I much preferred this book over the Dalai Lama's more
popular Art of Happiness. I found Art of Happiness, while
enjoyable, to be too simple and straightforward, listing trite and obvious
truths while steering clear of controversy and the complicated dualities
inherent in Buddhism. Violence & Compassion: Dialogues on Life
Today is more informal, based on a series of interviews between the
Lama and French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere.
It is Carriere's probing questions that carry the book
and allow the Lama to speak freely and intelligently about a wide range
of subjects. The overarching theme is Buddhism's potential to solve Western
society's increasing spiritual malaise. Carriere often breaks the interview
transcript with brief summaries of basic Buddhist tenets that, while
necessary, still feel like interruptions and leave you anxious to return
to the Dalai Lama.
More than anything that comes across in the book is
that the Dalai Lama just seems like a great guy to talk with. He has
a contagious sense of energy and optimism that are balanced with just
enough pragmatism and intelligence to create a perfect interview subject.
I'm no Buddhist, but every single one of his viewpoints sounded reasonable
coming from him. This book was an enjoyable read and generates enough
intriguing, rich and layered proposals and concepts about society to
spark many of your own conversations.