Sunday, July 01, 2007

Dalai Lama: on human value

I Yam What I Yam.

Dalai Lama: on human value
The Dalai Lama addresses audience following receipt of an honorary degree
(from the U of T Bulletin, May 10/04)

The following are excerpts from an address given by the Dalai Lama during a special convocation ceremony April 27 at which he received an honorary degree from the University of Toronto for his spiritual leadership and commitment to the
non-violent liberation of the Tibetan people. Parts of his talk were delivered with the help of his spiritual adviser and interpreter, Geshe Thuppten Jinga.

Humans as social animals:
I believe that every human being has the responsibility to take care of humanity. We are social animals. And particularly now, the reality of today’s world is such that everything, every part of the world, everything is interdependent and interconnected, especially in the modern economy and the environment. Now national boundaries or religious boundaries or differences of ethnicity are no longer there, are no longer relevant.

Therefore, in order to achieve one’s own happy life, it must depend on humanity as a whole. If humanity is happy, certainly each individual human being as a part of humanity will naturally get maximum benefit. That is my fundamental belief. I always try to serve others in day-to-day life, every morning. As a Buddhist monk, as a Buddhist practitioner, I am always shaping my motivation, every morning. The rest of the day, my physical being, my speech, my thoughts should be something useful. Although, I am Buddhist, so my daily way of thinking is much related to the Buddhist way of thinking but I believe like any other religion that Buddhism and all religions are helping people to be good human beings. Because all the teachings, they carry the same message — messages of love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment and selfdiscipline.
So I found my Buddhist practice not as a Buddhist practice but as basic human values. On that level I always find something useful to make a contribution to others. Humanity, human beings all have the same desire for a happy life, desire for peace. All have the right, the equal right, to be a happy person, to have a successful life.

The power of inner peace:
When our mind, on an emotional level, is disturbed for the moment, then that person could be very intelligent, very educated, very experienced, but because of the negative emotion in that period, that person may not detect properly the reality in front of them. That’s the nature. So therefore a calm mind is very essential. But in order to achieve a calm mind, it’s not through knowledge alone, but some other methods. That is through compassion, a sense of forgiveness, a sense of tolerance. These really give you inner strength. So with inner strength comes more self-confidence. And with that comes less fear, less doubt. And you can see objectively because you have self-confidence.

Sometimes if your inner-self is weak, then I think sometimes due to fear you fail to see the reality more objectively. I think each of us can do an experiment. Take an object, but look at that same object when your mind is calm and then at a time when your mind is agitated. It doesn’t have to be anger or hatred, but even strong attachment. So during that period, your mind now exaggerates the object, good or bad. The mental obstruction is so strong that you cannot see the reality properly. As a result, you cannot make a decision, the right decision.

So therefore even those people who are very much against religion, their minds, when they make certain decisions, their minds should be calm.

I think these destructive emotions usually focus on one independent absolute target, like hatred. When hatred develops, then you mentally project one particular object as absolute, as independent — that becomes the target which your hatred feeling is now hitting. So during that moment try to look at that same object from a holistic or wider perspective. Then not only that independent target will be different but you will see more aspects from a wider perspective and then I think the intensity of the hatred will automatically reduce.

Compassion is good for everyone. Certainly when we pray, these positive emotions see no need for an independent absolute target. Certainly we can pray for all human beings, the whole world. There’s no absolute independent target. On this basis, given that when you have more destructive kinds of emotions you need an independent absolute object that you conceptually or imaginatively
create. On the other hand, you can have positive and constructive emotions that can be extended to a much wider object. This suggests that within our emotion world, there are broadly speaking two types: one destructive, one constructive.

Secular ethics:
Now I would like to share my fundamental belief that things like compassion are very essential to human value, are a very important matter for a happy life, a happy society, a happy family — irrespective of whether you are a believer or non-believer. It’s what I usually call secular ethics. If you have religious beliefs, it is good and useful for these basic human values. But even without religion, even some individuals may have negative attitudes towards religion. That is OK, they believe their attitude is absolutely right. No problem. But these people also need these basic human values in order to be happy.

Science and spirituality:
My main point is that human values, like compassion and warm-heartedness, these things are very essential. So therefore our institutions, like this institution, are paying attention but still I think could be more useful.

According to recent scientific findings, for good health, a calm mind, certain emotions are good. For example, compassion. A person who meditates on compassion, during that period the left side of the brain becomes more active. That is according to neurobiologists who consider more activities on this side of the brain are good for health. These experiments were carried out on human beings. In another study where some monkeys who were left with their mother and some monkeys were separated from their mother, things become very clear. Those young monkeys who live with their mother, these monkeys are more playful, more joyful, and fight less than those young monkeys who were separated from their mother. So we also have a similar situation with humanity. At a recent dialogue with scientists, one scientist made a presentation of his study. He mentioned those individuals who often express the words of self like I, me, or mine, that such people have a greater risk of heart attack. I think the reason they often use these words, this one expression of deep feeling, is they are narrow-minded, self-centred. So under their circumstances I think the actual mental focus is very narrow, just on self. So even small problems within that focus appear very big and unbearable.

When you think more compassionately, think about others and automatically your mind can open. So as a result, one’s own problems, even serious problems, appear not to have that much significance. So on the basis of scientific findings I think we can develop some right kind of attitude for our own interest. Also, if we investigate in our daily experiences, when we look at a certain object with certain affected emotions, then you can’t see the reality clearly.

So on a scientific basis we can promote basic human values without adopting a religious effect. I hope that educational institutions like this university will pay more attention to the
promotion of human values as secular ethics. In other words, this is also a part of academic work, the study of the function of these emotions. Then accordingly we develop a certain way of looking, a way of life. So that is what I wanted to share with you and I think perhaps if I touch on these things then my own studies seem somewhat relevant to today’s world.

25 Comments:

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All of todays contemporary religions are based on so called pagan belief systems. Take for instance Judaism, Christianity and Islam who share common pagan origins. The irony of these religions is that they condemn one another for not believing in the one true god of course the god they follow is the only true god and the god the others follow is a false god at least according to the lunatic fringe elements of these religions. ... Christianity is particularly perplexing and replete with significant pagan beliefs. The human sacrifice, the virgin birth and the holy trinity are all of pagan origins. It appears that in order to attract non jews to Christianity these three major pagan foundations were incorporated into Christianity. The most important concepts of Christianity are pagan, yet the overwhelming majority of Christians condemn other religions as being pagan.

 
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