The Best of the Dalai Lama: 8 Books That Will Improve Your Life

This past Monday, his Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama celebrated his 80th birthday. That’s a lot of birthdays! And luckily for the rest of us, the Dalai Lama has been spending most of his time on earth trying to help regular people achieve enlightenment.

The Dalai Lama is, of course, the world leader of Buddhism. Buddhism is a religion (though some adherents prefer to think of it as a philosophy or way of life) with a complicated history and beliefs but a very simple central philosophy. At its core, Buddhism is about the belief that suffering is caused by attachment, and that becoming less attached will help us reach enlightenment.

Nobody has been better at explaining and spreading that message than the Dalai Lama himself. The Dalai Lama has written dozens of books, aimed at everyone from practicing Buddhists to people on the street. To celebrate his birthday, we’re listing off our eight favorites – one for every decade of the Dalai Lama’s life – to create a sort of “Dalai Lama’s Greatest Hits.” Use our list as your guide, and start building your own library of the Dalai Lama’s teachings!

The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living

The whole point of Buddhism is to eliminate suffering and become happy. But “happiness” isn’t the simple concept than it seems. What is happiness? Does it make sense to pursue happiness in the ways that most of us do? The Dalai Lama has some pretty compelling answers.


Becoming Enlightened

In Buddhism, the endgame is to reach “enlightenment.” Enlightenment isn’t always clearly defined, but it generally means reaching a point at which you are no longer attached (and therefore are not suffering), you have moved away from a sense of self, and you see the world the way it truly is. The Dalai Lama explains it better, though, so you’ll have to grab a copy of this book!


Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World

To its adherents, Buddhism is more than just a religion. It’s a philosophy and a moral compass, and that’s often how the Dalai Lama uses it in his books. The Dalai Lama doesn’t want to just reach his followers – his goal is to speak to all of us.


The Dalai Lama’s Book of Wisdom 

This small and simple book breaks down the Dalai Lama’s teachings into bite-sized chunks. It’s the perfect book to pick up for a few minutes at a time – you’ll always gain some perspective. Keep it on your shelf (or carry it with you)!


Essential Teachings

This book contains translations of talks the Dalai Lama gave in India, at the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment. This is a short, contained summary of some of the most important teachings of Buddhism. It’s a must-read for any beginner.


The Four Noble Truths

Buddhism is built around a few central tenets, the most important of which are the “four noble truths.” These truths bring us from diagnosis (the first noble truth, “life is suffering”) to prescription (the fourth noble truth, “there is an eightfold path to the cessation of suffering”). The Dalai Lama explains the meaning of these deceptively simple truths in this essential book.


Freedom in Exile: The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama 

For a simple man, the Dalai Lama has had a very complicated life. The Dalai Lama is from a small village in Tibet, which is now under Chinese control. He’s lived most of his life in exile, and he tells his story in this moving autobiography.


A Simple Path: Basic Buddhist Teachings

Buddhism doesn’t have just one holy book. Writings on it come from all over, and that huge body of work can be pretty daunting to new converts. In this book, the Dalai Lama makes things simple and invites each of us to learn a little about Buddhism – and about ourselves.

Main image credit: Steven Siewert/Sydney Morning Herald/Getty Images