Hermann Hesse’s Journey of the Heart

Narcissus, a young adult, lives a sheltered life in a monastery with other monks who value quiet contemplation. His faith and lifestyle travel a path relatively free of pain and suffering. And passion. He is tied to a sense of duty.

Narcissus welcomes Goldmund, a teen-ager, to the cloister and guides him to peer deep inside himself. Goldmund discovers his own artistic talents as well as his restless soul. He leaves Narcissus to live the life of a homeless, faithless man who endures great pain and suffering. Passion is his driving force.

Whose life was superior? Happier? More worthy?

After many years, Goldmund returns to Narcissus and from the messiness of Goldmund’s life, the monk finds his own clarity and realizes the depth of his love for his former student. His revelations will give readers pause.

Narcissus and Goldmund. German philosopher/author Hermann Hesse at his best.

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.