One of my favourite Buddhist quotes is from the 14th Dalai Lama

Don’t try to use what you learn from buddhism to be a buddhist; use it to be a better whatever-you-already-are.

Amazing. But does anyone know the wider context of this quote. When did he say it and what was the talk i.e. can someone get a fuller transcript of the teaching?

Many Thanks

2 Answers 2


I think I found a reference to the source and it sounds more accurate. This is from Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris -- it is relating an Inter-Faith dialog some years before the writing of her book in 1999 and here is the quote.

A report asked the Dalai Lama what he would say to Americans who want to become Buddhists,

"Don't bother" he said, Learn from Buddhism if that is good for you. But do it as Christians, a Jew or whatever you are. And be a good friend to us.

The quote was cleaned up by someone a long time ago and now though the sense is the same the quote is wrong. It should not have quotation marks.

And "whatever you are" is in the next paragraph.

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Apparently it is from some talks from decades ago. In many talks to secular audience His Holiness address the issue of compassion. You can improve your compassion through meditation and lower you suffering and that of others. These is the ideal and goal of practice for many Buddhist, adepts of other religions and atheists with empathy. I haven't found exact transcript but you can look up another wisdom of H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet https://www.dalailama.com/the-dalai-lama/biography-and-daily-life/questions-answers

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