Transforming the Mind

Review From User :

A Wise Teacher For Our Times

This book is based upon a series of lectures given by H.H. the Dalai Lama in London in 1999. The theme of the book is the attainment of human happiness through self-understanding, introspection and, as the title states, "Transforming the Mind."

The theme of this book is similar to a book called "The Art of Happiness" that recounts an American psychiatrist's conversations with the Dalai Lama. The analysis in "Transforming the Mind", however, is deeper and more difficult. The Dalai Lama discusses Buddhist beliefs and doctrines as well as Tibetan texts. He presents a considerable treatment of a difficult, and fundamental Buddhist principle called "Dependent Origination." He discusses the nature of human selfhood and compares differences in various schools on this difficult topic.

The purpose of the book is humanistic and pragmatic at its core: it is to encourage the reader on a path to overcome suffering through self-understanding and reflection. He offers two broad, interlocked paths towards inner transformation: altruism, or the attempt to bring benefits and good to other people rather than thinking solely of oneself and insight into the nature of reality, to be gained by introspection.

The means by which the Dalai Lama presents his teaching are at least as significant as the substance of his message. Difficult teachings are presented with the simplicity that comes only from knowledge. The Dalai Lama is candid and self-effacing: he reiterates many times that he has himself no personal experience of the state of emptiness that that constitutes full realization of insight meditation. Again and again he points out that religious people of whatever denomination can find their way to peace through following their own traditions. Further, those individuals with a secular outlook can also find peace by understanding themselves. One of the most interesting parts of the book is the question and answer sessions where the Dalai Lama offers succinct and insightful answers to good questions.

I enjoyed learning about the different schools of thought within Mahayana Buddhism. The Dalai Lama discusses early Buddhist thinkers of the Mahayana school, particularly Nagarjuna and Shantideva and I was pleased to learn something of what he had to say about specifically Buddhist thinkers. Also, the book includes a short Tibetan text called "Eight Verses on Transforming the Mind" and a commentary by the Dalai Lama.

Some of this book is presented in a deceptively simple manner. The Dalai Lama observes that "personal experience" (p.24) rather than mere book reading is required to understand the nature of consciousness and of awareness. He also encourages the reader to press on, not to become discouraged and to realize that the growth of wisdom takes lifetimes to develop, not minutes, hours, or months.

I found this book valuable both for its teachings on Buddhism and for its more general advice on attaining peace and happiness in one's life. There is much in the book of healing and hope, for secular people, for followers of non-Buddhist religions, and for people who are students of the Buddha.

Robin Friedman

Media Size : 1.9 MB