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.

Dalai Lama: Ethics and Life in a Big, Big World

He is the spiritual leader of the people of Tibet, living as a refugee in India for 60 years.

He was Lhamo Thondup at birth. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, he has traveled the world, speaking out on topics well beyond his passions of human rights and Buddhism.

The 14th Dalai Lama, now 84, has authored numerous works, including Beyond Religion, a book I have read and read, and then read again.

One of the most revered leaders in the world, he draws readers into thought about the purpose of life, ethics, and how to be a better and happier person. His appeal crosses nationalities, races, religions, and practically every distinction that can be used to divide.

He poses questions about justice, nonviolence, materialism, capitalism, economic justice and a mountain of other topics.

In Beyond Religion, the Dalai Lama is optimistic and practical. Eloquent and approachable. Spiritual and human.

In the final chapter, he is a teacher, guiding readers through methods of mental cultivation through meditation.

Siddhartha: A Search for Fulfillment

Siddhartha is a handsome young Brahman who is wealthy, exceptionally intelligent, and loved. He seems to have it all, but he feels unfulfilled.

With his loving friend Govinda, he leaves his family and the comforts of home in search of enlightenment. He meets Gautama, but even life with the original Buddha is not enough, so he moves on, leaving Govinda behind. He fasts, lives without possessions, eventually slips back into materialism and a life with a beautiful woman.

As an old man living alone and working as a ferryman at a river, he reconnects with Govinda in a poignant meeting. Is Siddhartha, alas, fulfilled?

Siddhartha is German author’s Hermann Hesse’s most famous book. Hesse, who died in 1962 at 85, so beautifully describes Siddhartha’s journey that many readers return to the book. The conversations with people he meets are compelling and the narrative, originally written in German, is deeply human.

Each time I read Siddhartha, I find myself reading passages over and over. It resonated with me as a youth in the 1960s and it touches me as a man now in my late 60s. Messages of hope and beauty emerge from the book’s shadows.

Siddhartha mirrors aspects of Hesse’s own life of discontent. The author suffered depression as a child, attended a seminary, where he rebelled and fled. He attempted suicide at 15.

I devoured all of Hesse’s novels while I was in college in the early 1970s. Siddhartha was my favorite, but I was also drawn to Narcissus and Goldmund and Peter Camenzind. Click on the book cover above to go to Amazon.

Is there a Siddhartha in all of us?