Dalai Lama: How to Practice

How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life is a brief guidebook to Buddhist thought and practice.

Are you interested in a quick look at His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s philosophy? Or are you hoping to pick up some meditation tips? Or are you devoted to attaining enlightenment? This book has value for all three quests.

For 10 years, I have been puzzled about possible conflicting values from Buddhist teachings and reality. The exiled leader of Tibet promotes liberation from wants, not just for monastics, but lay people too. That means no expensive clothing and other high-cost material goods. But, during a 2009 visit to a Buddhist monastery in China, I saw monks with top-of-the-line cell phones and even one who drove a BMW.

“I thought Buddhist monks were to live a simple life and avoid attachment to material belongings,” I said to a woman guiding a group as one monk talked on his cell phone.

She quickly answered. “This is modern Buddhism. Some monks even drive expensive cars.”

What do you think?

I wonder what the Dalai Lama would say. He flies mostly on chartered planes and, on the rare occasion that he joins a commercial flight, I hear he is upgraded (free) to business or first class. Is this consistent with his philosophy?

Nonetheless, the Dalai Lama has devoted his life to his teachings around the world, urging followers to do no harm and to help others. He writes specifics about these two virtuous actions in this book.

Not a Buddhist? Or are you non-religious? I don’t think it matters because in this book you will discover wisdom for any life that looks for morality, calm, and selflessness.

Opioid, Indiana: A Boy Searches

Riggle, a 17-year-old orphan living with his uncle, is suspended from school for a week for vaping and for his sarcastic tongue.

Opioid, Indiana, is the story of the boy’s week as his drug-addicted uncle disappears and $800 in rent for their apartment is due Friday. As he tells his story, Riggle relates his complicated past that brought him from Texas searching for stability.

As he tries to make sense of his world, the boy journeys back in time when his mother was alive and used shadow puppets to tell stories about how the days of the week got their names. And he shares how his parents died, leaving him scarred, homeless, and confused.

Author Brian Allen Carr guides Riggle and a cast of misfits through a week of adventure and the issues of racism, sexuality, Confederate flags, and the age of Trump. I was both baffled and uplifted by the youth’s life and decisions, but I always wanted to find out what was around the next corner.

And I rooted for Riggle all the way.