Archive for December 9th, 2008

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

“The Art of Happiness” (Dalai Lama)

Besides music, my MP3 player also contains a number of audio books. The friend who put all that stuff onto the player probably knew very well that I’ve never cared about the more spiritual writings of Tibet’s supreme monk – I was only interested in his role as Tibet’s spiritual leader, and the cultural vacuum which he unavoidably seems to fill.

I’ve listened to this audio book – probably The Art of Happiness – on my way to and from work recently. I have no plans to do the meditation exercises – I think I’m quite a happy man anyway -, but it is interesting to hear what the Dalai Lama himself says about Buddhism and about his own role in life as he sees it.

In a way, he states a lot of things most people I know would agree with. The only thing that looks strange to me so far is his idea that anger would be meaningless or fruitless. Personally, I think that anger can be very useful for self-motivation, and besides, anger seems to be simply natural in certain situations. What would life be without anger?

That said, I also feel that anger shouldn’t always be expressed, and not all kinds of personal anger should turn on people (neither on myself nor on others). But a life without anger would look sort of poor to me, just as a life full of unsatiable desires would probably feel very poor.

What the Dalai Lama wrote sounds simple. While the words themselves are simple, I imagine that the exercises he describes would take a lot of systematic effort. Some of them, those about thought, sound familiar to me. I’m used to being focused – on myself, on others, on topics. On feelings, too.

I don’t know if those among Chinese people who consider the Dalai Lama a dangerous or malicious man would take a different view if they could listen to him, and if they could do so without too much habitual anger. But I guess that listening would actually make a difference. The patterns of the Dalai Lama talks look similar to Chinese ways of talk. The main difference between his thoughts and the thoughts of most Chinese people I know is that the Dalai Lama takes so much interest in previous and future lives – reincarnation and all that – and that he not only feels about things, but talks about feelings. A majority of Chinese would arguably not rule out reincarnation – but you don’t hear much talk about such matters among Chinese people, not even during moments where no topic seems to be off-limit.

But it slowly seems to dawn on me why the Chinese authorities try to paint a dehumanizing picture of the Dalai Lama. Tibet may be at the center of their concerns, but beyond that, the Dalai Lama may have too much to say – on matters that concern China itself, too.

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