How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life

How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life

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by Dalai Lama
     
 

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As human beings, we all share the desire for happiness and meaning in our lives. According to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the ability to find true fulfillment lies within each of us. In this very special book, the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet, Nobel Prize winner, and bestselling author helps readers embark upon the path to enlightenment with a stunning

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Overview

As human beings, we all share the desire for happiness and meaning in our lives. According to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the ability to find true fulfillment lies within each of us. In this very special book, the spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet, Nobel Prize winner, and bestselling author helps readers embark upon the path to enlightenment with a stunning illumination of the timeless wisdom and an easy-access reference for daily practice.
Divided into a series of distinct steps that will lead spiritual seekers toward enlightenment, How to Practice is a constant companion in the quest to practice morality, meditation, and wisdom. This accessible book will guide you toward opening your heart, refraining from doing harm, and maintiaining mentaltranquility as the Dalai Lama shows you how to overcome everyday obstacles, from feelings of anger and mistrust to jealousy, insecurity, and counterproductive thinking. Imbued with His Holiness' vivacious spirit and sense of playfulness, How to Practice offers sage and practical insight into the human psyche and into the deepest aspirations that bind us all together.

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Editorial Reviews

bn.com
This book answers the question, "How do I practice what the Dalai Lama preaches?" The Tibetan spiritual leaders offers specific, step-by-step counsel on how to live a meaningful life every day; how to practice morality, meditation and wisdom in our daily lives.
Publishers Weekly
The Dalai Lama, a formidable teacher, presents a way that is the middle way, but not necessarily the easy way. Because the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism has a natural gift as well as the translating and publishing resources that makes his teachings accessible, it is easy to forget the rigor and depth of those teachings. Too, Buddhism so often appears in the West as a system of daily behavior and practice that it is also easy to overlook the compelling intellectual challenge it presents to the Western understanding of reality. His Holiness starts on familiar Buddhist ground (morality of action, suffering, compassion) and chapter by chapter adds doctrine and complexity until teachings from the heights of imaginative Tantra and Tibetan deity yoga are being explicated. For the uninitiated the climb is steep, and those seeking general ethical guidance would do better with an easier text (His Holiness has written those, too). For the serious, however, the Dalai Lama offers elegant clarity about the paradoxes at the heart of Buddhism including the central Heart Sutra itself, the teaching of form-is-emptiness and about the intellectual intricacy of Buddhist teachings. Tibetan Buddhism is considered the esoteric wing of Buddhism; this slice shows some layers of its complexity while whetting the spiritual appetite for more understanding, or what Buddhists would call the intention for enlightenment. (Jan.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
As with the earlier audiotapes of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's works Live in a Better Way, Ethics for the New Millennium, and The Art of Happiness the author's message soothes listeners, guiding them toward the focus and clarity that come with daily quiet time or meditation. Believing in meditation leads one toward compassion and understanding; the ultimate goal is wisdom and kinder living. Divided into steps, this audiobook, read by Jeffrey Hopkins, is accessible to all spiritual seekers whatever their faith. The Dalai Lama offers the listener practical advice on morality, compassion, and empathy. He shows the seeker how to overcome the stresses and petty emotions of daily life, including anger, insecurity, jealousy, mistrust, and negative thinking, reminding us that as human beings, we possess common longings. His words are infused with spirit, humor, and insight. Recommended for most public libraries. Pam Kingsbury, Florence, AL Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743453363
Publisher:
Atria Books
Publication date:
08/19/2003
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
100,061
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.12(h) x 0.70(d)

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: Three Ways to Practice

Buddha's Enlightenment as a Model

According to some Buddhist schools, Shakyamuni Buddha first became enlightened in India in the sixth century b.c., through practice of the path. Others, however, believe that Shakyamuni Buddha had achieved enlightenment long before and that in his sixth century b.c. incarnation the Buddha was merely demonstrating the path. In Tibet, we take the latter view, and followers learn from his example how to practice in order to achieve enlightenment themselves.

In either case, we need to notice that:

  • Shakyamuni Buddha was born into a life of pleasure as a prince in an Indian royal family. At age twenty-nine, upon seeing the suffering of the world, he gave up his royal position, cut his own hair, left his family, and took on the morality of a monastic, adopting a system of ethical behavior.
  • For the next six years he engaged in ascetic meditation for the sake of achieving concentrated meditation.
  • Then, under the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, he practiced special techniques for developing wisdom, and achieved enlightenment. He went on to teach for forty-five years, and at age eighty-one, he died.

In the Buddha's life story we see the three stages of practice: morality comes first, then concentrated meditation, and then wisdom. And we see that the path takes time.

Gradual Change

Developing the mind depends upon a great many internal causes and conditions, much like a space station depends on the work of generations of scientists who have analyzed and tested even its smallest components. Neither a space station nor an enlightened mind can be realized in a day. Similarly, spiritual qualities must be constructed through a great variety of ways. However, unlike the space station, which is constructed by many people working together, the mind must be developed by you alone. There is no way for others to do the work and for you to reap the results. Reading someone else's blueprint of mental progress will not transfer its realizations to you. You have to develop them yourself.

Cultivating an attitude of compassion and developing wisdom are slow processes. As you gradually internalize techniques for developing morality, concentration of mind, and wisdom, untamed states of mind become less and less frequent. You will need to practice these techniques day by day, year by year. As you transform your mind, you will transform your surroundings. Others will see the benefits of your practice of tolerance and love, and will work at bringing these practices into their own lives.

The Three Practices

Buddha's teachings are divided into three collections of scriptures:

  • The discipline of morality
  • The discourses on concentrated meditation
  • The manifest knowledge that explains the training in wisdom

In each of these scriptures, the main practice is described as an extraordinary state that is created from the union of (1) "calm abiding" (concentrated meditation) and (2) "special insight" (wisdom). But in order to achieve such a union, first we must lay its foundation: morality.

Order of Practice

Morality, concentrated meditation, and wisdom — this is the essential order of practice. The reasons are as follows:

  • In order for the wisdom of special insight to remove impediments to proper understanding, and to remove faulty mental states at their very roots, we need concentrated meditation, a state of complete single-mindedness in which all internal distractions have been removed. Otherwise the mind is too fractured. Without such one-pointed concentrated meditation, wisdom has no force, just as the flame of a candle in a breeze does not give off much illumination. Therefore, concentrated meditation must precede wisdom.
  • Single-minded meditation involves removing subtle internal distractions such as the mind's being either too relaxed or too tight. To do so we must first stop external distractions through training in the morality of maintaining mindfulness and conscientiousness with regard to physical and verbal activities — being constantly aware of what you are doing with your body and your speech. Without overcoming these obvious distractions, it is impossible to overcome subtler internal distractions. Since it is through sustaining mindfulness that you achieve a calm abiding of the mind, the practice of morality must precede the practice of concentrated meditation.

In my own experience, taking the vows of a monk called for fewer external involvements and activities, which meant that I could focus more on spiritual studies. Vows to restrain counterproductive physical and verbal activities made me mindful of my behavior and drew me to inspect what was happening in my mind. This meant that even when I was not purposely practicing concentrated meditation, I had to control my mind from being scattered and thus was constantly drawn in the direction of one-pointed, internal meditation. The vow of morality has certainly acted as a foundation.

Looking at the three practices — morality, concentrated meditation, and wisdom — we see that each serves as the basis for the next. (This order of practice is clearly demonstrated in the Buddha's own life story.) Therefore, all spiritual progress depends on a foundation of proper morality.

Copyright © 2002 by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Jeffrey Hopkins,

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Meet the Author

Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. He frequently describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk. Born in northeastern Tibet in 1935, he was as a toddler recognized as the incarnation of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama and brought to Tibet's capital, Lhasa. In 1950, Mao Zedong's Communist forces made their first incursions into eastern Tibet, shortly after which the young Dalai Lama assumed the political leadership of his country. He passed his scholastic examinations with honors at the Great Prayer Festival in Lhasa in 1959, the same year Chinese forces occupied the city, forcing His Holiness to escape to India. There he set up the Tibetan government-in-exile in Dharamsala, working to secure the welfare of the more than 100,000 Tibetan exiles and prevent the destruction of Tibetan culture. In his capacity as a spiritual and political leader, he has traveled to more than sixty-two countries on six continents and met with presidents, popes, and leading scientists to foster dialogue and create a better world. In recognition of his tireless work for the nonviolent liberation of Tibet, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. In 2012, he relinquished political authority in his exile government and turned it over to democratically elected representatives.

His Holiness frequently states that his life is guided by three major commitments: the promotion of basic human values or secular ethics in the interest of human happiness, the fostering of interreligious harmony, and securing the welfare of the Tibetan people, focusing on the survival of their identity, culture, and religion. As a superior scholar trained in the classical texts of the Nalanda tradition of Indian Buddhism, he is able to distill the central tenets of Buddhist philosophy in clear and inspiring language, his gift for pedagogy imbued with his infectious joy. Connecting scientists with Buddhist scholars, he helps unite contemplative and modern modes of investigation, bringing ancient tools and insights to bear on the acute problems facing the contemporary world. His efforts to foster dialogue among leaders of the world's faiths envision a future where people of different beliefs can share the planet in harmony. Wisdom Publications is proud to be the premier publisher of the Dalai Lama's more serious and in-depth works.

Jeffrey Hopkins, Ph.D., served for a decade as the interpreter for the Dalai Lama. A Buddhist scholar and the author of more than thirty-five books and translations, he is emeritus professor of Tibetan and Buddhist studies at the University of Virginia, where he founded the largest academic program of Tibetan Buddhist studies in the West.

Jeffrey Hopkins, Ph.D., served for a decade as the interpreter for the Dalai Lama. A Buddhist scholar and the author of more than thirty-five books and translations, he is emeritus professor of Tibetan and Buddhist studies at the University of Virginia, where he founded the largest academic program of Tibetan Buddhist studies in the West.

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How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Many religious leaders share the teaching of their faith and exhort you to follow their precepts. Rarely do religious leaders explain the mental processes they go through to attempt to follow those precepts themselves. While How to Practice certainly captures Buddhist beliefs, it is remarkably detailed in both how the Dalai Lama disciplines his mind and in exercises that you can follow. For Buddhists, this book is a plus. For nonBuddhists, there still are valuable lessons for following goodness, although you may choose not to follow some of the exercises. The book¿s premise is that you will learn ¿valuable techniques from Tibetan traditions which, if implemented in daily practice, lead to mental peace.¿ The Dalai Lama summarizes the essence of the Buddha¿s teaching as: ¿If possible, you should help others . . . at least . . . do no harm.¿ If you want to get a quick overview of what the recommended daily practices are, these are summarized on pages 214-223. If you are like me, you will come away very impressed with the magnitude of the moral focus behind these mental disciplines. I was impressed to learn about the different types of meditation that are possible, which each accomplishes, how sutras are used, and what Tantra practice is. The essence of the discipline is ¿morality, concentrated meditation and wisdom¿ developed in that order. The Dalai Lama also takes on a detailed description of what Enlightenment is all about, a most important Buddhist concept. Although I have heard many Buddhists speak about Enlightenment, I felt this explanation helped me to understand the concept much better than I did before. The book has a gentle persuasiveness that made me feel warm and appreciated. ¿I accept everyone as a friend.¿ The Dalai Lama also encourages you to ¿minimize anger and cultivate kindness and a warm heart.¿ May you find the truth that you seek, and share its warmth with all those you meet!
PJaxton More than 1 year ago
I wouldn't quite call "How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life" by the Dalai Lama a primer on Buddhism, because I feel that someone with no foreknowledge of Buddhist philosophy and practice might quickly get lost amidst the vast amount of information contained in this little volume. However, if you understand the basics, His Holiness presents the details of how to practice, in the Tibetan way, in a very clear and concise presentation. I found myself coming to several new and exciting revelations as I read this book, things I will be working on in my own meditations for some time to come. I did have a few issues with this book. As with most books intended to teach a way to practice (whether it be religion, philosophy, or even sports) there is a certain amount of repetition. By the third or forth time the same thing was repeated I was ready to just skip over it, which would have been a shame because intermixed with some of them were a few wonderful stories about the Dalai Lama himself and his own journey toward Buddhahood. I also found some of his examples to be distracting, especially when they were taken from traditional teachings or contained particularly difficult names. I plodded through these sections and gleaned what I could from them, but feel a less traditional approach might have translated better. If you have more than a passing interest in Buddhism or the ways of meditation, then you can't do much better than this book by the Dalai Lama himself!
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you are familiar with the Dalai Lama, then you are not going to find much new here. But the content and ideas set fourth are truely transformational. Developing compassion is the hallmark of the Dalai Lama's teachings, indeed the hallmark of Budah's teachings as well. I enjoyed the audio book as it provided a great feel for the Budhist tradition: the four noble truths, emptiness, compassion, wisdom, and meditation. Incorporate what is useful to you and others out of the book in your own life and your own spiritual tradition, and leave the rest for contemplation.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book demonstrates how ordinary daily activities themselves can become a form of spiritual practice. It explains there are two basic ways to create happiness: External and internal. By obtaining material goods, etc, we find satisfaction externally. Through internal development, we develop even greater happiness. This book emphasizes that developing peace of mind helps us manifest both types of happiness. I also highly recommend a little book of Buddhist wisdom titled 'Open Your Mind, Open Your Life' which is a great companion book to the works of the Dalai Lama.
ak_laura More than 1 year ago
This is my second time reading this book; the first time was a few years ago and I enjoyed the way The Dalai Lama laid out concrete steps to spiritual understanding in terms that make sense. I'm reading it again because the first time I read it as an enjoyable read. I am reading it again because I am now ready to incorporate some of practices in this great little book!
XXXOOOBookwormOOOXXX More than 1 year ago
Interestingly enough,everybody can take the simple practices of this book to better their everyday lives. One line in this book has stood out in the my mind. "You should realize that difficult present circumstances are entirely due to your own past undisciplined actions, so when you experience a difficult period, do you best to avoid behavior that will add to the burden later on." (p 38). This is just one example of the suggestions given to living a more fulfilling life. I believe that he is right in his suggestion that money and posessions will not make a person happy in life. Each of us must discover what gives meaning to our life. To find this is really not that difficult as His Holiness reveals where it lies.Most striking of all is the Dalai Lama's comment at the very end of the book, "Though my own knowledge is limited and my experience is also very poor, I have tried my best to help you understand the full breadth of the Buddha's teaching." With these words, the Dalai Lama sets a startling example for the aspiring student by both showing humility and providing a reminder of the breadth and depth of Buddhist enlightenment. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in beginning to follow the Buddhist path.  
pedigreedmutt More than 1 year ago
what can you say about this extraordinary teacher and his loving way to communicate? wonderful. full of wisdom. peace.
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