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Review: The Heart is Noble

books Updated: Aug 01, 2013 16:10 IST

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Book: The Heart is Noble
Author: The Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje
Publisher: Shambhala Publications
Pages: 216
Price: Rs. 495

This is the maiden book by the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the third most important Tibetan religious head after the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama.

The book, edited by a group of American college students, explores the major interpersonal, social and environmental issues facing a human being today, and points to the emotional resources that can help tackle these formidable challenges.

The 28-year-old monk maintains that the basic nobility of the human heart can help overcome these challenges.

"Although I am a Buddhist monk, this is not a book about Buddhist theory or practice, but about our experiences as human beings," The Karmapa, who mysteriously escaped to India from Tibet in January 2000 at the age of 14, says in the introduction.

"My formal study has been in Buddhist philosophy and religion; so I may use some Buddhist terms on occasion. But this is only because I have found them helpful in my own life and hope they might also open up useful perspectives for you."

The book touches on several burning issues like gender inequality, social conflict and the environment.

A chapter on "Gender Identities" says division of human beings on the basis of gender is nothing more than a socially constructed identity.

"Masculine and feminine are fabricated identities that societies create, not nature," the book says.

"When we think in more subtle ways beyond obvious anatomical distinctions, we see that the fundamental foundation of human beings includes both female and male aspects, both psychologically and even biologically. We have both," it says.

The book refers to mythological stories that say there was a time when there was no gender either male or female but just a human. "Being human is prior to being male or female," the book says.

In his foreword, the Dalai Lama says it would help in motivating the people, especially youth.

"If the coming decades are going to be significantly different, today's young people need to find ways of securing peace in the world based on establishing inner peace within themselves and relying on dialogue to deal with whatever problems arise," says the Dalai Lama, also the author's mentor.

The 17th Karmapa has also described the terror he and his companions faced along the way as they fled across the Himalayas into India, where he reached Jan 5, 2000.

Since then he has been residing at Gyuto Monastery on the outskirts of Dharamsala, where the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile is located.