After reading two books by the Dalai Lama, I can honestly say I would rather meet this one person more than anyone else alive today. He is an incredible man who has gone through many hardships but continues to have a positive outlook on humanity and even the men who occupy his country to this day.
You do not have to be Buddhist or even religious at all to gain a lot of insight from Beyond Dogma. As the title of the book implies, he really is the prime example of tolerance. He suggests it might be better for some people not to get stuck up on ceremonies or tradition and focus on what is important instead. Most religions at the heart are found on kindness, generosity, and humility. In fact, he speaks of several priests who took Buddhist vows but remained Christians because in essence, these virtues do not conflict. So he reaches out to people of all backgrounds. Part of this tolerance is because much of Buddhism does not require the same leaps of faith as other religions. You can reason through most of his discussions; you do not have to immerse yourself in scripture to understand what he says. He describes Buddhism as the Middle Way - between faith-based religion and secular philosophy - making it accessible to everyone.
His most recent book, the Art of Happiness, was very popular for its life-changing aspects. In addition to his sagely advice, this work also deals with international relations amongst differing religions and governments. Not surprising since it was written shortly after the Dalai Lama won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize and consists of interviews while visiting France in addition to narratives. He embraces the idea of a 'New World Order' like few other modern leaders have had the bravery to do.
The Dalai Lama is not a religious icon hidden away from the world; he discusses real-life problems in a modern society that is far removed from the mystical city of Lhasa. Meanwhile, he can still apply a wealth of knowledge from a vast amount of information from many fields. If you are anxious to learn more about Buddhism, Tibet, the East, or the Dalai Lama himself, this is a great book to own yourself or to give to curious friends.
Browsing through a bookshelf with only the most vague notion of what I was looking for, my eyes were caught by the simple and yet powerful title of this book. At the time, I had little idea of what Buddhism was, and yet the title itself conveyed to me everything that seemed wrong with the religon of my upbringing.
Beyond Dogma is an inciteful and well-written treatise. It is one of my favorites written by the Dalai Lama, and the translation provides great clarity to his words. The autobiographical background of the Dalai Lama and the last fifty years in Tibet is in excellent context with the nature of Tibetan Buddhism. An excellent and easy read that is light on the complex theory and heavy on warmth and understanding.