Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World, Library Edition (Anglais)
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Revue de presse
"An impressive guide for teaching religious tolerance and respect to readers of all ages."
--Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .
Présentation de l'éditeur
Ten years ago, in the best-selling Ethics for a New Millennium, His Holiness the Dalai Lama first proposed an approach to ethics based on universal rather than religious principles. With Beyond Relgion, he returns to the conversation at his most outspoken, elaborating and deepening his vision for the nonreligious way—a path to lead an ethical, happy, and spiritual life. Transcending the religion wars, he outlines a system of ethics for our shared world, one that makes a stirring appeal for a deep appreciation of our common humanity, offering us all a road map for improving human life on individual, community, and global levels.
“Cogent and fresh . . . This ethical vision is needed as we face the global challenges of technological progress, peace, environmental destruction, greed, science, and educating future generations.” —Spirtuality & Practice
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This book is no exception. It was a book I could only read a few pages of...before needing to think and contemplate what I read. I suppose I could have read it all in one night, but then I wouldn't have gotten as much out of it. It reminded me a lot of Karen Armstrong's Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life (Borzoi Books) Which I also highly recommend if you want to explore Compassion more.
The title, "Beyond Religion" may be off-putting to some--especially Americans who tend to love to identify their belief in God. Even though Western Europe may have more self-professed atheists/agnostics, the point is not that God is not necessary...but that there are certain values/ethics which do and should go beyond whatever religion one professes to believe. These are universal ethics...universal truths...such as compassion. If we, as a World, would look at the vast inequality which exists today and would operate out of a universal ethic of compassion--we'd have less inequality, less hunger, less wars, less problems.
In one part of the book, H.H. says he is sympathetic to Marxist/Socialism due to all of the inequality he sees--and I realize this might be off-putting for some. Please, go beyond it. Heck, re-read the Sermon on the Mount, or look at any great religious figure and you'll see that the Robin Hood principle is pretty universal. Christians are not supposed to live as billionaires while others starve. That is why it is so hard for a rich man to get into heaven. Do we need to switch to a socialist view point to achieve that? No, but we do need to be universally more compassionate to those in need. Think of what would happen if half of the money spent on influencing elections were actually spent on helping lift people out of poverty, or on education, or helping the hungry.
His Holiness begins by explaining that secular religion is no longer providing a moral compass for the world, that it is no longer adequate as a basis for ethics. For one thing, many people in the world no longer practice any form of religion. Furthermore, as people of the world become more interconnected in an age of globalization and multicultural societies, ethics based on religion would only appeal to some but would not be meaningful for all. He recognizes that the ultimate source of our global problems lies at the level of the individual. If the individual lacks inner moral values and integrity, no system of laws and regulations will be adequate or effective. Likewise, any religion-based answer to the problem of neglected inner moral values can never be universal, and so will be inadequate. What His Holiness suggests in Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World is an approach to ethics which makes no recourse to religion and can be acceptable to everybody-those individuals of faith and those without- a new secular approach to universal ethics that gives a tolerant respect to religion.
His Holiness explains that ethical conduct does not require adherence to religion provided one realizes every individual's right to be happy and free of suffering. He reminds us that everybody desires happiness but only those who manage to achieve inner peace can truly find happiness. He points out that happiness is easier to attain when we show compassion to others, just as we are made happy when compassion is shown to us.
His Holiness dedicates an entire chapter to "Compassion, the Foundation of Well-Being." In it he explains that many people mistakenly assume that compassion is a religious practice when it is in fact not so. It is true that compassion is central to the ethical teachings of all the major religious traditions, but in itself it is not a religious value. When compassion arises in us, it shifts our focus away from our own narrow self absorption. It opens an inner door, reduces our fear, boosts our confidence, and brings us inner strength. By reducing distrust of others, it opens our hearts to them and brings us a sense of connection, a sense of purpose, a sense of meaning in our life. When our motivation is pure and genuinely directed toward the benefit of others, our actions will naturally be ethically sound. Compassion is therefore the core principle of secular ethics.
On the global scale, this book is very consistent with other social sciences dealing with the complexity of an inter-connected world and clearly addresses the urgent need for major world powers to understand that our existing life styles are unsustainable, unaffordable and nothing short of suicidal as the planet is being destroyed. For a secular ethical approach to be truly meaningful, we must of course care about our planet and share a principle of global responsibility, including creating a safer world free of violence, terrorism, destruction and war.
Part II of Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World concerns EDUCATING THE HEART THROUGH TRAINING THE MIND. Sections outlining practical applications of the Dalai Lama's ethical views include: "Ethical Mindfulness in Everyday Life," "Dealing with Destructive Emotions," "Cultivating Key Inner Values," and "Meditation as Mental Cultivation."
It is hard not to love the Dalai Lama, a true pillar of peace and compassion. This book is excellent and I am so happy that His Holiness has made this splendid, lucid contribution to a new system of ethics based on universal rather than religious principles. It is slow reading in its profundity and even though he is a holy man of religion, his approach is primarily scientific and ethical rather than philosophical and religious. I am afraid however that the most likely readers of this book will be those who need his advice the least and those who need his advice the most are those the least likely to read it.
Nevertheless, it is not His Holiness's intention to make new Buddhists with this book but to show us how to adapt our own beliefs, values, religious traditions, and spiritual practices into a mindful effort to live our life to the fullest and to treat others in the world around us with dignity and respect, thereby enriching our individual life and the global human community.
BEYOND RELIGION by Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, addresses the need for us today to commit "to developing and applying inner values in our daily lives." Due to the waning influence of religion in the western world, to a loosening of ethical standards in the media, and the lack of responsible values-oriented parenting in millions of families, many of us lack a moral center of gravity, and are easily swayed by external influences.
Even those who are religious may not have internalized their values. Such internalization is not gained through commandments directed at the superego and beginning "thou shalt" or "thou shalt not." Rather, it involves the embracing of one's values at a cellular level, so that they penetrate into our very core and become an inner foundation directing every action.
Ethics may be one facet of religion but we do not have to subscribe to a particular religion in order to cultivate a personal and social ethical orientation. The Dalai Lama - although he does present Buddhist precepts in regard to ethical action, levels of understanding and kinds of generosity - takes a nonsecular approach. Clearly, and with a rare blend of simplicity and profundity, he delineates attitudes and practices that can enable us to live more consciously, compassionately and ethically.
I, for one, never experienced firsthand his substantial wisdom before reading this book. What impresses me most, along with the importance of his message, is the clarity and precision with which he elucidates the inner process of becoming a more self-aware, contented, responsible, self-directed, loving and generous human being.
The cornerstone of his philosophy of ethical living is based upon "actively promoting the positive inner qualities of the human heart that arise from our core disposition toward compassion, and learning to combat our more destructive propensities." He also tells us, "Disarmament is compassion in practice. What is required, therefore, is both inner disarmament, at the level of our individual hatred, prejudice and intolerance, and outer disarmament, at the level of nations and states."
The English language and most other Western languages as well lack an adequate vocabulary for delineating internal states. Without being encouraged to attune to our inner process, without being able to find the words to articulate what is happening within - and as a result, without being able to transcend conflicts in feelings and thoughts - we may easily remain adrift, without a center of gravity or reliable source of inner guidance. For those of us seeking the right words to anchor us and insights substantial enough to propel us beyond confusion, the Dalai Lama's lucid language and subtlety of thought provide an oasis amidst the shifting sands of empty verbiage.
He distinguishes between wise selfishness and foolish selfishness, as well as between biological compassion and cultivated extended compassion. He defines the context in which even benign emotions can become destructive and in which purportedly negative emotions can serve us. He speaks of both education of the mind and education of the heart, of the relationships between compassion and discernment, between self-respect and consideration for others.
He introduces Tibetan words and concepts such as soepa (the willingness and ability to endure suffering), and drenpa (remembering our true selves and bringing presence of mind into every moment). Such concepts help us to expand our awareness as we navigate our inner realms.
For me, the most meaningful chapter of BEYOND RELIGION is "Dealing with Destructive Emotions," because of the enlightening guidance the Dalai Lama presents in regard to the process of taming our inner dragons. Almost as instructive are his chapters on mindfulness and meditation, in which he introduces practices to help us further self-awareness and self-mastery.
I hesitate to raise criticism of so rewarding and well-crafted a book - and indeed what follows is less criticism than it is an acknowledgement of dark and foreboding facets of our psyches that I wish the Dalai Lama would explore in more depth. He was raised to be a spiritual leader, to repeatedly cultivate his intention and capacity to live an ethical life and master the regressive and destructive facets of himself - in the face of unimaginable atrocities perpetrated upon his people and homeland. But for many of us who lacked such an upbringing, the energy of old and often unconscious habits and complexes may too frequently overpower our fragile intentions. The process of developing even the most rudimentary degree of mindfulness and self-mastery is painstakingly slow.
But we cannot expect him to map out every step of the way. What Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, does present in BEYOND RELIGION is rich in value and capable of catalyzing our own motivation to take the next step. He encourages us to develop patience, a long-term perspective, and the willingness to endure suffering. Along the way, he introduces us to the Tibetan concept of chogshe - "knowing what is enough... knowing when to be contented, being able to find satisfaction without looking for more." That may well be my next lesson. Read BEYOND RELIGION if you wish to clarify yours.
Read BEYOND RELIGION if you wish to more fully define your own values, to commit more fervently to live by them, and to help develop and promote a universal ethics that humanity needs to embrace if we are to survive.
One of the most interesting things the Dalia Lama says in this book is that almost all the world's problems can be traced back to a failure of individual morality. If we can all develop and strengthen our inner values then we truly can transform the world.
I would recommend Beyond Religion to people who were not very familiar with Buddhism, but were interested in developing a spiritual path-- especially outside of a religious tradition-- and in training their mind.
Then I thought, well, me. I can buy a lot of what His Holiness has to offer, maybe even most of it, but as always when it comes to spiritual matters there's something that holds me back. A twinkle of skepticism perhaps, or maybe it's something more akin to conceit or pride that keeps me from bowing down to just about anything or anyone that seeks my supplication, even if only indirectly as is the case with this book. My deepest instincts are to resist religious Kool Ade of any flavor.
Call me a Confirmed Unaffiliated Spiritual Sojourner - or, if you prefer shorthand, call me a cranky old "CUSS".
Now that we've settled that, let's turn to this highly thought provoking little book. In its first half His Holiness establishes his basic premise, and that is, you don't need to believe in God or to be part of any organized religion to be a deeply compassionate and highly ethical human being. You just need to be a good human being. His Holiness makes the case that we are by nature compassionate, cooperative and peace loving and that achieving universal accord is ultimately a matter of each individual finding and acting upon his or her pure humanness. He points out that this is the foundational precept of all the world's religions, those that are based on a belief in God such as Christianity, Islam and Hinduism, and those that are non-theistic such as Buddhism and Jainism. He goes on to say that compassion is also the foundation of secular humanism, and that even modern science confirms the idea that we humans are indeed one big happy One. The second half of the book is like a Cliff Notes version of Buddhist doctrine, that is, it tells you what you need to do to educate your heart and train your mind to become a decent chap and on the road to Nirvana.
I give this book a rating of 5 stars out of 5 not because it is an earth shattering treatise with all the answers to our troubled world (which it isn't), but because it triggered so many questions and really got me thinking. It kept me awake long into the night for several nights in a row, writing down ideas, testing my beliefs, wondering about life, contemplating my navel. It allowed me to better define the dots of my own personal philosophy and then helped me to connect them.
My guess is that it could do the same for you.
Over the next couple of weeks I will blog about some of those "dots" that were inspired by Beyond Religion - ideas that ruined my sleep but advanced the journey. Call them the further reflections of a cranky old CUSS, which are actually just a couple of personal anecdotes and stories that at least for now I have titled:
"MMM - MMM Good"
"Mysteries and Miracles"