You need not join a religion to have guiding principles for life. The Dalai Lama does it without religious dogma in less than twenty statements, far shorter than any religious texts. Check out his 18 rules for living life.
18 Excellent Rules for Living
Let’s start this discussion with a quote to put things into perspective.
The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend a personal God and avoid dogmas and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, we should base it on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description. — Albert Einstein
Tenzin Gyatso is the fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibetan Buddhism. His philosophy transcends religion and theology. You will see they are absent references to religious dogma.
1. Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
We’ve heard the saying, everything worth achieving takes effort. If the goal were easy to attain, it would be a result, not an accomplishment. To accomplish noble things, we must invest effort accompanied by the risk of failure. Achieving a goal that is risky and hard to attain is a true accomplishment.
The same is said of love. It is better to love and lose than not love at all. Loving is risky. But the joy comes, in part, from the risk involved.
2. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
Risk involves the potential for failure and loss. We all lose sometimes. But the genuine loss is missing the lesson. Life is a place where you learn lessons that lead to wisdom. When we fail, stop and ask ourselves, what is the lesson? Learn from the lesson and use the insight to improve your life.
3. Follow these three ABCs:
A. Respect for self
B. Respect for others
C. Responsibility for all your actions.
This is an important rule promoting self-love and self-respect. This generates respect for others. Respect is an anchor for self-compassion, self-acceptance, and self-awareness. This is one of the 18 excellent rules for living that can change the trajectory of your life.
Respect for others includes all living things on the planet. The environment needs our kind attention and respect. Respect for the planet means ensuring we do our part to safeguard its resources for future generations to enjoy.
Accepting responsibility for your actions is difficult. But when you face the consequences, you bolster your self-respect. Others will also respect you more for accepting responsibility.
4. Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
What we want isn’t always what we need. We don’t always get what we want. Sometimes this is the best thing that could happen. However, we do not grasp this as a fortunate turn of events when it’s happening. In retrospect, we see how a loss is a blessing in disguise. This may take some time, even years, before you discover it was a stroke of luck.
5. Learn the rules, so you know how to break them.
It would be best if you were careful with this proposition. If you break a rule, you need to consider the potential and real consequences. There are often unintended ramifications that can act like an avalanche. The moral dilemma of breaking the rules for the right reasons still has consequences. To learn the rule fully, delve into the reasons behind the rule.
As you awaken, you will see social and environmental injustices. So, learn to do what you can where you are. Listen to the calling of your heart and intuition. Do not ignore your “gut” instinct.
6. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
Don’t throw away years of a great friendship over a dispute. The more you awaken from the culture’s collective sleep, the more you will distance yourself from those still asleep. So, it’s easy to find conflict with old friends. Consider what battles are worth damaging a relationship?
First, assess whether it is a great friendship. Ask yourself, is the common thread that brought us together? Do you still share the common thread? If the common thread no longer exists, it might not be a great friendship. But if there is still some small thread that connects you, find some way to preserve the relationship.
Instead, you can plant seeds while maintaining the relationship. This could mean minimizing social media contacts or skirting religious and political topics.
7. When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
An apology goes a long way. Don’t let pride or selfishness stop you from repairing a relationship. We are all human, and we all make mistakes. Make it a personal “best practice” to admit and apologize. This is taking responsibility for your actions and will go a long way towards building a solid reputation—this one of the 18 excellent rules for living that pays off.
It takes courage, but the benefits outweigh the risk. This is the best way to repair the relationship. It also increases your self-respect. See rule 3.
8. Spend some time alone every day.
Don’t overlook the importance of this precept. Taking even a few minutes to meditate will go a long way towards recharging your mind. Practice simple mindfulness meditation and exercises. They take very little time, making you more effective and efficient in your daily affairs.
Mindfulness meditation is easy to learn. You can use it any time and for any length of time. It’s like restarting your computer or handheld device. Just a minute of silence will benefit your overall health and wellness.
9. Open your arms to change, but don’t let go of your values.
Being open to change is practical because everything changes. Understand change and how it affects you. Develop healthy coping skills for change.
Embracing change is a necessary ability in a world where the rate of change speeds up. You need to know the difference between accepting change and your values. It is equally important to understand the difference between cultural values and personal values.
Cultural values result from programming via religion and other institutions. Personal values are internal and part of us all. Sharing and caring are universal. If you don’t want it done to you, don’t do it to someone else.
10. Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
We have two ears and one mouth. So, listen more than you talk. When you talk, you repeat what you already know. If you listen, you might learn something new. In any conflict, silence is one of the best strategies. It gives you time to think.
11. Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.
Don’t forget rule 7. We all make mistakes. Doing the best you can in all situations is all you can do. Magnify your wonderful memories. Remember the lessons.
Learn to use your memory as a source of inspiration. Magnify the good and reduce the negative emotions associated with your memories. When you do this, you can enjoy the pleasant parts of life.
12. A loving atmosphere in your home is the foundation of your life.
As much as you can, create an environment for yourself, which is positive. Surround yourself with things that make you happy and bring peace. Play your favorite music. Read books. Fill your surroundings with plants. Place memorable decorative objects where you can see them. Create an altar with objects that bring you fond memories and ground you. If possible, make your entire room or home a sanctuary from the world. Create a place that is restful and rejuvenating.
13. In disagreements with loved ones, deal only with the current situation. Don’t bring up the past.
See rule 7 again. Holding a grudge only hurts you. Don’t let the past hurt you repeatedly. You can’t change the past. Learn to focus on what you can change in the present.
14. Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality.
This is an important part of your spiritual growth that we embed in our blended learning process. We never know when something we share could inspire positive change in someone’s life. Sharing your knowledge helps others and fulfills your need to serve.
15. Be gentle with the earth.
We would have put this higher on the list. Earth is our only habit. There isn’t a backup planet. It makes no sense to pollute and destroy it for the sake of making money. The Earth is not ours to use for short-term gains. We are just stewards and should consider the environment as the property of every living thing. Reduce your carbon footprint by recycling. Please keep it clean.
16. Once a year, go someplace, you’ve never been to before.
If you can travel, do it. When you visit new places and especially new cultures, it can expand your perspective. It broadens our experiences. Expose yourself to different cultures, people, and ways of life. Exploring and making memories will become your veritable treasures.
17. Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.
There is a difference between wanting to be with someone and needing to be somebody. Wanting something implies you are choosing, while “need” implies a lack of volition. Needs are often signs of unhealthy compulsions that can never be satisfied.
18. Judge your success by what you had to give up to get it.
The wisdom here is not giving up all of your time and energy to have “things.” Many people are used up and burned out by the corporate culture. They have a new car and a new house and are depressed and unhealthy. Don’t get caught up in the corporate rat race. Don’t give up your life for things.
The Wisdom of Dalai Lama
These 18 excellent rules for living life cover everything spiritual and practical. What is missing is religious dogma talk about God? When he speaks about values, he uses them concerning everyone and everything. There is no talk about sectarianism or preferential treatment. The idea of assessing the risk of love is another way of saying live with courage.
Taking responsibility for our actions or inaction is seriously lacking in many world leaders today. This relates directly to living honorably. Wow. This is a huge contrast to many people who want to point the finger at others for their misjudgment.
Thank you, Dalai Lama, for this insightful list of guiding principles. By the way, this is the only source for guiding principles without religion. Check out this link.
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(1) Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia