Jaclyn's Reviews > The Essential Dalai Lama: His Important Teachings

The Essential Dalai Lama by Dalai Lama XIV
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Nov 29, 2007

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Recommended for: People who already know a little about Buddhism
Read in November, 2007

I feel terrible for three-starring the Dalai Lama - after all, he's the Dalai Lama! And there were things about this book that I really, really liked. The Dalai Lama's perspectives on moral, ethical and spiritual paths, as well as on the current problems our society is facing with escalating wars, the destruction of the natural environment, the increasing disparity between socioecomonic groups, etc., are really unique. They are firmly grounded in common sense but, when combined with elements of Buddhist philosophy, seem truly fresh. The Dalai Lama's writing (or speechwriting, because much of this book is taken from his public addresses) is engaging and thought-provoking. So I loved his commentary on approaching the major issues of our time with a sense of compassion, tolerance and kindness - how very relevant and, sadly, uncommon - and I particularly enjoyed his reflections on common ground between Buddhism and Christianity.

So why not a five star review? My one problem with this book is that there is a huge section in the middle that delves intensively into Buddhism. Now, I picked this book up because the back cover promised a good introduction to Buddhism, and I wanted an introduction to Buddhism. I know next to nothing about it, and I am interested. But most of the discussion about the Buddhist spiritual path in this book went straight over my head. The speeches that section was taken from, I believe, were given to a Buddhist audience - so they were already acquainted with the basic principles. I'm sure that if I knew more about Buddhism, I would have found those sections much more instructive. As it was, I was left more confused than I was when I started. I guess I will have to keep looking for a book that can provide a good, basic introduction to make Buddhism more accessible to people raised in Western culture. Then at that point, after I understand the basic principles more, I might return to this book and see if I get more out of that huge chunk in the middle that bogged me down this time around.
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