"His book expresses some important new ideas as well. I have been listening to the Dalai Lama's talks for almost forty years now, and every time he brings something fresh and new into connection with his persistent themes. His Ethics book fits into the same pattern, demonstrating a new power of conviction and acuity of penetration. His thought never remains static and formulaic but develops bit by bit over time, as he keeps on learning more about life and history and thinks ever more deeply about his own broad experience.
"Among the most important new dimensions unveiled in this book are, first, a devastating critique of material progress and soulless mechanical technology. He states, 'Although I never imagined that material wealth alone could ever overcome suffering, still, looking towards the developed world from Tibet, a country then as now very poor in this respect, I must admit that I thought it must go further towards doing so than is the case. I expected that, with physical suffering much reduced, as it is for the majority living in the industrially developed countries, happiness would be much easier to achieve . . . [However,] the extraordinary advancements of science and technology have achieved little more than linear, numerical improvement . . . progress has meant hardly more than greater numbers of opulent houses in more cities, with more cars driving between them. Certainly there has been a reduction in some types of suffering including certain illnesses. But there has been no overall reduction.'
"A second new dimension his book offers is a passionate call for a spiritual and ethical revolution. Though he is the leader of a people that have suffered as much as any in this terrible past century of genocide and mass destruction, he never deviates from his general theme of world ethics to plead the special case of Tibet, an endangered nation.
"Third, he argues adamantly for universal disarmament, sketching a series of systematic steps toward the total prevention of wars and war industries, likening war to a bonfire on which people are heaped like logs, and poignantly recalling his own visits to Auschwitz and Hiroshima.
"Fourth, he engages in a courageous critique of excessively luxurious living and over-concentration of wealth and makes a clear appeal for altruism and universal responsibility in policy, based on his well-argued insight that altruism is the essential key to individual happiness and social harmony. He is practical and optimistic about globalization, but not the imbalanced globalization that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.
"And finally, he forcefully calls for religions to focus on personal practice over institutional aggrandizement and tolerant pluralism over bigoted exclusivism. He argues that the practice of spirituality and ethics is more important than doctrinal purity and ritual formalism. He shows a willingness to dispense with religion altogether if it only adds to the burdens people struggle with. He acknowledges the benefit of religion sincerely applied and argues that one can overcome the seemingly insoluble tension between exclusive focus on one's own religion in personal faith and sincerely tolerant pluralism in social practice. 'I love my own religion as best for me! And I honor your devotion to your own religion as best for you!'
"The Dalai Lama speaks with great sincerity and intelligence like a reasonable and practical, if sometimes challenging, friend rather than a lofty eminence or a dogmatic authority. He does not set himself above his readers but frequently refers to his own shortcomings, admitting how hard he himself has to work to try to live up to the ideals he espouses. Having known the Dalai Lama for so long, and having traveled with him occasionally, I was particularly touched by this passage: 'I feel strongly that luxurious living is inappropriate, so much so that I must admit that whenever I stay in a comfortable hotel and see others eating and drinking expensively whilst outside there are people visible who do not even have anywhere to spend the night, I feel greatly disturbed. It reminds me that I am no different from either the rich or the poor. We are the same in wanting happiness and not wanting to suffer. And yet the person who is saying these things is one of those enjoying the comforts of the hotel. Indeed, I must go further. It is also true that I possess several valuable wristwatches. And whilst I feel that if I were to sell them I could perhaps build some huts for the poor, so far I have not. . . . So I must admit a contradiction between my principles and my practice in certain areas. At the same time, I do not think that everyone can or should be like Mahatma Gandhi and live the life of a poor peasant. Such dedication is wonderful and greatly to be admired. But the watchword is "as much as possible" without going to extremes.'
"One senses no false humility here, as he is more forceful than ever about the practicality, even necessity, of proposals that some might call overly idealistic, and he sharply critiques the so-called realists of realpolitik (ruthless, calculating, amoral geopolitical strategies) as obsolete in their thinking and destructive in their actions."