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Lighting the Way

Image of Lighting the Way
Book Number: 
Date Fred Read: 
March 2011
Fred's Rating: 
the Dalai Lama
Total Pages: 
Snow Lion Publications

The Dalai Lama, leader of the Tibetan people and a Nobel Peace Laureate, has become a global spiritual leader whose commitment to peace and non-violence has been widely recognized and whose message of universal and individual responsibility has won worldwide admiration and acclaim. (For his books I’ve read, click on his name.)

My friend who gave me book 399 suggested I read this Dalai Lama book so his light would overcome the darkness of book 399. I’m glad I again followed his advice. This brief book has a 15-pp Glossary that I found very useful. The back cover has a good summary that I quote next in full:

“This concise and extremely accessible presentation of the path of Tibetan Buddhism by the world’s best-known Buddhist teacher shows how to apply basic Buddhist principles in our lives. Lighting the Way contains three fundamental Buddhist teachings given by the Dalai Lama to Western students. ‘Principles of Buddhism’ provides the framework for understanding Buddha Shakyamuni’s first and fundamental teaching on the Four Noble Truths, upon which all of his other teachings are based. ‘Teachings on the Eight Verses on Training the Mind’ comments on a classic text within the genre of Tibetan spiritual writing known as ‘logong’ (literally, ‘mind training’). His Holiness often refers to this short work as one of his main sources of inspiration for the practice of compassion. Finally, the Dalai Lama’s commentary on Atisha’s ‘Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment’ discusses in a lucid and inspiring manner one of the most important texts for serious practitioners of Buddhism.”

The above is expanded upon in the Foreword by Sidney Piburn from which I give these quotes: “This practice of ‘Mind Training’ consists of removing negative mental states and cultivating constructive ones. These negative states have as their basis excessive self-concern and a basic misunderstanding of the way things exist, such that we overvalue and undervalue the people and things with which we come into contact. We superimpose excessive goodness and badness upon our life experiences, which then act as a catalyst for the development of our afflictive emotions. To overcome this excessive self-concern we need to develop heart-felt concern for others, love and compassion, the highest expression of which is the altruistic intention to become enlightened for the benefit of all beings, as well as a proper understanding of the nature of reality. We need to make this our real inner spiritual practice, and for this it always helps to contemplate and meditate upon the texts which teach about the good heart, altruism, and correct view.” …”The book also benefits from the wonderful translation by Geshe Thupten Jinpa. Therefore, this is an excellent introduction to traditional Tibetan Buddhist thought and practice.”

This book’s contents can be seen by using the option ‘Click to LOOK INSIDE’ to see the book’s online contents on this website:

On the Contents page you can click on all of the listed contents except the Foreword. From the first part – the ‘Principles of Buddhism’ – the Dalai Lama says: “In Buddhism, one speaks of three different levels of understanding, which are sequential – an understanding arrived at through learning and studying, an understanding developed as a result of deep reflection and contemplation, and an understanding acquired through meditative experience.” This works for me as a Christian if meditative experience is expanded to also include actual spiritual experiences. As for the Four Noble Truths of the Buddha (with my addition of the numbers), the Dalai Lama says: “In essence, the Buddha’s teaching of the Four Noble Truths leads us first to a profound recognition of (1) the nature of suffering; then to the recognition of (2) the origins of suffering; then to a recognition of (3) the possibility of the cessation of suffering; and finally to the recognition of (4) the path that leads to such freedom.”

I was surprised that the Dalai Lama didn’t here name and give explicitly the essential lifestyle of the path of the fourth Noble Truth. Buddhists call this path the ‘Eightfold Way’ that I list with eight bullets. It is essential that you remember that the word ‘right’ is an essential adjective for each of these eight:

• View (as in worldview)
• Intention
• Speech
• Action
• Livelihood
• Effort
• Mindfulness
• Concentration

With differences in the meaning of the first of these eight, they can summarize eight important ways of life on the right path for most religions (as one can readily see by thinking of how the opposite of each is not what any religion would want). For Buddhists, the ‘right View’ consists of the Four Noble Truths. For other religions more than suffering would be needed, but first one should learn all that the word suffering means for Buddhism – but this to too much for me to include in this review. However, I need to point out that the inner four (of right Speech, Action, Livelihood, and Effort) involve one’s external life (one’s interactions with others) and that the outer four of right View, Intention, Mindfulness, and Concentration involve one’s internal (or inner) life. Defining (often by giving examples of them) these eight constitute much of Buddhist teaching, or teachings of other religions, albeit with their sometimes different meanings of what is ‘right’ for these four inner and four outer aspects of a life that is 'right' in all ways.

The second part of this book – Teachings on ‘Eight Verses on Training the Mind’ – and the third part – Atisha’s ‘Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment’ – provide, in these two brief sets of verses, examples that, with the Dalai Lama’s comments on many of them (either on a single verse or on a group of sequential verses) a vital text that reinforces the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Way.

Since I had already read and reviewed six books by the Dalai Lama as well as other books by or about Buddhism, I benefited mostly from reading the second and third parts of this book – these verses were new to me. However, I wish that I had first read this little book, but with the missing specific listing of the Eightfold Way included, as I have provided above (albeit with scant commentary). But with this omission, I feel it necessary to lower my rating from five stars to four stars.

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