How can we be happy in today's materialistic, competitive world? Not by amassing more wealth and possessions, according to the Dalai Lama. He recommends that we focus on internal, spiritual issues: we need to recognize our connectedness with all human beings, learn to restrain anger and other negative thoughts and emotions, and develop patience and compassion for others. For the way to be happy is by being a good, ethical person. This is useful advice that can help anyone who takes it seriously. But self-change is difficult; considerable effort is required. Getting ahead by pulling other people down is widely accepted in our society, and I'm afraid those who most need the Dalai Lama's advice may be the least likely to read this book and follow his teachings. I also highly recommend "Open Your Mind, Open Your Life: A Book of Eastern Wisdom" by Taro Gold.
In these days of blame-mongers, moral relativity and self-interest, the humble message of this book resonates. The Dalai Lama presents a real-world message; not some kind of ivory towered fantasy of shiny happy people that I was half expecting. The Dalai Lama does not pretend that humans are naturally benevolent and philanthropic. His thesis focuses upon the age-old "pursuit of pleasure/avoidance of pain" incentive embedded in our psyche. The needs of a healthy society, he postulates, are dependent upon all of us living our lives with others in mind. That, and the fact that living ethically satisfies our personal values system of basic morality.
I found the concept of divorcing spirituality from religiousity to be exceptionally refreshing. He does mention his Buddist beliefs, but maintains that all religions have merit; a concept frequently missed by a great number of religious writers.
The book is sparked with wry humor and anecdotes that made me feel like I was listening to a kindly old grandpa telling parables to children. Not exactly the voice one might expect from a spiritual and political leader. The pace of the book does meander, but in a charming kind of way, like a nice scenic drive.
I think this book should be required reading for high school kids, world leaders, teachers, parents, CEOs and well, OK - every literate person on the face of the earth. I plan to buy a couple more copies and send them to my friends and family!