Best Dalai Lama Books That Will Help You Be Compassionate
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, also known as Tenzin Gyatso, is a Tibetan spiritual leader. Even though he is considered a living Buddha by some people, he describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk.
Previously named Lhamo Thondup, he was born in 1935 to a simple family in Taktser, Amdo, Tibet. At the age of two, he was discovered as the next Dalai Lama after a series of tests. Two years later, he departed Amdo for Lhasa and was officially recognized as the 14th Dalai Lama. He then began his studies to be a monk.
At age 15, he assumed the additional role as the political leader of the Tibetan people. However, nine years later in 1959, he was forced to exile to India after the Chinese suppression of Tibetan Buddhism escalated. In 1989, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for advocating peaceful solutions to preserve the heritage of his people.
Below are 10 of the best Dalai Lama books written by himself or co-written with others. Choose a book that resonates with you the most.
Top 10 Best Dalai Lama Books
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1. The Book of Joy
“We create most of our suffering, so it should be logical that we also have the ability to create more joy.”
This book is a conversation between the two, great spiritual masters of our time, Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The discussion is moderated by the co-writer, Douglas Abrams. The format of this book is informal. The two, mischievous friends teased each other continually.
Through their spiritual practices and intimate stories, the two teachers share their insights on finding joy even in the most difficult circumstances. If you struggle with anxiety and depression and have difficulty finding joy in life, reading this book will challenge your habitual way of thinking and give you hope.
2. The Art of Happiness
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.”
Co-authored by psychiatrist Howard Cutler, this book combines the East and the West. It examines the spiritual views of happiness within the context of Western psychology.
In this book, Howard posed questions to the Dalai Lama over a series of interviews and incorporated his own observations and reflections based on his psychology background. In addition, this book is supplemented with transcriptions from several of the Dalai Lama’s teachings and public talks.
Through conversations, stories, and meditations, the authors show us how to overcome anxiety, insecurity, anger, and discouragement. If you want to let go of your grudges and be more compassionate, this is the book for you.
3. My Spiritual Journey
“Whoever transforms himself, transforms the world.”
This is Dalai Lama’s most accessible and intimate book. It’s an autobiography of Dalai Lama’s life journey.
However, unlike your typical autobiography, this book contains short passages of the Dalai Lama’s writings, speeches, and thoughts. Written in a tone that is personal but universal in scope, this book shows you the three phases of his spiritual life — as a human being, as a Buddhist monk, and as the Dalai Lama.
In addition to being a memoir, this book offers you advice on how to lead a more loving, compassionate, and happier life. If you are curious about Eastern religion and Tibet, this book will give you information about the country and its people.
4. My Land and My People
“The Cabinet came to see me with this solemn request that I should take over the responsibility of government. This filled me with anxiety. I was only sixteen.”
If you wish to understand Tibetan Buddhism and the struggle Tibet went through when China invaded, this book is for you.
First written in Tibetan and then translated into English, this heartbreaking autobiography traces the events surrounding the Dalai Lama’s birth, his youth and education, his exile, and etc. Unlike most autobiographies which tend to be more personal, the Dalai Lama gives an objective account of what he and his people went through without focusing excessively on his religious or political views.
It’s suitable for people who want to understand the history of Tibet from a more compassionate perspective.
5. How to Practice
“True change is within; leave the outside as it is.”
If you feel that your life is meaningless and without purpose or you are struggling with intense emotions such as anger, depression, and anxiety, this book is for you.
As per the Dalai Lama, the only way to achieve lasting peace is through mutual trust, respect, love, and kindness. In this book, the Dalai Lama offers you valuable techniques from Tibetan traditions to help you practice these qualities. When you practice them daily, they will help you think differently and lead you to mental peace.
This book is also suitable for anyone who wants to start or enhance their meditation practice.
6. Ethics for the New Millennium
“I have come to the conclusion that whether or not a person is a religious believer does not matter much. Far more important is that they be a good human being.”
This book isn’t about religions or Buddhism. Instead, this book is about ethics.
In this book, the Dalai Lama presents a universal, moral system that can lead us to a happier, more fulfilling life regardless of our religious beliefs. He differentiates between religion and spirituality and points out that every one of us can be more compassionate with or without religion. Being compassionate will help us to approach many of the problems we face in our current society.
If you are not a Buddhist but you are interested in the Dalai Lama’s teachings, this is a good place to start.
7. The Wisdom of Forgiveness
“If we think only of ourselves, forget about other people, then our minds occupy a very small area. Inside that small area, even a tiny problem appears very big.”
This is a personal account of the author, Victor Chan, and his time spent with the Dalai Lama.
In this book, you will find intimate conversations they shared and insights into the life of the Dalai Lama that no one has reported before. Formal teachings are beneficial to your spiritual growth. But you can also gain a lot of wisdom through observing a spiritual teacher’s demeanor, routines, and attitudes towards others.
So if you want to learn about spirituality in a more informal way, then this is the book for you.
8. The Universe in a Single Atom
“If scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.”
If you are interested in both science and spirituality, this book is for you.
In this book, the Dalai Lama shares his encounters with science and explains why both disciplines must be pursued in order to arrive at a complete picture of the truth. Science shows us ways of interpreting the physical world, while spirituality helps us cope with reality. But being extreme in either view is not beneficial to us.
This book is suitable for people who want to reconcile the different worldviews and want to learn more about topics such as quantum physics, the big bang, and consciousness from a dual perspective.
9. For the Benefit of All Beings
“Those who have this spontaneous, sincere wish to attain enlightenment for the ultimate benefit of all beings are called Bodhisattvas.”
Previously published under the title, A Flash of Lightning in the Dark of Night, this book is a detailed commentary on The Way of the Bodhisattva (Bodhicaryāvatāra) by Shantideva. This is one of the best-known texts of Mahayana Buddhism. It covers the whole path to enlightenment but it’s not easily understood by most.
If you find it difficult to fully understand Bodhicaryāvatāra and want a practical guide to finding peace and living a compassionate life, then this book is for you. In this book, you will find explanations and simple exercises to help you develop the heart of a Bodhisattva.
10. The Seed of Compassion
“The seed of compassion is within every child. It is there from birth and is a part of our nature. And it flourishes because of love.”
If you want to teach kids kindness and compassion, this is the book for you.
In this children’s book, the Dalai Lama recounts memories of his childhood and shares lessons he learned from his mother and others. His mother was his first great teacher of compassion. She showed him as a child that it was possible to treat all people with warmheartedness and to help ease their suffering.
Illustrated by Bao Luu, the lovely illustrations that accompany the text will warm your heart.