One of the founding principles of Buddhism is that simple wisdom, when applied, can have a huge effect on happiness, mindfulness and peace—not just for you, but also for the people around you. In this backdrop, the book provides an insight into the nature of suffering and its release through compassionate action. It focuses on the understanding that a deep awareness of our shared desire to avoid pain leads to an awareness of our responsibility to relieve others of suffering.
The most helpful ideas might not seem so simple in the context of our complex lives; but often times we make things more complicated than necessary by filtering them through a negative attitude, or thinking too much and applying too little. According to the Dalai Lama, in the Buddhist teachings, suffering is spoken of at three different levels. The first is blatant physical and mental pain, the second is the discontent associated with the fact that our pleasure and happiness will change into something else, and the third is the pervasive suffering of conditioned existence.
The book provides some of the most helpful of the Dalai Lama’s teachings in palatable, bite-size chunks like the universal brotherhood. He emphasises that to meet the challenges of our times, he believes that humanity must develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. Each of us must learn to work not just for our own individual self, family or nation, but for the benefit of all mankind. Today we are so interdependent, so closely inter-connected with each other that without a sense of universal responsibility, a feeling of universal brotherhood, we cannot hope to overcome the dangers to our very existence, let alone bring about peace and happiness.
Compassion, love and forgiveness are fundamental for our survival. In one chapter, the Dalai Lama, highlighting the importance of compassion and love, and what is the method for developing them, says this is not easy. “I don’t think there is any particular package or method enables you to develop these qualities instantaneously… . I know that many people expect things like this from a Dalai Lama, but, really, all I have to offer is my own experience. If you find something useful in this, I hope you will use it. But if you don’t find much of interest, I don’t mind if you just leave it.”
Science and technology have brought immense control over nature, but power without wisdom is dangerous. We need to balance our modern capabilities with an ancient wisdom. In this regard, the Dalai Lama says that all of the world’s religions emphasise the importance of compassion, love and forgiveness. Each may have a different interpretation, but broadly speaking, everyone bases his or her understanding of his or her own religion on brotherhood, sisterhood and compassion. “Those who believe in God usually see their love for their fellow human beings as an expression of their love for God. But if someone says, ‘I love God,’ and does not show sincere love towards his fellow human beings, I think that is not following God’s teaching.”
That makes the book so compelling: it’s simultaneously profound and simple. The book also offers insights about finding contentment, dealing with anger and emotions, transforming the mind, the relation between awareness and right action, and bridges personal consciousness and global concerns and more; and concludes with stress on cultivating harmony, working together and creating harmony in the world.
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By Ashok Kumar