It might seem odd that the leader of a world religion--the Dalai Lama--is suggesting that we all agree on an ethical system that is divorced from religious concepts, stories, and beliefs entirely. But here is his line of thinking: the holy man looks around and sees people turning away from traditional religion, as the numbers show. These people are spiritual now, beyond a particular religion, global, secular, multi-religious, atheist or agnostic or humanist. The Dalai Lama sees a few different ways of dealing with this situation. First, he could try and convert everyone to his religion. But that's neither realistic nor compassionate. Second, he could do nothing. But he thinks the world desperately needs a universal ethic of compassion. He also thinks that families and schools are having trouble teaching ethics to children, with devastating consequences. So doing nothing won't work. Third, he could offer up a universal ethical system based on compassion and other ethical principles that we could all agree on. And that's what he does here. If you think about it, whether you agree or not, it's a very compassionate move to make.
Of course, he's not against religion at all, or any of the moral systems of that come with them. He also doesn't think that nonreligous people are unethical. He just wants us all to be on the same page I suppose.
But is he successful? Does he abstract ethics so much as to take the very heart out of them? Or does he get the to core of ethics, the simple truths? Read the book and find out.