Thoughts from Linda:
How to be Compassionate
A handbook for creating inner peace and a happier world
by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
I have had the honor and privilege of working in close proximity with His Holiness, through our work with Betty Williams, another recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. My husband and I worked with Betty (I served as Chairman of her Board and Tony was her Global CFO) in the organization she founded, World Centers of Compassion for Children, International. Together with a team, we were able to create a center for refugee children in Basilicata, Italy. His Holiness opened the Center for us and as he was one of Betty’s close friends and colleagues, we had the opportunity to be in his presence often.
We lost our dear friend and global champion for children’s rights, Betty Williams, on St. Patrick’s Day of 2020.
Betty was committed to many things, including the specific meaning as expressed in this handbook, of COMPASSION.
I found this book by accident, in a market in Sydney, Australia, while browsing in a bookstall of second-hand books. I have since given away hundreds of copies, to family, to friends and to business acquaintances. While there are many books written by HHDL and many great ones about him and his life, I find this handbook to be so useful—it is easily to access and to grasp his teachings and practices.
Tenzen Gyatso was born in 1935 in northeastern Tibet to a peasant family and was recognized at the age of two as the reincarnation of his predecessor. He became the fourteenth Dalai Lama. His Holiness began his monastic education at the age of six. The curriculum, derived from the Nalanda tradition, consisted of five major and five minor subjects. The major subjects included logic, fine arts, Sanskrit grammar, and medicine, but the greatest emphasis was given to Buddhist philosophy which was further divided into a further five categories: Prajnaparamita, the perfection of wisdom; Madhyamika, the philosophy of the middle Way; Vinaya, the canon of monastic discipline; Abidharma, metaphysics; and Pramana, logic and epistemology. The five minor subjects included poetry, drama, astrology, composition and synonyms.
A friend of ours, Dawn Gifford Engle, has recently produced a movie called The Dalai Lama—Scientist, and I highly recommend it as he is indeed quite proficient in the scientific method and has an incredibly curious mind.
His story is well documented and there are many terrific internet sites featuring him and providing for his teachings today. He has lived in Dharamsala, India, since his departure from Tibet.
This book, translated by Jeffrey Hopkins, lays out his simple formula for happiness by calling on each of us to pay attention to our own hearts—to our orientation to everyone and everything around us. He helps us see our “mistakes of attitudes” and how we can reverse them. The book begins with a chapter called “Recognizing the Source of Happiness.” It would be no surprise that he would explain how caring for others can be a profound source of happiness on a personal level, which can extend in wider circles to create ‘zones of happiness and peace.’
The book has nine additional chapters which lay out the mistakes that lead to personal unhappiness, then providing solutions for those problems. He focuses on the nature of hatred—because of its central role in undermining our own potential for unbounded compassion. He takes us then into the nature of consciousness to help address how transformation can be achieved. The final three chapters deal with how to implement compassion into our daily life, concluding with his advice on how we can all live with greater care for all beings.
He speaks plainly and offers simple, but profound advice. In a section called “How to Help” he says:
“Just as smart public policy aims to educate people so that they can take care of their own lives, so it is with the practice of altruism. The most effective way to help others is by teaching them what to adopt in their future practice and what to discard from their current behavior. People need to learn how to bring about their own happiness. Each one of us is responsible for all of humankind and for the environment in which we live. We need to think of each other as true brothers and sisters and need to be deeply concerned with each other’s welfare. We must seek to lessen the suffering of others. Rather than working solely to acquire wealth, we need to do something meaningful, something seriously directed toward the welfare of humanity as a whole. To do this, you need to recognize that the whole world is part of you.”
I recommend reading this last paragraph over again and I highly recommend reading this book!