Thursday, October 05, 2006


Book 60: Wisdom from the Dali Lama

actually, i don't remember the name of this book, and it's not the one pictured. i just really like having pictures to accompany each post. this book was more of an inspirational gift book...small and only 116 pages, condensed from the dali lama's previous works. probably the one pictured here. do i usually read things by buddhist monks? no. but my dad reminded me that it's good to sometimes read things with which you don't agree. and my neighbor tony lent me this book and suggested i read it after a recent spiritual conversation, and i said that i would. i am thankful for tony, because he is someone who has totally different beliefs than myself. i find that refreshing. i like the things that we can talk and argue about. oops, dangling preposition.

so, after reading this book, i have too things to say about buddhism. i admit, all i know about it is what i read in this gift book, but here are my two impressions: that it's vague and that it's exhausting. what do i mean by this? well, it's just vague. he talks about how we need to focus on positive emotions, thoughts, and attitudes. we need to have self-confidence and realize our own amazing potential while making ourselves happy. but how one might do that is unexplained. however you might achieve those things is up to you, as long as you don't let hatred or anger into your mind in the thought process. this makes me think that buddha must have smoked a lot of weed. the second observation is that this kind of life path must be difficult and exhausting. basically, one must be happy all the time and never think bad thoughts. that's crazy discipline. it's really up to you and all the goodness deep down to make this philosophy work. but i think his constant exhortations to think good happy thoughts is an admission that we aren't naturally good. more often than not, we seek our own selfish ends, not the good of society or whomever. why should we do this? he mentions in the last chapter that we need to be nice to others so that when we are in need, we'll have friends to catch us. that doesn't sound all that self-sacrificing; it smacks of veiled self-interest.

he talks about the path to enlightenment and happiness and the need to end all suffering. at the same time, he encourages his readers to do what they like. well the world just cannot function like that. without some kind of absolute standard, we cannot live in peace. he mentioned the captivity of his native tibet under chinese rule. the very assertion that this is somehow wrong or immoral, in my opinion, discredited the rest of his statements. communism, in theory, is great. i'm sure that there are some well-meaning officials in china who truly believe that government by the people's republic of china is a wonderful thing, leading to health and happiness. who is the dali lama to say that they are wrong? especially when he advocates everyone doing what they want.

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