The Dalai Lama's Little Book of Buddhism

The Dalai Lama's Little Book of Buddhism


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"The essence of all spiritual life is your attitude to others." --His Holiness the Dalai Lama

With clarity and candor, the Dalai Lama expounds on the core teachings of Buddhism. Fusing ancient wisdom with a modern sensibility, he gently encourages each of us to embrace lives of love and compassion; to embrace individual responsibility.

His pithy reflections encourage us to rid ourselves of preoccupation with the ephemera of daily life and to find refuge in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

Inspiring, provocative, and thoughtful, this slim volume will be read and treasured for years to come.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781571747297
Publisher: Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc.
Publication date: 06/01/2015
Edition description: Revised
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 125,852
Product dimensions: 4.50(w) x 5.00(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Tenzin Gyatos, His Holines the XIV Dalai Lama, is the exiled spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. He is widely rrecognized as an advocate of world peace and has received many honors, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

Robert A.F. Thurman is the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies in the Department of Religion at Columbia University, President of the Tibet House U.S., and President of the American Institute of Buddhist Studies.

Read an Excerpt

The Dalai Lama's Little Book of Buddhism

By Renuka Singh

Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc.

Copyright © 2015 H. H. The Dalai Lama
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57174-729-7


The Dalai Lama's Little Book of Buddhism

The common enemy of all religious disciplines is selfishness of mind. For it is just this which causes ignorance, anger and passion, which are at the root of all the troubles of the world.

Buddha is the teacher, Dharma is the actual refuge and the Sangha is the one which assists in understanding or establishing the objects of refuge.

When we take the Buddha as an authority, as a reliable teacher, we do so on the basis of having investigated and examined his principal teaching—the Four Noble Truths.

Whenever Buddhism has taken root in a new land, there has been a certain variation in the style in which it is observed. The Buddha himself taught differently according to the place, the occasion and the situation of those who were listening to him.

All of us have a great responsibility to take the essence of Buddhism and put it into practice in our own lives.

Buddhahood is a state free of all obstructions to knowledge and disturbing emotions. It is the state in which the mind is fully evolved.

From the earliest stages of our growth, we are completely dependent upon our mother's care and it is very important for us that she express her love. If children do not receive proper affection, in later life they will often find it hard to love others.

Samsara, our conditioned existence in the perpetual cycle of habitual tendencies, and nirvana, genuine freedom from such an existence, are nothing but different manifestations of a basic continuum. So this continuity of consciousness is always present.

This is the meaning of tantra.

Through actual practice in his daily life, man well fulfils the aim of all religion, whatever his denomination.

We can speak of an effect and a cause on the disturbing side as well as on the liberating side.

According to Buddhist practice, there are three states or steps. The initial stage is to reduce attachment towards life. The second stage is the elimination of desire and attachment to this samsara. Then in the third stage, self- cherishing is eliminated.

The three stages—birth, death and the intermediate state—are also established in terms of the subtlety of their levels of consciousness. Upon the basis of the continuity of the stream of consciousness is established the existence of rebirth and reincarnation.

Encountering sufferings will definitely contribute to the elevation of your spiritual practice, provided you are able to transform the calamity and misfortune into the path.

Faith dispels doubt and hesitation, it liberates you from suffering and delivers you to the city of peace and happiness.

If subconscious anger had a parallel in Buddhist writings, it would have to do with what is called mental unhappiness or dissatisfaction. This is regarded as the source of anger and hostility. We can see subconscious anger in terms of a lack of awareness, as well as an active misconstruing of reality.

Guilt is incompatible with our thinking as you are part of an action but not fully responsible for it. You are just part of the contributing factor. However, in some cases one must repent, deliberately claim responsibility, have regret, and never commit the mistake again.

In the beginning of Buddhist practice, our ability to serve others is limited. The emphasis is on healing ourselves, transforming our minds and hearts. But as we continue, we become stronger and increasingly able to serve others.

Firstly, we should re-examine our own attitude towards others and constantly check ourselves to see whether we are practicing properly. Before pointing our finger at others we should point it towards ourselves. Secondly, we must be prepared to admit our faults and stand corrected.

Suffering increases your inner strength. Also, wishing for suffering makes the suffering disappear.

Even when we are helping others and are engaged in charity work, we should not regard ourselves in a very haughty way as great protectors benefitting the weak.

An area in Tibetan Buddhism which may be of interest to scientists is the relationship between the physical elements and the nerves, in particular the relationship between the elements in the brain and consciousness. This involves changes in consciousness, happy or unhappy states of mind, the effect they have on the elements within the brain, and the consequent effect that this has on the body.

According to its level of subtlety, consciousness is classified into three levels: the waking state or gross level of consciousness; the consciousness of the dream state which is more subtle; and the consciousness during sleep, dreamless sleep, which is subtler still.

The metaphor of light is a common image in all the major religious traditions. In the Buddhist context, light is particularly associated with wisdom and knowledge; darkness is associated with ignorance and a state of mis- knowledge.

In yoga tantra, the highest dimension of Buddhist practice, there is no distinction between gender. In this final life in which you attain Buddhahood, there is no difference whether you are male or female.

The creatures that inhabit this earth—be they human beings or animals—are here to contribute, each in its own particular way, to the beauty and prosperity of the world.

The Buddhist notion of attachment is not what people in the West assume. We say that the love of a mother for her only child is free of attachment.

We are born and reborn countless number of times, and it is possible that each being has been our parent at one time or another. Therefore, it is likely that all beings in this universe have familial connections.

The process of dying begins with the dissolution of the elements within the body. It has eight stages, beginning with the dissolution of the earth element, then the water, fire, and wind elements. The next four stages are visions in terms of color: appearance of a white vision, increase of the red element, black near-attainment, and finally the clear light of death.

Do your best and do it according to your own inner standard—call it conscience—not just according to society's knowledge and judgement of your deeds.

For discovering one's true inner nature, I think one should try to take some time, with quiet and relaxation, to think more inwardly and to investigate the inner world.

When one is very involved in hatred or attachment, if there is time or possibility during that very moment, just try to look inward and ask: "What is attachment? What is the nature of anger?"

To develop genuine devotion, you must know the meaning of teachings. The main emphasis in Buddhism is to transform the mind, and this transformation depends upon meditation. In order to meditate correctly, you must have knowledge.

Three qualities enable people to understand the teachings: objectivity, which means an open mind; intelligence, which is the critical faculty to discern the real meaning by checking the teachings of Buddha; and interest and commitment, which means enthusiasm.

Anything that contradicts experience and logic should be abandoned.

It is through listening that your mind will turn with faith and devotion, and you will be able to cultivate joy within your mind and make your mind stable.

Mahayana has four reliances.

First: reliance on the teaching, not on the teacher.

Second: reliance on the meaning, not on the words that express it.

Third: reliance on the definitive meaning, not on the provisional meaning.

Fourth: reliance on the transcendent wisdom of deep experience, not on mere knowledge.

If we see pride among people who have no idea about Dharma, it is understandable. However, if afflictive emotions and haughtiness are present among Dharma practitioners, it is a great disgrace to the practice.

Individuals who are best suited for practice of Dharma are those who are not only intellectually gifted, but also have single-minded faith and dedication and are wise.

Although individuals may be highly intelligent, they are sometimes dogged by skepticism and doubts. They are clever, but they tend to be hesitant and skeptical and are never really able to settle down. These people are the least receptive.

As a spiritual trainee, you must be prepared to endure the hardships involved in a genuine spiritual pursuit and be determined to sustain your effort and will. You must anticipate the multiple obstacles that you are bound to encounter along the path and understand the key to successful practice is never to lose your determination.

The story of the Buddha's personal life is the story of someone who attained full enlightenment through hard work and unwavering dedication.

Laziness will stop your progress in your spiritual practice.

When a day seems to be long, idle gossip makes our day seem shorter. But it is one of the worst ways in which we waste our time. If a tailor just holds the needle in his hand and goes on talking to a customer, the tailoring does not get finished. Besides, the needle might prick his finger. In short, meaningless gossip prevents us from doing any kind of work.

If you rely on someone who has lower qualities than yourself, that will lead to your degeneration. If you rely on someone who has qualities similar to yourself, you will stay where you are. It is only if you rely on someone who has better qualities than yourself, that you will achieve sublime status.

The advantage of relying on a spiritual teacher is that if you have accumulated an action that would project you into a negative state of existence, the result of that could be experienced just in this life in the form of minor sufferings or minor problems, or even experiencing the result in a dream and through that way one could destroy the destructive results of negative actions.

If you go more deeply into your own spiritual practice, emphasizing wisdom and compassion, you will encounter the suffering of other sentient beings again and again, and you will have the capacity to acknowledge it, respond to it and feel deep compassion rather than apathy or impotence.

When contemplating suffering, do not fall into the feeling of self-importance or conceit. Cultivating wisdom helps us to avoid these pitfalls. But it is hard to generalize because each person's courage and forbearance are unique.

The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being.

A single word or expression in tantra can have four different meanings corresponding to the four levels of interpretation. These levels are known as the four modes of understanding. They are:

i) the literal meaning;

ii) the general meaning;

iii) the hidden meaning; and

iv) the ultimate meaning.

Calm abiding is a heightened state of awareness when your body and mind become especially flexible, receptive and serviceable. Special insight is also a heightened state of awareness, in which your faculty of analysis is immensely advanced. Thus calm abiding is absorptive in nature, whereas special insight is analytic in nature.

There is a true feminist movement in Buddhism. Following her attainment of bodhicitta, the goddess Tara looked upon those striving towards full awakening and she felt that there were too few women who attained Buddhahood. So she vowed, "I have developed bodhicitta as a woman. For all of my lifetimes along the path I vow to be born as a woman, and in my final lifetime when I attain Buddhahood, then too I will be a woman."

The problems we encounter are never the result of starting a project or work on an inappropriate day or time. Buddha always talked about negative experiences as the result of having performed negative actions. So, for a good practitioner there is no good day or bad day.

There is no way to escape death, it is just like trying to escape when you are surrounded by four great mountains touching the sky. There is no escape from these four mountains of birth, old age, sickness, and death.

Ageing destroys youth, sickness destroys health, degeneration of life destroys all excellent qualities, and death destroys life. Even if you are a great runner, you cannot run away from death. You cannot stop death with your wealth, through your magic performances, or recitation of mantras or even medicines. Therefore, it is wise to prepare for your death.

Discipline is a supreme ornament and, whether worn by old, young or middle-aged, it gives birth only to happiness. It is perfume par excellence and, unlike ordinary perfumes which travel only with the wind, its refreshing aroma travels spontaneously in all directions. A peerless ointment, it brings relief from the hot pains of delusion.

Due to karmic influences, the world appears in different ways to different people. When a human being, a god, and a preta—three sentient beings—look at one bowl of water, the karmic factors make the human being see it as water, while the god sees nectar, and the preta sees blood.

A blossoming tree becomes bare and stripped in autumn. Beauty changes into ugliness, youth into old age, and fault into virtue. Things do not remain the same and nothing really exists. Thus, appearances and emptiness exist simultaneously.

Some people who are sweet and attractive, strong and healthy, happen to die young. They are masters in disguise teaching us about impermanence.

Natural environment sustains the life of all beings universally. Trees are referred to in accounts of the principal events of Buddha's life. His mother leaned against a tree for support as she gave birth to him. He attained enlightenment seated beneath a tree, and finally passed away as trees stood witness overhead.

The Bible says that swords can be turned into ploughshares. It is a beautiful image, a weapon transformed into a tool to serve basic human needs, representing an attitude of inner and outer disarmament.

The true sufferings and true causes of sufferings are the effect and cause on the side of things that we do not want; the true cessation and the true paths are the effect and cause on the side of things that we desire.

The truth of suffering is that we experience many different types of suffering: things such as headaches; suffering of changes; feeling of restlessness after being comfortable; and all-pervasive suffering that acts as the basis of the first two categories and is under the control of karma and the disturbing mind.

From one point of view we can say that we have human bodies and are practicing the Buddha's teachings and are thus much better than insects. But we can also say that insects are innocent and free from guile, whereas we often lie and misrepresent ourselves in devious ways in order to achieve our ends or better ourselves. From this perspective, we are much worse than insects.

No matter who we ate with, we often think things like, "I am stronger than he," "I am more beautiful than she," "I am more intelligent," and so forth—we generate much pride. This is not good. Instead, we should always remain humble.

To develop patience, you need someone who wilfully hurts you. Such people give us the real opportunity to practice tolerance. They test our inner strength in a way that even our guru cannot. Basically, patience protects us from being discouraged.

It is better not to avoid events or persons who annoy you and give rise to anger, if your anger is not too strong. But if the encounter is not possible, work on your anger and develop compassion by yourself.

The three physical non-virtues are killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct. The four verbal nonvirtues are lying, divisiveness, harsh speech, and senseless speech. The three mental non-virtues are covetousness, harmful intent, and wrong view.

We find that between the past and the future there is an extremely thin line—something that cannot really withstand analysis. Past and future exist in relation to the present. But if the present cannot be posited, how can past and future be posited? This is a demonstration of dependent origination.

We learn from the principle of dependent origination that things and events do not come into being without causes. Suffering and unsatisfactory conditions are caused by our own delusions and the contaminated actions induced by them.

For a bodhisattva to be successful in accomplishing the practice of the six perfections—generosity, ethical discipline, tolerance, joyous effort, concentration, and wisdom—cooperation with fellow beings and kindness towards them are extremely important.

Suffering originates from various causes and conditions. But the root cause of our pain and suffering lies in our own ignorant and undisciplined state of mind. The happiness we seek can be attained only through the purification of our minds.

The criterion that distinguishes a school as Buddhist is its acceptance of four fundamental tenets, known as the four seals:

i) All composite phenomena are impermanent.

ii) All contaminated things and events are unsatisfactory.

iii) All phenomena are empty and selfless.

iv) Nirvana is true peace.

Vegetarianism is very admirable. However, according to Buddhism, there is no unequivocal prohibition against eating meat. What is specifically prohibited is taking any meat that you have ordered with the knowledge, or even the suspicion, that it has been killed especially for you.

Try to consider as transitory all adverse circumstances and disturbances. Like ripples in a pool, they occur and soon disappear.

Our lives are conditioned by karma. They are characterized by endless cycles of problems. One problem appears and passes, and soon another one begins.

The essence of all spiritual life is your attitude towards others. Once you have pure and sincere motives all the rest follows.


Excerpted from The Dalai Lama's Little Book of Buddhism by Renuka Singh. Copyright © 2015 H. H. The Dalai Lama. Excerpted by permission of Hampton Roads Publishing Company, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Foreword, by Robert Thurman,
Introduction, by Renuka Singh,
The Dalai Lama's Little Book of Buddhism,
About the Author,
About the Editor,

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