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My Vision of a Compassionate Future

posted by zaina19 on November, 2007 as ANALYSIS / OPINION

From: MSN NicknameEagle_wng  (Original Message)    Sent: 10/23/2007 9:13 AM
My Vision of a Compassionate Future

By The Dalai Lama
Sunday, October 21, 2007; B01

Brute force can never subdue the basic human desire for freedom. The thousands
of people who marched in the cities of Eastern Europe in recent decades, the
unwavering determination of the people in my homeland of Tibet and the recent
demonstrations in Burma are powerful reminders of this truth. Freedom is the
very source of creativity and human development. It is not enough, as communist
systems assumed, to provide people with food, shelter and clothing. If we have
these things but lack the precious air of liberty to sustain our deeper nature,
we remain only half human.
In the past, oppressed peoples often resorted to violence in their struggle to
be free. But visionaries such as Mahatma Gandhi and the Rev. Martin Luther King
Jr. have shown us that successful changes can be brought about nonviolently. I
believe that, at the basic human level, most of us wish to be peaceful. Deep
down, we desire constructive, fruitful growth and dislike destruction.
Many people today agree that we need to reduce violence in our society. If we
are truly serious about this, we must deal with the roots of violence,
particularly those that exist within each of us. We need to embrace "inner
disarmament," reducing our own emotions of suspicion, hatred and hostility
toward our brothers and sisters.
Furthermore, we must reexamine how we relate to the very question of the use of
violence in today's profoundly interconnected world. One may sometimes feel that
one can solve a problem quickly with force, but such success is often achieved
at the expense of the rights and welfare of others. One problem may have been
solved, but the seed of another is planted, thus opening a new chapter in a
cycle of violence and counter-violence.
From the Velvet Revolution in the former Czechoslovakia to the popular
pro-democracy movement in the Philippines, the world has seen how a nonviolent
approach can lead to positive political changes. But the genuine practice of
nonviolence is still at an experimental stage. If this experiment succeeds, it
can open the way to a far more peaceful world. We need to embrace a more
realistic approach to dealing with human conflicts, an approach that is in tune
with a new reality of heavy interdependence in which the old concepts of "we"
and "they" are no longer relevant. The very idea of total victory for one's own
side and the total defeat of one's enemy is untenable. In violent conflicts, the
innocent are often the first casualties, as the war in Iraq and Sudan's Darfur
crisis painfully remind us. Today, the only viable solution to human conflicts
will come through dialogue and reconciliation based on the spirit of compromise.
Many of the problems we confront today are our own creation. I believe that one
of the root causes of these manmade problems is the inability of humans to
control their agitated minds and hearts -- an area in which the teachings of the
world's great religions have much to offer.
A scientist from Chile once told me that it is inappropriate for a scientist to
be attached to his particular field of study, because that would undermine his
objectivity. I am a Buddhist practitioner, but if I mix up my devotion for
Buddhism with an attachment to it, my mind will be biased toward it. A biased
mind never sees the complete picture, and any action that results will not be in
tune with reality. If religious practitioners can heed this scientist's advice
and refrain from being attached to their own faith traditions, it could prevent
the growth of fundamentalism. It also could enable such followers to genuinely
respect faith traditions other than their own. I often say that while one can
adhere to the principle of "one truth, one religion" at the level of one's
personal faith, we should embrace at the same time the principle of "many
truths, many religions" in the context of wider society. I see no contradiction
between these two.
I do not mean to suggest that religion is indispensable to a sound ethical way
of life, or for that matter to genuine happiness. In the end, whether one is a
believer or a nonbeliever, what matters is that one be a good, kind and
warmhearted person. A deep sense of caring for others, based on a profound sense
of interconnection, is the essence of the teachings of all great religions of
the world. In my travels, I always consider my foremost mission to be the
promotion of basic human qualities of goodness -- the need for and appreciation
of the value of love, our natural capacity for compassion and the need for
genuine fellow feeling. No matter how new the face or how different the dress
and behavior, there is no significant division between us and other people.
When I first saw a photograph of Earth taken from outer space, it powerfully
brought home to me how small and fragile the planet is and how petty our
squabbles are. Amid our perceived differences, we tend to forget how the world's
different religions, ideologies and political systems were meant to serve
humans, not destroy them. When I traveled to the former Soviet Union in the late
1970s, I encountered widespread paranoia, even among ordinary people who feared
that the West hated them so much that it was ready to invade their country. Of
course, I knew this was mere projection.
Today, more than ever, we need to make this fundamental recognition of the basic
oneness of humanity the foundation of our perspective on the world and its
challenges. From the dangerous rate of global warming to the widening gap
between rich and poor, from the rise of global terrorism to regional conflicts,
we need a fundamental shift in our attitudes and our consciousness -- a wider,
more holistic outlook.
As a society, we need to shift our basic attitude about how we educate our
younger generation. Something is fundamentally lacking in our modern education
when it comes to educating the human heart. As people begin to explore this
important question, it is my hope that we will be able to redress the current
imbalance between the development of our brains and the development of our
To promote greater compassion, we must pay special attention to the role of
women. Given that mothers carry the fetus for months within their own bodies,
from a biological point of view women in general may possess greater sensitivity
of heart and capacity for empathy. My first teacher of love and compassion was
my own mother, who provided me with maximum love. I do not mean to reinforce in
any way the traditional view that a woman's place is confined to the home. I
believe that the time has come for women to take more active roles in all
domains of human society, in an age in which education and the capacities of the
mind, not physical strength, define leadership. This could help create a more
equitable and compassionate society.
In general, I feel optimistic about the future. As late as the 1950s and '60s,
people believed that war was an inevitable condition of mankind and that
conflicts must be solved through the use of force. Today, despite ongoing
conflicts and the threat of terrorism, most people are genuinely concerned about
world peace, far less interested in propounding ideology and far more committed
to coexistence.
The rapid changes in our attitude toward the Earth are also a source of hope.
Until recently, we thoughtlessly consumed its resources as if there were no end
to them. Now not only individuals but also governments are seeking a new
ecological order. I often joke that the moon and stars look beautiful, but if
any of us tried to live on them, we would be miserable. This blue planet of ours
is the most delightful habitat we know. Its life is our life, its future our
future. Now Mother Nature is telling us to cooperate. In the face of such global
problems as the greenhouse effect and the deterioration of the ozone layer,
individual organizations and single nations are helpless. Our mother is teaching
us a lesson in universal responsibility.
The 20th century became a century of bloodshed; despite its faltering start, the
21st century could become one of dialogue, one in which compassion, the seed of
nonviolence, will be able to flourish. But good wishes are not enough. We must
seriously address the urgent question of the proliferation of weapons and make
worldwide efforts toward greater external disarmament.
Large human movements spring from individual human initiatives. If you feel that
you cannot have much of an effect, the next person may also become discouraged,
and a great opportunity will have been lost. On the other hand, each of us can
inspire others simply by working to develop our own altruistic motivations --
and engaging the world with a compassion-tempered heart and mind.
The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual leader of Tibet. Since
1959, he has been living in Dharamsala, in northern India, the seat of the
Tibetan government in exile.

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