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Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  5,282 ratings  ·  428 reviews
An unprecedented event: a beloved world religious leader proposes a way to lead an ethical, happy, and spiritual life beyond religion and offers a program of mental training for cultivating key human values

Ten years ago, in his best-selling Ethics for a New Millennium, His Holiness the Dalai Lama first proposed an approach to ethics based on universal rather than religious
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published December 6th 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2011)
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Stephanie *Eff your feelings*
I love the Dalai Lama. Every time I hear him in an interview I smile from ear to ear, I can't help myself.

But I have read several of his books and each and every one was difficult to get through. I listened to this audio, which helps me actually finish books like these, but I had a hard time focusing on what was being said. My mind kept wandering every which way. Funny thing since a lot of this was, of course, about meditation practice, which is all about focusing the mind!

I had to laugh at my
robin friedman
May 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Dalai Lama And Secular Ethics

The many books written by the Dalai Lama can be divided into two groups. In the first, the Dalai Lama writes specifically about the teachings and practices of Buddhism, particularly his own Tibetan Buddhism. In the second group, the Dalai Lama takes a broader approach and writes on a range of subjects such as ethics, happiness, and the scientific worldview that are not specifically tied to Buddhism or to any particular faith religion. Both groups of books are mar
Sara Easton
Nov 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I am a Goodreads First Reads winner of this book.

This is a great book for anyone interested in philosophy who wants a book as entertaining as it is intellectually challenging. Each new concept is backed up with anecdotes from the Dalai Lama's life, told "half-jokingly" in a way that doesn't fly over your head. I finished the book several hours ago, and I'm still thinking about everything His Holiness said about our common humanity and the place ethics has in society. Thank you for the great rea
Feb 29, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: library
This book on a secular approach to ethics by the Dalai Lama caught my eye when I was browsing the new books section of my library. Acknowledging the shortcomings of religious approaches and the problems caused by the inherent conflicts of religion, the Dalai Lama turns to humanist principles and calls for a secular approach to ethics. In the later chapters, he addresses the overlap between secular humanism and Buddhist principles - a topic that has long been of interest to me.

This is a very good
Jud Barry
Jun 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
All my life I have been told by "religious" people that religion is necessary for morality. I have never believed this, mostly because my own parents were every bit as moral as they were secular.

Also, growing up I absorbed the "enlightened," civic faith of the Founding Fathers of the U.S.A. in the ability of a body of citizens to govern itself without being ruled by a set of religious doctrines. All that was needed was the right framework (laws) and a willingness to work for the common good of a
Kate Lawrence
Dec 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
I agree with the Dalai Lama that only if the world's people succeed in finding common ground Beyond Religion is there a chance of working together for any kind of a sane future. I wondered what he was going to suggest, and found myself reading with interest. He describes compassion--the foundation of secular ethics--in detail, what it is and isn't (e.g. it isn't meekness). He shows why the practice of compassion and restraint is necessary for a sustainable environment, stable governments, as wel ...more
Jul 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: finished
This book is part of a larger movement by progressive religious leaders - one that makes the argument for ethics outside of the constructs of religious teachings. I really appreciated the time the Dalai Lama spent defining "secular", a term which, all too often, has a negative connotation. His reasoning and practical approach to implementation was intriguing. While Humanist principles assert ethics (and morality) without religion, I'm left to wonder how accepting the larger religious community w ...more
Apr 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A breath of fresh air.
Jenny Choi
Jul 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is worth reading for me. The author explains quite difficult concepts by using simple and easy expressions in order to help normal people understand better. Come to think of this book, It seems that wise men put their values into entire humanity beyond narrow perspectives, which is pretty challenging to me.
Sep 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
I read about this book in some newspaper article at some point. I was interested because I get so tired of people who consider themselves to be religious, church-going folks, being... jerks! And the Dalai Lama did not disappoint. He said what I thought: you can be a good person and have high regard for the people around you without going to church every week.

As the book went on, he did over simplify how to make yourself a better person. Just wake up early and meditate. Just tell yourself not to
Amber Scaife
Jan 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
I breezed right through this lovely little book on how we need to adjust our thinking about ethics and separate them from our notions of religion, teach them more substantially in our schools, and cultivate them more vigorously in ourselves as individuals. In the first half, he sets out his reasonings for these claims, and then proceeds in the second half to instruct the reader on how to go about the personal cultivation of secular ethics with practical suggestions. I enjoyed this one a good dea ...more
Jason Smith
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I should not have raced through this at double time on Audible. I should have absorbed more and will need to revisit the book. His emphasis on compassion as a fundamental attribute of a good, global society was particularly powerful. Also his emphasis on personal responsibility and control over one's self. ...more
Dec 19, 2011 rated it liked it
To some, this may be a surprising book and proposition coming from the modern 'father' of an ancient faith.* Not that Buddhism (in my experience and practice) must be faith-driven. Still, many may be surprised to hear a religious leader advocate and articulate universal morality and ethics free from faith-based or doctrinal foundations.

The book is short, practical, well-reasoned, easy to follow, and includes positive prescriptions that can be carried out in the everyday lives of even busy secula
Jan 13, 2012 rated it liked it
Ethics-based approach to the idea of improving the condition of humanity by improving yourself first. Wrapped in pretty much a Buddhist philosophy without the religious aspects. Promotes moral/ethical principles that are mostly common to the teachings of the major religions, even if not their practice. Full of very sensible ideas, though nothing revolutionary.

The writing style was simplistic, as if aimed at 12-year-olds, I thought. Whereas the content is more adult focused. So I'm not sure who i
May 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Despite his deep faith, the Dalai Lama is convinced that the striving toward moral ethics and inner values cannot be met solely through religion in the secular world of today. With so many belief systems, a religion-based approach to ethics will never be universal, thus the need for a secular ethics. Secularism - respect for all faiths and no faith - and religion are not mutually exclusive. A good example of this would be Gandhi. deeply religious and all-embracing.
I picked up this book primaril
Feb 26, 2012 rated it liked it
I always enjoy listening to the Dalai Lama and his calming words. After the disappointment of realizing Martin Sheen was narrating the book I decided to read instead. He talks about the need for a system of ethics that doesn't depend on religion but instead depends on people's shared humanity and compassion, where people of many religions and none all live together and increasingly must work together to solve global problems. I appreciated how he spoke his own Buddhist religion and says even tho ...more
David Gross
Dec 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy, ethics
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
"In the face of all the challenges of today's interconnected world, is my optimism about the future of humanity idealistic? Perhaps it is. Is it unrealistic? Certainly not."

Well at least he's self-aware. One problem, or reservation, that I have with spiritual leaders is that they say all the right things, but don't have a real grasp, or the 'insider look', into bureaucratic challenges, social issues, and personal challenges we all face that gets in the way of a sense of ethics at times. They say
Aug 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read this somewhere...

Someone asked The Buddha, "What is the greatest obstacle to Enlightenment?" The Buddha answered, "Laziness!"

That sly quote came to mind several times as I read this book. It works in two ways. It conveys His Holiness' conviction that ethical behavior isn't necessarily based on faith, but is also based on several internal values (compassion being the greatest, if I read correctly). Developing those internal values, the ability to have compassion, understanding, and more,
Sebastian Gebski
Nov 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It's the highest time for the whole world to switch from separatistic religious dogmas to common, shared system of ethics with universal values behind it. It's not easy, no doubt about that, but the modern world demands it - or we'll all succumb to conflict and chaos (again). The fact that it's one of the religious leaders who comes up with such a book is actually a good sign.

To be perfect frank, this book is very needed, but it doesn't mean it brings any kind of breakthrough - maybe my way of t
Arno Mosikyan
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
Hey Goodreads where is your 10 stars, I can't just mark 5 stars, this is not enough!

What a spiritual leader, what a wisdom! His excellence Dalai Lama still remains the bastion of unchallenged wisdom compared to the leaders of other creeds. Impressive, a vivid example how to construct spirituality paradigm in the science infused 21st century.


“But for all its benefits in offering moral guidance and meaning in life, in today’s secular world religion alone is no longer adequate as a basis fo
Apr 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Beyond Religion is another one of those special books that are written with the idea in mind to make the world a better place. Its author? A man who has dedicated his life toward travelling the world and spreading his messages of peace, tranquillity, and the capability of humanity.

It is, in one way of thinking, the culmination of the Dalai Lama's understanding of modern society and culture. It is also the product of his life as a spiritual leader. This book contains one man's empathy and compass
Nic Ayson
Jul 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion
Hmmm.. a tricky one to rate. Whilst it all makes perfect sense, and without wanting to be as bold to claim I have, nor do I even imagine I am living a life of spiritual enlightenment, compassion and forgiveness there was nothing really groundbreaking to read here. It all made perfect sense, but none of it was delivered in a way which I would then go forth to make great fundamental changes in my life.
Overall, all concepts delivered in this book would, if the world was to live by them, make the u
Rajiv Srinivasan
Jun 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
I found this book to be one of acknowledgement, acceptance, and counsel towards those of us who may not have strong religious ties but seek to do good in the world. I am so humbled by the Dalai Lama's humility, and the way he can accurately and succinctly describe our contemporary culture. Beyond Religion is a book that is supremely important for the modern coastal millennial--we are somehow a hyper-secular generation with strong moral instincts, but operating without the traditional foundation ...more
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Well, I was both madly impressed and frustrated by this book, mostly because I’d come back to listening to it during a frustrating week and the Dalai Lama felt like it was appropriate to remind me the importance of compassion 😅. No really, I would give this a 5/5. There was a solid attempt at secular ethical philosophy, which while it seemed more “all inclusive” than strictly secular, I enjoyed, and the last hour had tangible change-your-life-now techniques to try. Is it ridiculous to say I wish ...more
Mar 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic primer on the philosophy of ethics

This book touches on a lot of different topics, but the crux is that it is quite possible to live a good life, full of compassion and caring for others, without the need for any sort of religious basis or impetus for doing so. While some people find their ethics rooted in religious belief, the fact is that many ethical values are shared across all religions and the non-religious alike.
The last chapter introduces the concept of mindfulness and meditatio
Huyen Chip
Oct 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
The first book by Dalai Lama that I've read. I didn't know what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised. ...more
Aaron Terrazas
May 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
No one else can move so effortlessly from the universal to the practical and specific without getting muddled in the middle.
Eme Morato
Feb 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Excellent read for reflecting on the mindset that's necessary for becoming part of the positive evolution that this world and humanity need. A plus is that this man is truly brilliant, insightful and easy to process. ...more
Jon Harayda
Mar 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Common sense from an uncommon man.
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Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso (born Lhamo Döndrub), the 14th Dalai Lama, is a practicing member of the Gelug School of Tibetan Buddhism and is influential as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the world's most famous Buddhist monk, and the leader of the exiled Tibetan government in India.

Tenzin Gyatso was the fifth of sixteen children born to a farming family. He was proclaimed the

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“For a considerable portion of humanity today, it is possible and indeed likely that one's neighbor, one's colleague, or one's employer will have a different mother tongue, eat different food, and follow a different religion than oneself. It is a matter of great urgency, therefore, that we find ways to cooperate with one another in a spirit of mutual acceptance and respect.

In such a world, I feel, it is vital for us to find genuinely sustainable and universal approach to ethics, inner values, and personal integrity-an approach that can transcend religious, cultural, and racial differences and appeal to people at a sustainable, universal approach is what I call the project of secular ethics.

All religions, therefore, to some extent, ground the cultivation of inner values and ethical awareness in some kind of metaphysical (that is, not empirically demonstrable) understanding of the world and of life after death. And just as the doctrine of divine judgment underlies ethical teachings in many theistic religions, so too does the doctrine of karma and future lives in non-theistic religions.

As I see it, spirituality has two dimensions. The first dimension, that of basic spiritual well-being-by which I mean inner mental and emotional strength and balance-does not depend on religion but comes from our innate human nature as beings with a natural disposition toward compassion, kindness, and caring for others. The second dimension is what may be considered religion-based spirituality, which is acquired from our upbringing and culture and is tied to particular beliefs and practices. The difference between the two is something like the difference between water and tea.

On this understanding, ethics consists less of rules to be obeyed than of principles for inner self-regulation to promote those aspects of our nature which we recognize as conducive to our own well-being and that of others.

It is by moving beyond narrow self-interest that we find meaning, purpose, and satisfaction in life.”
“Even from the most rigorous scientific perspective, unselfishness and concern for others are not only in our own interests but also, in a sense, innate to out biological nature.

In Indian usage, "secular", far from implying antagonism toward religion or toward people of faith, actually implies a profound respect for and tolerance toward all religions.

"honor another's religion, for doing so strengthens both one's own and that of the other.”
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