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A Profound Mind: Cultivating Wisdom in Everyday Life [Paperback]

Richard Gere , Dalai Lama , Nicholas Vreeland
1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

25 Sep 2012
For the first time for general readers, the Dalai Lama presents a comprehensive overview of the most important teaching of Buddhism.
 
Perhaps the main difference between Buddhism and other religions is its understanding of our core identity.  The existence of the soul or self, which is central in different ways to Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, is actually denied in Buddhism.  Even further, belief in a “self” is seen as the main source of our difficulties in life.  Yet a true understanding of this teaching does not lead one to a despairing, cynical worldview with a sense that life has no meaning—Far from it, a genuine understanding leads to authentic happiness for an individual and the greatest source of compassion for others.
 
In 2003 and in 2007, the Dalai Lama was invited to New York to give a series of talks on the essential Buddhist view of selflessness. This new book, the result of those talks, is now offered to help broaden awareness of this essential doctrine and its usefulness in living a more meaningful and happy life.
 
While the Dalai Lama offers a full presentation of his teachings on these key philosophical points for contemplation, he also shows readers how to bring these teachings actively into their own lives with recommendations for a personal practice.  It is only by actually living these teachings that we allow them to bring about a genuine transformation in our perception of ourselves and our lives
 
A Profound Mind offers important wisdom for those committed to bringing about change in the world through developing their own spiritual capabilities, whether they are Buddhists or not.


Product details

  • Paperback: 148 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (NY) (25 Sep 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385514689
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385514682
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 13.3 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,165,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Muddies the waters 16 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback
This book is a confusion of ideas, makes no useful conclusions and should be avoided. There are better books than this one that are around. It is written in the style of an overly verbose undergraduate essay and attempts to muddy the waters surrounding its purported subject matter.
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughts 7 Oct 2011
By Lex - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I lack the ability as well as the right to endeavor to do anything except try to understand and put into practice the ideas and teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I am a student of philosophy, a spiritual nomad, a misfit toy, and nowhere near capable of such thought as to offer insight. However, I shall give it my best shot.
There is a question posed quite early: What is the Meaning of Life? This is a question many struggle with, looking for purpose and meaning. There are those that would be excited to see the question and disappointed to see the answer His Holiness gives, but I for one have found it to be the best answer I have heard in my few years on the earth. The answer: to be compassionate towards others.
Taking that idea a step further, it is based on our ability to be compassionate and to show that compassion towards others that we are able to have an impact on our future lives. We are the captains of our own fate.
The idea of impermanence, depending on the context in which one is trying to understand/accept it, ca be difficult to internalize. However, the visual concept of the apple transitioning from the form that we see as delicious to a form we do not recognize, and the scientific concept of the erosion of the mountains over millions of years, allows for a much easier internalization process.
A question I have asked myself on several occasions has been "What makes me me?" Another is "Who am I?" In regard to Christian and Judaic thought, my soul makes me me, and my soul is here on the planet once, and is then either sent to paradise or eternal suffering.
However, in Buddhist theory and belief, there is no soul. The idea of "I" is a major problem. The idea of "I", an idea essential to the dogmas of other spiritual creeds, is expressly denied within Buddhism. There is no inherent self. Rather, there is a consciousness that exists moment to moment, each preceding moment causing the proceeding moment. Tricky at first. Why is consciousness different from the soul? A question that took me some time to wrestle with. However, a soul is stagnate, much like a pond, while consciousness is fluid, like a river. A wise man said to me as I was trying to wrap my mind around this "Go slow. One step at a time."
In my rather simple understanding, this idea of inherent existence causes various things that lead us to suffer. For example, if I desire a brand new car, I will be drawn to what I deem as "the best". It is not necessarily because it is the best, but rather because I have perceived it to be so. This longing for an object that truly is only parts constructed in a way that cause it to be perceived as a car, causes suffering. The same can be said of people. If I use the idea of self to distinguish myself from others, avoidance and dislike will then stem from my attempts to further distinguish myself from others by perceiving or attributing inherently negative qualities about them.
Then of course, there is emptiness. I must confess, I am still wrestling with this one. The Buddha stated, "Form is empty, emptiness is form". What I've gotten from this is that although material things exist, such as a bed or a guitar, there is no inherent existence to either of these things, or anything else. It is in trying to apply inherent existence that we again find ourselves within the jaws of misery.
So, just as the belief that there is no inherent existence settles, we can come back to the question of "Who am I?" It's been established that there is no inherent self, but there can be a use for the terms "I" or "me" solely as labels for the physical and mental parts that make up a person. The name Alexandra Gioiella serves merely as a label for the mental and physical parts that exist in the present moment. Nothing more.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, much as I enjoyed An Open Heart. Although sometimes raising a few more questions for myself than I'd like, I found that my view changed as I continued to read. I started out looking for answers, which was the wrong approach to take. As I continued through the book, my desire for answers gave way to a desire for understanding, which I believe I found in some small way.
From a philosophic point of view, I thought it was great. It was laid out in a manner that was conducive to dedicated practitioners as well as those just discovering Buddhism. As opposed to other books on religion/spirituality, Buddhist theories were not held to be fact. Instead, they were posited as beliefs held by those who practice Buddhism. I find that for the general public, regardless of creed, it's much easier to stomach, accept, and potentially embrace.
Most philosophies, when put forth by those who believe in them most fervently, are hard to take, as believers and practitioners can come on a little strong. However, His Holiness does not say that any other belief system is inherently wrong (as is sometimes the case when dealing with other spiritual beliefs), he accepts that other belief systems exist and that others find peace through them. It is easy to tell that he believes strongly in Buddhism, but not with the sort of abrasive close-minded ignorance that can pervade the minds of the followers within other faiths.
We should all be so lucky to be capable of having such strong belief and yet be so capable of not only tolerance, which should be basic, but also of acceptance which can be so much harder. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is an inspiration, and a beacon of light for those who struggle in the darkness.
Now, a short note on the foreword of this book.
Although my understanding and knowledge in respect to Buddhism is limited at best, I found no fault within the book. So, although I appreciate the caveat put forth by the editor, and although this may be incredibly presumptuous on my part, I don't think he has much to worry about.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dalai Lama Teaches Shunya 24 Dec 2011
By Robin Friedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Many of the Dalai Lama's books are directed to questions that engage readers of all religious persuasions rather than only practitioners of Buddhism. This new book of the Dalai Lama's, "A Profound Mind: Cultivating Wisdom in Everyday Life" (2011) belongs in a smaller group of books which expound a specifically Buddhist teaching: the doctrine of shunya or emptiness. This is a teaching that is central to many, if not all, forms of Buddhism. Readers familiar with the Dalai Lama's other writings will find this book difficult. The book is based on lectures that the Dalai Lama gave in New York City in 2003 and 2007 on the Buddhist understanding of selflessness.

In the book, the Dalai Lama explains the several different Buddhist understandings of emptiness and the importance of this teaching. But the path leading to his exposition is almost as important as the result. The Dalai Lama makes two important opening observations that deserve to be noticed. First, the Dalai Lama stresses the difficulty in understanding the teaching of emptiness. With his usual modesty, he claims that his own understanding of the subject is "mediocre". As a result of his claimed "mediocre" understanding, the readers of the book "can only hope to gain an understanding that will be half knowledge and half ignorance." But even such knowledge is better than none at all.

The second important preliminary involves the relationship of Buddhism to other religions or what the Dalai Lama calls "Diverse Spiritual Traditions". As in many of his other books, the Dalai Lama stresses that his goal is not to convert. To the contrary, he urges his readers to remain within their own faith traditions if possible. I thought about the relevance of this point to a book in which the Dalai Lama expounds a specifically Buddhist teaching. The Dalai Lama suggests that non-Buddhist readers can incorporate portions of the teaching on emptiness that they find valuable into their own religious practice or that they can read the book simply to become aware of and to learn to respect a religious system in addition to their own. It seemed to me as well that the stress on religious diversity was a way of emphasizing the character of the teachings and the struggle many Westerners will have with it. There are many ways to spiritual paths. Emptiness may not be for everyone.

In early chapters of the book, the Dalai Lama explains basic teachings of Buddhism on such matters as the nature of impermanence, suffering, selflessness, and nirvana and on the Four Noble Truths and on Karma. He discusses the broad divisions of Buddhist teachings into the Theravada school, which teaches individual enlightenment, and the Mahayana school which teaches the doctrine of the Bodhisattva -- practitioners vow to delay their own enlightenment and to work towards the enlightenment of all beings. Tibetan Buddhism is part of the Mahayana school. I have been studying Theravada Buddhism and its texts in a study group for many years and found it valuable to hear the Dalai Lama's explanation of the relationship between these two Buddhist "vehicles".

The teaching of emptiness is critical, the Dalai Lama, explains in understanding the cause and cure for pervasive human suffering. Suffering, craving, aversion, and ignorance, results by thinking that there is a substantial self and that the self desires objects, be it money, a car, or a sexual relationship, that also are substantial. Buddhism tries to develop the sense in which the self and the things it desires are "empty". "Emptiness" does not mean "unreal". But what it means is hard, and in fact it means different things to different Buddhists at different times.

The Dalai Lama describes four understandings of emptiness, two from Theravada and two from Mahayana, with an emphasis on the latter, together with some further divisions of Mahayana teachings. It is tempting to associate these teachings with what in the Western philosophical tradition is known as idealism, but ultimately, I think, that parallel is only marginally useful. The teaching focuses on the lack of substantiality in self, especially, and in things. There is a strong denial of independence. People in the West are accustomed to understanding themselves as independent and autonomous individuals and to cherish these qualities and their sense of personal identity as they understand it. Buddhism denies these qualities and finds that stressing their importance and existence leads invariably to sorrow. I have found these Buddhist teachings and the nontheism which is closely related to it valuable over the years. Others may disagree.

Rather than independence and autonomy, Buddhism teaches a doctrine called dependent origination, closely related to emptiness, which teaches that everything is interconnected by causality. Expanding this teaching, the self, and things, consist of parts rather than on something concrete, separate, eternal, and somehow different from the parts.

The four schools the Dalai Lama discusses differ about the precise nature of emptiness in important ways. The Dalai Lama's explanations are short. He tries to be clear but the subject resists easy understanding. I have read other material on the nature of emptiness and on dependent origination over the years. The Dalai Lama helped, but if his own understanding is "mediocre" as he asserts, the average lay readers will have great difficulty, with close and several readings, in understanding this teaching. That is a necessary and not a bad thing. Some readers will want to pursue the subject further while others may respectfully wish to pursue their own religious approach.

Following the exposition of emptiness, the Dalai Lama offers meditation pratices to pursue it and bring it to life. He stresses that this is not a short-term project. The Dalai Lama also emphasizes that the best course for lay practitioners is "to remain involved in society while leading a spiritual life." This is wise advise, especially for an audience in New York City. The Dalai Lama's approach in this book does not involve simply sitting on a cushion. He stresses "analytical" meditation or thinking through the nature of emptiness. He also ties in a developing understanding of emptiness with working for the realization of compassion towards others and towards oneself.

This is a short book that resists easy reading. His modesty notwithstanding, the Dalai Lama is a spiritual master. This book will be of interest to Buddhists trying to deepen their practice and to people with an interest in religion or spirituality in understanding their own practices and beliefs.

Robin Friedman
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A profound book 10 Nov 2011
By Dewey Square - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
If you'd like to hear more about the core of Buddhist philosophy, correctly and coherently explained, then this book is for you. Buddhism is rooted in the teachings on emptiness and the law of cause and effect. These things may seem simple at first, but can take a lifetime to fully grasp. Having the Dalai Lama's teachings on this subject distilled into a clear, accessible text is a great resource, for both beginners and experienced practitioners.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars concise with essential depth 18 Dec 2011
By gonzobrarian - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This particular set of teachings from the Dalai Lama is a very clear and straightforward introduction to the more complex aspects of Buddhist thought and practice. Covering the major topics like the Four Noble Truths, karma, the differing Buddhist schools of thought, as well as the central intertwining of emptiness and compassion and basics of meditation, the brief chapters contained within cover a very wide amount of material in a concise compilation.

What makes this book so effective in addition to its brevity is the care taken with translation and delivery. Not only are both well crafted for a western audience, but they are quite conversational in tone as well. Throughout the book HHDL takes great care to demystify Buddhism, focusing on the practicality of the concepts and advising the reader, as the Buddha himself would, to experiment with practice rather than strictly follow dogma. With an emphasis on approaching the understanding of emptiness, it's certainly not light reading, but nevertheless its brevity makes it less intimidating than the more voluminous dharma texts available.

Apart from his more secular works focusing worldly ethics, A Profound Mind is a beneficial resource with surprising depth for those with a developing interest in Buddhism.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Profound Mind 30 Jan 2012
By Sang Kyu Rhi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
`A Profound Mind', what a rewarding title! While the main title, Profound Mind, is abstract a bit, the sub-title, Cultivating Wisdom in Every Day Life, supplements the main title or gives shape to a certain extent.

It is generally understood a human being is composed of physical body and spiritual mind. It is hard to realize mind, though every body know What the body is. This, I believe, is the reason why the mind's looked into deep by so many, and I am one of them also.

In this book the Dalai Lama deals with such basic matters as characteristics of Buddhism, four noble truths, three dharma seals and role of karma briefly, and no chapter explores for `mind' directly. The His Holiness handles selflessness or emptiness in details by consuming many pages instead. Many if not all think the Buddhism is a religion inquiring into `mind', and the Avatamska Sutra Clearly states that "everything is a product of mind-only". Though the early Sutras,we can easily recognize the Shakyamuni Buddha's repeated teaching of "tame your minds" to his disciples. In this context, it is quite natural that seeking the basic philosophy of Buddhism leads on to pursuing mind. And emptiness or selflessness, above all, comes first for grasping Buddhist teachings, especially for remaining calm.

We use the term `I' or `me' conventionally in every day life as if `self' exists naturally. However, `I' or `me' conventionally in every day life as if `self' exists naturally . However, `I' or `me' is nothing but a conventional usage as a first personal pronounce. That is the reason why the Dalai Lama stressed in saying that "It is essential that we distinguish between the self that exists conventionally and the self that doesn't exist at all, as it is our grasping at the nonexistent self that is the source of all suffering."

I believe there is nothing comparable to obtaining and reading an inspiring book like this one.

Sang-Kyu Rhi (Hack-San)
Rhi & Partners, LC.
Seoul, Korea
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