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Ethics for the New Millennium Paperback – May 1, 2001
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
In the first of three sections, The Foundation of Ethics, he highlights some of the world's problems, and questions material wealth as a solution to happiness, noting that material things may in themselves cause anxiety, frustration, and discontent. Though the humor was completely unintentional, I laughed at his recounting of visiting the home of a wealthy family and noticing the stockpile of meds in a medicine cabinet that happened to be ajar.
The second section, Ethics and the Individual, functions sort of as a self-help book, though it's pretty insightful in a ways that sound obvious only once you've thought of it in the context of a given problem. For example, he notes that most people assume "discipline" is something that you impose against your will, but points out that "ethical discipline is something that we adopt voluntarily on the basis of full recognition of its benefits." Later, he cites Shantideva and the central truism of Bodhisattva- basically, if you're confronting a problem that is solveable, then you must learn to immediately find the means to act on it; if the problem has no solution, then it's best not to worry about it.
The final section, Ethics and Society, is by far the most ambitious, but also the most inspiring. The Dalai Lama notes that children in today's society are brought up to acquire knowledge, but not to learn compassion. The negative impact of this, he says, can be aggressive competitiveness toward peers, greed, and scorn for the less fortunate. Astutely, he attributes this to the historical separation of learning compassion outside of school in church- whereas today church has declined and schools haven't picked up the slack. Realistically, he suggests that schools address this gap by offering students substantial practice in ethical debate and non-violent conflict resolution. He suggests that "On seeing his parents wrangling, a child that had understood the value of dialogue would instinctively say, "Oh, no. That's not the way. You have to talk, to discuss things properly."
The Dalai Lama's biggest challenge is that he places on each individual some level of accountability for the corrupt leadership we so often blame for our problems. "When people possess healthy values, and where they practice ethical discipline in their own lives out of concern for others, the public officials produced by that society will quite naturally respect those same values." The easiest criticism of the Dalai Lama (and my own, before reading this book), is that he is too idealistic. His answer, which unfortunately isn't that well backed up, is that ideals are "the engine of progress", that it is a mistake to always try to be realistic in politics as history is full of examples of positive changes driven by idealism.
The greatest part about the book is it isn't Buddhist-centric. Although the Dalai Lama is a the most prominent figure in Buddhism, the book isn't about Buddhism. The Dalai Lama extends his views on ethics and virtues to encompass everyone; Christian, Buddhists, Muslims, Atheists, ect. You do not have to be a practicing Buddhist to gain something from this book.
The Dalai Lama believes that the stability of the entire world depends on good ethical conduct. He fears that with growing secularization of modern or industrial society, that people around the world are lacking in virtue. He realizes people are pulling away from religion, but hopes to find a way that good conduct, and ethical behavior that goes beyond religious authority,will be adopted by more people of the human race.
One of the most interesting things I took away from the book was his view that people of modern society avoid suffering at all costs. Of course people want to pursue happiness, that's natural. But, he argues that for all the privledge and advancement of these societies, they still suffer, but in different ways. We as modern societies suffer more psychologically and emotionally than less developed societies. Although I am no expert on psychology, I can see this to be true. I know people with so many riches but suffer with anxiety and depression. We have to except that fact that we all suffer. That's what I love about Buddhism. Everyone suffers. Everyone hurts. Embrace this, and find ways to make your life more enriching. By doing good deeds, by developing positive and healthy human relationships (which the Dalai Lama believes modern societies struggle with), and attempt to foster a positive method of thinking. According to the Dalai Lama, this will not only benefit you and add to your happiness, but will in a small way benefit society over all. These are very simple, but can be very difficult. I liked having these ideas reiterated with the eloquence of the Dalai Lama. We all have a part to do.
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He postulates we are happiest when caring about others rather than ourselves.Read more