How to Be Compassionate: A Handbook for Creating Inner Peace and a Happier World by by H.H. Dalai Lama, translated and edited by Jeffrey Hopkins, Atria/Simon and Schuster, NY, 2011; 147 pages, ISBN 978-145162390-1, hardback $20.00.

A brief manual of practical advice on ways to overcome anger, develop patience, keep a broader perspective, and develop compassion.  Based on oral teachings, the material is stated very simply and includes practices that the Dalai Lama has himself found helpful in his daily life. The author's reasoning assumes a Buddhist worldview built on the interconnection of all beings and recognition of people's shared humanity as beings who all want happiness and avoid suffering.  Many of our problems arise because the human mind becomes caught up in appearances. It exaggerates the good qualities of what it likes and the bad qualities of what it dislikes. This partiality causes people to become angry or unhappy when they don't get what they want or get what they don't want. Anger does not protect us, but  usually makes situations worse by causing us lose perspective and magnify problems.  Compassion, on the other hand, is basic to forming relationships, relieving suffering, and achieving equality and human rights, and so should be encouraged in all circumstances and toward all people. What is most important is transforming our attitude and practicing compassion and dispassion.  We can then more easily keep a balanced and expanded perspective under stressful conditions which are apt to make us focus narrowly on a particular interest or outcome. 

Compared with Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong, this book is less comprehensive, structured, and targeted to a Western audience.  Nonetheless, non-Buddhist as well as Buddhists may find the discussion and exercises helpful. Sarah Belle Dougherty

Book Reviews