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How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life Hardcover – January 8, 2002

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Editorial Reviews Review

As a primer on living the good life, few books compete with How to Practice, another profound offering from the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Westerners may be confused by the book's title, assuming that it focuses solely on Buddhist meditation and prayer techniques. Though it does address meditation and prayer, at its core this is a book that demonstrates how day-to-day living can be a spiritual practice. There are two ways to create happiness:
The first is external. By obtaining better clothes, better shelter, and better friends we can find a certain measure of happiness and satisfaction. The second is through mental development, which yields inner happiness. However, these two approaches are not equally viable. External happiness cannot last long without its counterpart.... However, if you have peace of mind you can find happiness even under the most difficult circumstances.
As he has in previous books (An Open Heart, The Art of Happiness), the Dalai Lama reminds us that developing peace of mind means paying attention to our daily attitudes and choices as well as taking the time to meditate and be prayerful. The six-part book covers Buddhist meditation techniques and visualization exercises as well as daily thoughts and actions that foster morality and wisdom. --Gail Hudson

From 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.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Pocket Books (January 8, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743427084
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743427081
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 5.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (197 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #77,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, was born in 1935 to a peasant family in northeastern Tibet and was recognized at the age of two as the reincarnation of his predecessor, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. The world's foremost Buddhist leader, he travels extensively, speaking eloquently in favor of ecumenical understanding, kindness and compassion, respect for the environment, and, above all, world peace.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

283 of 294 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book by H.H. the Dalai Lama may be read by those wishing an introduction to Tibetan Buddhism and by those wishing to begin or develop their practice.

The Dalai Lama attempts to answer the basic question: "How can people be happy?" His answer outlines a path of spiritual growth and practice. Although based upon Tibetan Buddhism, there is wisdom in the book for anybody seeking spiritual growth, within or without any specific religious practice.

The book consists of six short sections. It begins with a brief discussion of the life of the Buddha which, as the Dalai Lama points out, encompasses the basic teachings of the Buddhist path: morality, concentrated meditation and wisdom. The Dalai Lama then explains the basis of each teaching in short chapters. It is good that the book gives its focus to moral practice -- curing anger, lust, hatred, and agression and wishing well to oneself and others.

Chapter III of the book discusses meditation practices and will introduce the beginner to the value of meditation and to several meditation techniques. The Dalai Lama stresses the need for consistent practice and for patience and for the need of controlling one's expectations.

There are several chapters which discuss the difficult but key Buddhist teaching of dependent origination. Much of this material the Dalai Lama also covers in an earlier book called "The Meaning of Life."

There is a concluding section on Tantra, a uniquely Tibetan practice. I think it is better for the average person to remain with the practices of morality and concentration described earlier in the book.

Some of the unique features of this book are the Dalai Lama's anecdotes of his life in Tibet before the Chinese Invasion of 1950 and of his teachers.
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162 of 171 people found the following review helpful By E. Thompson on March 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I am completely new to Buddhism and am thoroughly impressed by the Dalai Lama's clear, simple explanation. He effectively describes how even a complete Western beginner like myself can begin to end suffering by practicing. Throughout the book, the Dalai Lama's enlightenment and compassion shine off of the pages through modest stories of his life and experiences. The Dalai Lama starts out the book with the basics of Buddhist morality, moves on to the practice of meditation, and ends with the details of wisdom and tantra. There are images for meditation, lists of moral and amoral thoughts and deeds, and even a short explanation of the concept of emptiness.
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 higly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in beginning to follow the Buddhist path.
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76 of 79 people found the following review helpful By JMack VINE VOICE on February 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Many people choose not to read the books by his Holiness the Dalai Lama because they believe that this will offend or counter their own religious beliefs. Quite to the contrast, 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.
This book is highly recommended for anybody seeking personal and spiritual growth.
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56 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Tom Perigrin on August 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is not really an introductory Buddhist text, although the previous reviews suggest that some (but not all) non-Buddhists have gained by reading it. Rather, it's title exactly describes it - if you are a practicing Buddhist, it tells you "How To Practice".

Of course, there is no single way to practice - in fact, there are at least 84,000 ways to practice spread over many traditions (Theravadan (SE Asia), Mahayanan (Zen, Pure Land), and Vajrayana (Tibetan). This book is primarily written for Tibetan Buddhists, but the guidelines are sufficiently broad that I have given this book to Zen and Theravaden Buddhists who found much to agree about.

The book is broken into three major sections - mirroring the three fold grouping often applied to the 8-fold path: morality, meditation and wisdom. The book also introduces the Tantric methods of Vajrayanan Buddhism.

Each chapter covers it's topic in a clear, concise fashion, and ends with a "Summary for Daily Practice". This helps tie the writing (which can be somewhat theoretical) into the title of the book "How To Practice".

The first section introduces the Four Noble Truths, and expands upon them and finally brings them to ground in practices such as such as the Four Wholesum Practices, the Six Perfections, etc.

The second section is a brief but very clear introduction to various types of meditation, including analytical and stabilizing meditation, etc. I have loaned the book to other practitioners and they agree that this is a great book to loan to beginners.

The third section is about Wisdom - the nature of reality and relative and ultimate truth (and for those of you who are really dedicated - emptiness).
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