Author: Dalai Lama
There is no doubt in my mind now after finishing listening to this book as to why so many others have rated it so high. It is an excellent book. Its thought provoking, insightful and a joy to read. There is much inspiration to be had from the Dalai Lama and his calming, relaxed expression of these throughout the book are so worthwhile. The stories presented have deep meaning yet are presented with an open attitude and a flowing discussion that seems to have no real structure or agenda. This made the book more interesting for me as it is delivered in a way more from a storyteller than a teacher. You are left to interpret it however you want and The Dalai Lama expresses his own genuine sincerity and openness by admitting his own findings and his willingness to abandon his religious beliefs when empirical science proves them “untenable.”
He starts out by explaining some of his own background as a child and how he became interested in science, even though it was often thought to conflict with his spiritual beliefs. He learned to embrace and use the questions of science to reinforce his beliefs and spirituality which many of those topics are explored in more detail throughout the book.
The rest of the book has a broad scope discussing important and relevant questions about the nature of reality, the beginning of the universe, quantum physics, genetics, and consciousness in the mind.
Throughout the book there is an obvious focus and comparison between contemporary Buddhist thought and western science. While the author uses these comparisons to present the parallels with science and spirituality, he does not limit the comparisons to one the Buddhist beliefs. He explores various religions in his discussions on the origin of the universe and how they compare with science. Surprisingly, he admits a need to have some of the Tibetan Buddhism’s creation myths revised and spends no time defending or protecting them by interpretation. This shows great humility and wisdom and I highly valued that perspective in the book. On that same topic, he does delve deeper to the underlying insights of these beliefs and looks more at the meaning behind them.
Consciousness is explored at some length with many concepts and perspectives outlined from the Buddhist practice. I find this topic very intriguing and certainly have interest in the aspect of it for awareness and mindfulness. I certainly belief there is great value in understanding and exploring ideas oneself yet I don’t see how Buddhists can take this as far as reincarnation or continual existence simply by your own doing. To me, that ability is God’s and not something you can capture by your own doing. The author doesn’t get into the spiritual aspects of this much in this book and sticks more to the scientific experimentation that is starting in the area of consciousness and it relates to religious. He touches on how scientists and meditators can work together and compliment each other to study the mind without having to negate either. He encourages the need for more of this joint effort with science, especially in areas that are relatively new to study in science.
With all of these areas explored and your own decisions as to how related science is with Buddhism or your own religious beliefs, there is a consistent message throughout the book that is undeniable. Everyone needs to take time to reflect on their own lives, understand themselves and their own feelings in order to understand and be mindful of the emotions of others. Seeing this and reflecting on it leads us to work towards an instinctive desire to gain wisdom, understanding and compassion towards others.
Prev: Beliefs: They’re Entirely Yours to Control
Next: Why Worrying Gets You Nowhere … (Guest post on The Positivity Blog)