How can the Dalai Lama always be smiling and full of love and forgiveness given what has happened during his lifetime to the Tibetan people? In Lama Tsomo’s encyclopedic introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, Why Is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling?: A Westerner’s Introduction and Guide to Tibetan Buddhist Practice, she answers this question in depth, having followed the same ancient traditions to find a new way of living for herself.
I now understand why and how the Dalai Lama, and the monks and people who were lucky enough to flee Tibet when the Chinese took over, did not suffer PTSD despite the horrors experienced, and were able to feel compassion for their persecutors.
Lama Tsomo offers a guide to Tibetan Buddhism with steps to build a meditation practice that will lead you to the same inner peace as the Dalai Lama. She starts with an interesting account of her own spiritual exploration, while going through two failed marriages and having three children. After a 25-year spiritual quest, she found the teacher who would offer a course of study for her spiritual enlightenment whom she trusted when she met Tulku Sangak Rinpoche.
Despite the fact that she feels any serious student of Tibetan Buddhism needs to study with qualified masters (retreats or total immersion worked best for her), she does provide sufficient background in the Buddha’s teachings along with techniques which can be tried on one’s own. These techniques are designed to help remove ego identification to allow our true nature of compassionate awareness to shine forth. It will take a lot of time and effort, but as the author asks, “Do I have something better to do?”
Lama Tsomo recounts scientific evidence that the meditation practices of Tibetan Buddhism can help one replace knee-jerk reactions to people and situations with more balance, constructive responses, and improve one’s focus, memory and mood. Instead of clinging to one’s small, separate self, even in times of misery, the seeker of enlightenment learns to see themselves as one with the vast ocean, the one great mind, and be motivated to help others with love and compassion.
The book includes an envelope of practice cards that you can use to build a daily practice and see if you are called to immerse yourself further in Tibetan Buddhism. If so, she offers numerous resources, including books, other media and websites.
This book is not one I could read straight through, but rather dip into and contemplate what I was learning a little at a time. While a glossy paperback with beautiful color photographs, at its heart, it is a serious textbook for those who want a guide to practicing Tibetan Buddhism.
It can be a bit overwhelming as a first introduction to Buddhism (even with the glossary), but for the serious student, this could be an invaluable guide on their path. If you think you’d like to start 2017 with a serious spiritual effort to achieve your own Buddha nature, reading this book could be a wonderful start.
Why is the Dalai Lama Always Smiling? is available in Kindle, paperback, Audible and in MP3 CD versions.
Becca Chopra, author of The Chakra Diaries, Chakra Secrets (FREE through Dec. 23), Balance Your Chakras-Balance Your Life, and The Chakra Energy Diet