Book review: The Good Heart: A Buddhist Perspective on the Teachings of Jesus

A discussion led by The Dalai Lama


The premise for this book is fantastic! Talk His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, into speaking before a Christian audience in Middlesex University, London. Call it The Good Heart, emphasizing the humanitarian aspects of both Christianity and Buddhism. Give him eight passages of Gospel scripture to read in preparation for the seminar, and hear what he has to say.

The eight chosen passages are:

Matthew 5:38-48, Love Your Enemy
Matthew 5:1-10, The Beatitudes
Mark 3:31-35, Equanimity
Mark 4:36-24, The Kingdom of God
Luke 9:28-36, The Transfiguration
Luke 9:1-6, The Mission
John 12:44-50, Faith
John 20:10-18, The Resurrection

From the outset, The Dalai Lama assured his listeners that he had no intention of sowing seeds of doubt, and instead encouraged listeners to “experience the value of one’s own religious tradition.” He taught that the authentication of all religion is the realization of a good heart. He acknowledged similarities between Christianity and Buddhism, especially in regards to compassion, brotherhood and forgiveness, and strongly encouraged meetings between people from different religious traditions (not scholars but “genuine practitioners” interested in “sharing insights”). Yet he feels it does a disservice to both religions not to acknowledge their uniqueness. The Dalai Lama would rather we remain Christian than try to “put a yak’s head on a sheep’s body” and call ourselves Buddhist-Christians.

He spoke, as always, with insight and humility, and his take on Christian scriptures was wonderfully fresh and simple. My respect for the Dalai Lama increased even more. Yet I was a little disappointed; invariably, the discussion of Christian scriptures steered into comparisons with Buddhism—to be expected, I’m sure—but Buddhist thought is so ingrained in the Dalai Lama that much of the discussion felt foreign to me. Not that I couldn’t follow his thinking, and not that I don’t appreciate the similarities between Christianity and Buddhism and their common goal of compassion, but Eastern thinking is just … well … different.


  1. I’m not sure I understand your disappointment. Wouldn’t the goal of a book such as this – one that looks at our religion from the perspective of a man from a foreign country who practises a foreign religion – be to present ideas that are foreign? I mean, if you didn’t want to be surrounded by a foreign language, you wouldn’t take your vacation in France, right?

  2. lol. I actually had a tough time with the last couple words of the review. I could say that, or I could delve into the philosophical, mystical thought patterns. By “different,” I mean the Dalai Lama’s approach was seldom head-on, but always circling by the back door.

  3. Ah yeah, ok. Things like that can easily frustrate the Western mind. I think I recall a similar vagueness when reading Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Living Buddha – Living Christ”. I liked certain passages of that a lot, but I remember finishing the book feeling like a lot of it didn’t sink in, even though it was short and easy to read. Have you read that one?

  4. I haven’t read it, no, I’ll put it on the list thanks!

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