How to Practice Buddhism – The Way to a Meaningful Life Book Review

How to Practice Buddhism – The Way to a Meaningful Life Book Review

In this article I will be reviewing a book written by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama named “How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life”.  This book originally in Tibetan, was translated and edited by Dr. Jeffrey Hopkins Ph.D.how to practice buddhism

Jeffrey Hopkins is a Professor of Tibetan Studies and has been practicing Buddhism for more than 30 years and served as the Dalai Lama’s chief translator during lecture tours in the United States, Indonesia, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, United Kingdom, and Switzerland for ten years.

Book Summary

I think all of us ponder the meaning of it all at some point in our lives and I think what we all have in common as human beings is a desire to be happy and avoid suffering. In this book, the Dalai Lama shows us a path that will lead spiritual seekers toward enlightenment.

This book is very accessible and is written for those who truly want to be happy and end suffering.  I think the chapter title are enough to give you a flavor of the book and its contents.

Part I The Basics

how to practice Buddhsim

Image by Flickr user wonderlane

Chapter 1: Three Ways to Practice

Part II Practicing Morality

Chapter 2: Identifying the Scope of Suffering
Chapter 3: Discovering How Trouble Starts and Stops
Chapter 4: Refraining From Harm
Chapter 5: Extending Help
Chapter 6: Aspiring to Enlightenment

Part III Practicing Concentrated Meditation

Chapter 7: Focusing the Mind

Part IV Practicing Wisdom

Chapter 8: Examining How Beings and Things Exist
Chapter 9: The Middle Way
Chapter 10: Mind and the Deep Nature of Mind

Part V Tantra

Chapter 11: Deity Yoga

Part VI Steps Along the Way

Chapter 12: Overview of the Path to Enlightenment

My Critique

Overall the book is written in easy to understand language that anyone can follow along with.  This book encourages us to study and recommends daily practices that we can do in order to cultivate a certain quality, for example, compassion.  I think that Dr. Hopkins does a wonderful job with the translation from the Tibetan language.

There are meditation practices outlined in this book that are of great value and serve as a good introduction to the world of Tibetan Buddhism which is a form of Vajrayana Buddhism.

There are a lot of suggestions on how to practice Buddhism detailed in this book that you can integrate into your daily schedule if you choose.  And there are exercises that are listed at the end of each chapter with which you can take action to further your understanding of the content of each chapter.

My Recommendation

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone that is interested in learning about Tibetan Buddhism and you don’t need to become a Buddhist in order to benefit from the teachings and practices.  In fact the Dalai Lama counsels people to not give up the religious tradition that they were raised in but rather learn about it, and use that learning to enrich and deepen their own faith.

My rating for this book is:

buddhism plain and simple

Thanks for reading this book review on how to practice Buddhism, and feel free to leave your thoughts or questions in the comments below.


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6 Responses to How to Practice Buddhism – The Way to a Meaningful Life Book Review

  1. Fred Chong says:

    Is it possible for any non-Buddhist to practice Buddhism? I knew it is unlikely when it comes to some God-inspired spiritual book. A good review that makes it easy for me to admire the wisdom of Buddhism. This book is certainly worth more than it’s price. I have to check if it is available from my regular bookstore? Thank you for sharing!

    • Ian H says:

      Yes, it is possible since Buddhism is an applied philosophy of the mind more than religion. You can choose what aspects of Buddhism you want to incorporate into your own path. It can help deepen your understanding of your religion of choice, since I think that all of them are accessing the same spiritual source which some would call God.

      I’m not sure about bookstores, but it’s available in this post as well as in my online bookstore on my site.

  2. Jay says:

    I think this might be the book I’ve been looking for. I’ve been on a “path to enlightenment” over the last few years and I think I’ve finally reached the point where I’m attracted to Buddism.

    Like you said, it’s not a religious thing. Everyone can really benefit from learning about Buddism. Developing compassion for others and being happy with life… Who doesn’t want more of that?

    • Ian H says:

      Hi Jay,

      Like you I’ve also been searching my whole life for answers, exploring as many forms of spirituality but my path led me back to Buddhism. This book is one that I tend to come back to on a daily basis.

  3. Tabby77 says:

    Very in depth overview of what the book includes. Interesting it was written by someone close to the Dahl lama. Is the dahlia Lama supposed to be the leader of the Buddhists . I have heard of Buddhism I’ve never quite understood the role of Dahl is lama. What is the difference between Tantra and buddhism?

    • Ian H says:

      Thanks for the comment! The book itself was written by the Dalai Lama and his translator translated it. The Dalai Lama is not the leader of all Buddhists and is not at all like the Pope in Christianity. The Dalai Lama is a leader in Tibetan Buddhism and is said to be the 14th physical reincarnation of the Buddha of Infinite Compassion (Avalokiteshvara). In the past the role of Dalai Lama also referred to the ruler since there was a theocracy in Tibet. The current Dalai Lama is a ruler in exile since the Chinese are persecuting the Tibetans and have been for many decades. The current (the 14th incarnation) Dalai Lama resides in Dharamsala, India.

      Tantra is a series of practices found in both Buddhism and Hinduism that are effectively the inner teachings of both of these traditions. The word tantra itself refers to practices details in the tantras which are treatises that detail very specific Buddhist teachings in a higher form so to speak.

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