Thupten Jinpa’s A Fearless Heart: How the Courage to be Compassionate Can Transform Our Lives. Reviewed by Mary E. Latela, M.Div., May 19, 2017
If you’ve ever viewed His Holiness the Dalai Lama giving a lesson on Buddhism, compassion, or science, you have seen Thupten Jinpa, his dearest translator, nearby. Sometimes there are phrases which the Dalai Lama does not understand, and Mr. Jinpa takes the phrase apart or translates into Tibetan, and the inevitable “Aha!” moment comes. For many years Thupten Jinpa was a Buddhist monk, becoming a professor, and also an expert on the intersection of the sciences and contemplative knowledge. He recently helped to create a vibrant program on Compassionate Cultivation Training at Stanford University.
The discussion of his difficult decision to leave the monastery enables the reader to understand the anxiety in returning to the lay community, because he really wanted to have a family. Descriptions of his discomfort in telling his parents, and even the Dalai Lama, ares heartwarming. It is a down-to-earth and helpful lesson for those who must leave their service to humanity to become a single person in the real world, including to get a job. He earned a Ph.D. in World Religions and became a professor. He met his life partner, they married, and now are raising their two daughters.
Mr. Jinpa realized that a certain area was particularly difficult for himself, and – it turns out – for many others. The chapter “May I Be Happy?” addresses the exhaustion of people doing good work and forgetting to take care of themselves, leading to emotional harm and even burnout. The author and his students worked through the two pronged essence of compassion – cultivating compassion for ourselves and cultivating loving-kindness toward others.
The book is a delight to read; the writing is clear and rich. The many short exercises and the true-to-life illustrations of real people make reading very fruitful. This is a must-read book. I recommend it to my many friends in service to humanity, and to all who wish to experience a fuller life, wherever they are on their life journey.