit of a teaser, with the full review coming soon. But for today I wanted to share some of what I have read in Chapter 4, Growing As The Fully Functioning Human. In the early part of the chapter, Buscaglia touches on how personal growth often comes to fruition and the reality that humans have to really work to grow. For permanent change, it does not usually come easily.
There is no school for living, and a dearth of teachers of life. If we look to formal education for answers, we are most often given knowledge without judgment and facts without meaning. If we expect answers from religion we are often persuaded to make the leap in to faith, for which many of us are sorely unprepared. When we are incapable of complying, we are often made to feel incompetent and dependent. If we try to learn from life itself we find that often it seems full of unforeseen dirty tricks for which we are not ready and from which we seem to gleam little. If we attempt to learn from examples, we find too few models.
It is only when we can no longer cope and fall under the pain and strain of non-fulfillment that we are forced to obtain some help or make some change. Usually this is simply a token adjustment- vague and temporary- before we are returned to “real” life, as ill prepared as before.
We are faced with a reality that if we wish to live fully and in harmony of life, we will have to become self-motivated students. We will have to be ready to risk, look inside ourselves, and proceed through trial and error. The job will be mainly ours, we will be required to be our own mentors.
I look forward to sharing more of the beautiful ideas that are brought forth in Buscaglia’s writings. The actual review of Personhood is coming soon.