In a modern society characterized by insensitivity to violence, ambivalence to the suffering of others, and a high-octane profit motive, is talk of ethics anything more than a temporary salve for our collective conscience? The Dalai Lama thinks so. In his Ethics for the New Millennium
, the exiled leader of the Tibetan people shows how the basic concerns of all people--happiness based in contentment, appeasement of suffering, forging meaningful relationships--can act as the foundation for a universal ethics.
His medicine isn't always easy to swallow, however, for it demands of the reader more than memorizing precepts or positing hypothetical dilemmas. The Nobel Peace laureate invites us to recognize certain basic facts of existence, such as the interdependence of all things, and from these to recalibrate our hearts and minds, to approach all of our actions in their light. Nothing short of an inner revolution will do. Basic work is required in nurturing our innate tendencies to compassion, tolerance, and generosity. And at the same time, "we need to think, think, think ... like a scientist," reasoning out the best ways to act from a principle of universal responsibility. Like a merging of the care and compassion of Jesus, the cool rationality of the Stoics, the moral program of Ben Franklin, and the psychology of William James, Ethics for the New Millennium is a plea for basic goodness, a blueprint for world peace. --Brian Bruya
From Publishers Weekly
"This is not a religious book," asserts the Dalai Lama about a volume that's his most outspoken to date on moral and social issues. "My aim has been to appeal for an approach to ethics based on universal rather than religious principles." The Dalai Lama adopts this approach because, he notes, the majority of humanity ignores religion, the traditional vehicle for ethics, yet observation shows him that happiness, which he discerns as the prime human goal, depends upon "positive ethical conduct." The entire book, written in simple, direct prose, reflects this sort of step-by-step reasoning, taking on color and drama with numerous anecdotes drawn from the Tibetan leader's personal experience. Methodically, the Dalai Lama explores the foundation of ethics, how ethics affects the individual and the role of ethics in society. He resorts often to Buddhist principles (as in employing the idea of dependent originationAthat nothing arises or exists of itselfAto demonstrate the interrelatedness of all life), but also to native Tibetan ideas and, occasionally, to secular thought or that of other religions. The book represents no radical departure from his previous work, but it does present a number of forceful views on issues ranging from cloning to vivisection to excess wealth ("the life of luxury... is unworthy"), as well as personal flavor not seen in his books since his autobiography, Freedom in Exile. The Dalai Lama refers, for instance, to his unwillingness to sell his watch collection for money to feed the poor as an example of ethical limitation. With its disarmingly frank, kindly manner and authoritative air, the book is what one would expect from a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and could appeal as widely as the Dalai Lama's current bestseller, The Art of Happiness. (Aug.)
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