Dalai Lama,
An Open Heart: Practicing
Compassion in Everyday Life

(Time Warner, 2001)

In 1999, His Holiness the Dalai Lama came to New York City where he gave a three-day series of lectures about the practice of developing compassion, culminating in an outdoor address in Central Park that drew about 200,000 attendees. Nicholas Vreeland, a Tibetan Buddhist monk and director of the Tibet Center, edited the talks into a succinct book, An Open Heart, containing the essence of the Dalai Lama's teachings. Vreeland also narrates the book in this audio version.

The tape begins with an introduction providing information about the Dalai Lama, Buddhism and the general gist of the 1999 presentations before getting into the teachings.

The Dalai Lama discusses the nature of compassion and its application as relief of the misery of cyclic existence. Beginning with thorough grounding in the terms and very basic steps in meditation, the program progresses further into the more complex levels of Buddhist meditation and prayer. There are no shortcuts, cautions the Dalai Lama, but patience, persistence and self discipline will yield spiritual rewards.

Vreeland has done a masterful job in editing the text of the talks. The narrative is clear and accessible, and while the later part of the program reflects Buddhist thought and philosophy, the Dalai Lama stresses that the methods are not exclusive to Buddhism, and he even has suggestions for adapting some of the practices to other religions.

Vreeland reads the text in a precise, soothing and appealing voice. He reads at an appropriate pace and maintains the listener's interest. An afterword by actor Richard Gere, whose Gere Foundation co-sponsored the event, closes the tape.

Whether you are contemplating involvement in Buddhism or you are interested in ways to expand your connection to others, An Open Heart can help to set you on your way. It is an unassuming book, laced with humility and touch of good natured humor.

I will have to listen to the tapes more frequently to fully absorb the book's impact, but it has a lot to say in very few words. Certainly there is something that may speak to your heart and open it to more compassionate thoughts and actions.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]
Rambles: 11 May 2002

Buy it from Amazon.com.