Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Review: How To See Yourself as You Really Are | HH, The Dalai Lama

First of all, I want to say that I was introduced to the Dalai Lama and his teachings a couple of years ago when I saw him give a speech on 'happiness' in Toronto.  I was moved to such an extent that I ended up crying - not a thing I can ever remember doing in public preceding this event.

I saw him again in the last year or so, when he was talking about 'world peace' and I wasn't as moved as before - but I went in with high expectations.  He is evidently aging, though he still has such a powerful personality and his mind is very deep and clear.  He talks a lot about the interconnectedness of all and how important it is to show people compassion. 

A lot of these sentiments are echoed in 'How to See Yourself as You Really Are.'  For instance, he says this about compassion:

"You have a responsibility to help them (closest friends) possess happiness and to help free them from suffering, develop great love and great compassion." 219

This book is more about core Buddhist principles (this is what I would think of them as) and not really a self-help book in the 'traditional Western' respect.  It was very different from the other book I read by him, called "The Art of Happiness at Work," in the sense that it was more about explaining a theory then directly speaking to you, from what I recall. 
This book details a few key principles that I could discern:
1. People want happiness, not suffering.

2. Lust and hatred are rooted in ignorance.  The key to solving this is knowledge, partially obtained through meditation.

3. Focusing on physical emptiness through meditation.

4. It's important to liberate yourself from a cyclic existence (happiness, followed by sadness, followed by happiness, etc).

5. All things do not inherently exist.  And even though you may thing of something as 'my mind' or 'my body', they are not you.  The "I" that is you, is not your mind and body.  However, without the mind and body you would not exist so whatever "I" is, it is dependent on the mind and body.

6. To reduce lust, focus on breaking things into tangible components - since they do not inherently exist as you see them.  When you are lusting after a woman, for example, simply focus on her eye balls, her sinews, her muscles, her veins, etc and you can disassociate from a feeling of lust.

7. The concept of the impermanence of our lives.

There is much about these musings in the book, as well as some helpful tips to learn how to meditate and what to do if you are having trouble - especially if you have a hard time focusing on one thing ("If your mind is scattered, it is quite powerless" 88) or you are too calm and you can't focus. 

'How to See Yourself As You Really Are' is a self help book, but one of a different kind.  It does not say things like 'go explore a new place to gain perspective' or 'put yourself in someone elses' shoes.  It simply speaks of the interconnectedness of the world, how to see objects as they exist (their function, not based on materialism) and how to ultimately help people and contribute positively to society.

It was very difficult for me to get through it because it came across as very mathematical (like when I read 'The Art of War' by Sun Tzu), but as I write this review I realize all that I actually learned.  I'm glad I read it, but I wouldn't recommend it UNLESS you were able to get past the mathematical nature and had a really quiet place where you could digest the meaning over time.  To meditate, perhaps.

As I final thought, I would strongly recommend listening to some of his lectures on topics that interest you.  Also, seeing him in person may elicit a very strong response - and it's important to let that feeling pass through you.  It's possible that both these experiences will really help you to understand the true nature of a compassionate and knowledgeable individual.

3 comments:

Jillian said...

This sounds interesting. I'm curious about Buddhism and the teachings of the Dalai Lama. (It must have been amazing to see him in person!)

jfeldt said...

stopping by from the blog hop. I'm quite excited to finally see a blog that likes classics. have a great weekend :-)

CHE said...

I've heard the Dalai Lama speak once on religious tolerance and found it very powerful. I think I'm going to seek out this book.
I'm a new follower btw.
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