George's Reviews > Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World

Beyond Religion by Dalai Lama XIV
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's review
Apr 24, 2012

really liked it
Recommended 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 compassion for every human in the race. It is his literary fountain of wisdom.

So what are his ideas? Being a Buddhist leader, you would think that His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama would use any opportunity to promote his own religion and talk to its followers. The interesting thing is that it is not what he does. He disregards expectations from outsiders -- regularly in fact -- and promotes something that is, as the title of his book suggests, 'beyond' any religion. His discourse is on 'Ethics for a Whole World'.

And his beliefs are centred in the goodness of human beings; in compassion, love, empathy, and how those three qualities can lead to fulfilled lives. Whether you are a consciously spiritual person or not -- argues the author -- you still wish to pursue happiness and want to be led away from suffering. In this way, the Dalai Lama is really an advocate of the common good; he is an expounder of the essence of universal humanity.

'We need to recognise two things,' says the Dalai Lama. 'The first is that religion is not the only way to pursue a spiritual life. There are indeed ways of living the fulfilling and contented lives we all desire which do not require religious belief. The second is that in order to build a harmonious and peaceful world, we require more than just tolerance and understanding between the various religions. We also need mutual tolerance and understanding between believers (of whatever faith) and non-believers – between those with religion and those without.'

That is just a taste of the teacher's message. The book explores the musings of the Dalai Lama, and expands upon his view that 'the most promising avenue [towards happiness] is to be found in a system of secular ethics grounded in a deep appreciation of our common humanity'.

'Common humanity'. This is absolutely key to the ideas discussed in the book. The thought that we are all, to some degree, equal; that we are united in our humanity and share deep and universal qualities between us. The Dalai Lama implores us -- as human beings living in the 21st century -- to try to open our minds to ethics that would lead us all to having more fulfilled lives, and would contribute to the ideal goal of world peace -- peace in a world in which there are nuclear weapons which could eradicate us all in minutes.

The thinker is never one to condemn humanity though; he is dedicated to focusing on the positives. There are points in which is highlights religious sectarianism, deplores warfare and consumer society, and offers a critique to a way of life in which many are comfortable, but he is never scathing, offensive, or patronising. He simply wishes us to think more!

On of his main concerns, though, seems to be the lack of ethical education -- education of the 'heart' -- in modern educational systems. 'I always try to to reach out to young people and spend some time with them,' he says. It is his 'hope and wish' that, 'one day, formal education will pay attention to what I call education of the heart'. He relevantly also explains that 'it is now down to the youth of today to make a better world than the one which has been bequeathed to them. Much rests upon their shoulders'. This is another focus of the great man - on youth, on the future, on reaching out to the younger members of our society and to try to help them to build better prospects for themselves and for all.

He asks: 'What greater folly could there be than to spend [our] short time [on this earth] lonely, unhappy, and in conflict with our fellow visitors?' His answer: 'Far better, surely, to use our short time in pursuing a meaningful life, enriched by a sense of connection with and service toward others'. I wouldn't want to argue against that perception.

And one of the most beautiful aspects of this book is that it is written for the common human being too. Never are the ideas dressed up as complicated, or written with a certain particular audience group in mind; the book is actually very accessible to anyone, and the thinkings explored are made to be as uncomplicated and exoteric -- and relevant -- as possible.

This book is a brilliant gateway to anyone who has ever asked questions about life; who has wanted to know more, and to improve their happiness. It is also great for question stimulation - reading it will make you think reflectively and calmly and offer solutions to every day problems that tend to reach everyone. It is also a book that aims at respecting all religions and offering a pathway that can be taken by anyone - whether they are religious and theistical or not at all.

It is, in short, marvellous.

Don't be afraid of trying this one out because -- if you do try it -- you will definitely be rewarded with profound insight and a greater sense of what is right, or wrong, when it comes to determining the happiness and goodness of life.

So far, of the twenty-first century, just over a decade has gone; the major part of it is yet to come. It is my hope that this will be a century of peace, a century of dialogue – a century when a more caring, responsible, and compassionate humanity will emerge. This is my prayer as well. - His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
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