Renuka Singh’s curiosity about the nature of the mind led her to Buddhism and eventually to a life-changing encounter with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, followed by the opportunity to compile his speeches for publication, including the newest title, The Dalai Lama’s Big Book of Happiness: How to Live in Freedom, Compassion, and Love (Hampton Roads, March 1).
Singh, a native of New Delhi who grew up in a Sikh family, turned to Buddhism while studying for her sociology doctorate and exploring “questions regarding the mind,” including experiences with lucid dreaming, telepathy, and transcendence. Today, the professor of sociology at New Delhi’s Centre for the Study of Social Systems at Jawaharlal Nehru University describes Buddhism as “the science of the mind,” as it answered her questions “in a very comprehensive way and gave the ultimate authority to one's experiential reality."
In 1986, Singh met the Dalai Lama when she joined a small class he was teaching in New Delhi. The meeting changed her life because “He said, ‘No amount of reading will help, you have to start meditating,’" Singh said. "That’s what I learned from him.”
Since 1993, Singh has been working with the Dalai Lama in her position as director of New Delhi’s Tushita Mahayana Meditation Centre, for which His Holiness serves as spiritual guide. “Tushita used to organize his teaching every year or every other year in Delhi, and so I thought I should bring them out in the form of a book,” she said. Starting with 1998’s The Path to Tranquility (Viking), Singh has worked on six volumes of His Holiness’s collected teachings, which were originally in India and subsequently in translated editions in other territories around the world. The books feature lightly edited selected speeches by the Dalai Lama, and most are followed by a verbatim Q&A session His Holiness had with the audience.
For The Dalai Lama’s Big Book of Happiness, Singh selected talks that the spiritual leader gave from 2008 through 2012, which she organized by themes such as forgiveness, compassion, reality, wisdom, and inner and outer peace. They were chosen because they have wider appeal and address common themes accessible to general audiences, rather than more obscure Buddhist teachings.
His key message, Singh said, is to “cultivate compassion, kindness, and love, and to have a good heart.” The Dalai Lama’s appeal is so universal, she said, “because he is trying to address people at a secular level. He’s talking about the humane value[s]; they apply to everybody irrespective of the religious background.”
Further, the Dalai Lama emphasizes that “fundamentally we are all the same, we are all suffering, and we’re all seeking happiness,” Singh said. “Therefore we need to actually cooperate with each other; we actually need to take care of each other.”
Thirty years after their initial encounter, Singh continues to be influenced by her interactions with the Dalai Lama. “The most rewarding aspect of working with His Holiness is I feel very humbled and very content.” Singh said. “He touches your heart.”
Bonni Hamilton, director of marketing and digital content at Red Wheel/Weiser, which houses the Hampton Roads imprint, said that the March title would be promoted in Buddhist publications, on websites such as Patheos and Beliefnet, and through social media and other electronic means.