The Vision of the Dalai Lama
Scholar, philosopher and eminent Buddhist monk, Professor Samdhong Rinpoche is Chairman of the Cabinet in the Central Tibetan Administration. In 2006, he gave a talk about the vision and legacy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Samdhong Rinpoche highlighted five main challenges facing the world in the twenty-first century:
• indiscriminate population increase
• social and economic inequality
• environmental degradation
• and religious intolerance
In this brief series of excerpts, he offers a personal insight into the contribution that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has made in trying to address these challenges.
How can we meet these five challenges and overcome them? In the Dalai Lama’s analysis of the situation, what are the root causes of all these problems? He goes back to the Buddhist tradition for the answer: ignorance, greed and hatred. These three mindsets are the negative emotions that form the root cause of every one of our problems.
All the challenges we have mentioned, which are caused by the exploitation of greed or hatred through ignorance, can be countered by love, compassion and the recognition of our own responsibility. In Tibetan we call these three jampa, nyingjé and lhaksam, respectively. The word lhaksam means 'to take responsibility', which the fourteenth Dalai Lama has articulated in the form of a very modern aspiration: universal responsibility. All of these challenges can be met and countered if we can as individuals develop and practise a sense of universal responsibility, a feeling of responsibility for everyone. Of course, a person who aspires to liberation for himself or herself alone will also feel some sense of responsibility, but it will not be a universal one.
As was explained by the Buddha, the actions of every single individual have a relationship with, and effect on, the entire universe, whether it be directly or indirectly
Universal responsibility implies feeling a connectedness with the entire universe, with all sentient beings, and with all the living beings on this earth—as well as a concern and a responsibility for them all. For example, if I commit an unwholesome action of some kind, its effects will not be limited to the immediate subject or object. It will have a universal implication. This is a phenomenon that scientists also recognize today. A pin dropped here in France has repercussions a long way away; even light years from here it can have some kind of effect. This is a reality.
As was explained by the Buddha, the actions of every single individual have a relationship with, and effect on, the entire universe, whether it be directly or indirectly. It is an understanding of this universal interconnectedness that underlies what is meant by lhaksam. This is what gives universal responsibility the elevated quality it has, and keeps it from ever being ordinary in its outlook. It is only the development of this sense of universal responsibility that can allow us to tackle our five major challenges, and many others as well.
I personally believe that this unique way of expressing the meaning of lhaksam as universal responsibility is really one of the present Dalai Lama’s great contributions to the world, and it is up to us to continue this legacy for the benefit of people in times to come.
The Dalai Lama speaks not only about universal responsibility but also about secular ethics. Of course, ethical teaching belonging to the various religious traditions are still very much in existence, and each one of them is extremely important. Whether we are able to abide by these ethical systems or practise them in our lives or not, each religion teaches a very high standard of morality and ethics.
On the other hand, there are many people in this world who do not belong to any spiritual tradition, and who do not have faith in or reverence for any religious teaching. They represent a huge proportion of the earth’s population. They, too, need some kind of morality, a code of conduct and an understanding of ethics. Many aspects of ethical behaviour are not necessarily confined to religious teachings or tradition, they apply to non-believers and to the whole of society. It is often said these days that 'man is a social animal'. We have to live together in society. Whether you are a believer or a non-believer, you still need a certain code of behaviour, so as not to forsake your responsibility towards the rest of the people in society, with whom you are constantly dealing.
When we use the word 'secular' here in relation to secular ethics, we are referring to all those who do not believe in a religion, but who are willing to lead the life of a civilized person. Civilized human beings must adhere to certain ethical principles. I believe that those of us who consider ourselves religious practitioners have a responsibility: to inspire an interest in secular ethics among those who don’t have faith in a religion, but who are educated and civilized and will respect these kinds of moral values.
This vision of secular ethics can be implemented in many different dimensions: as ethics for business people, ethics for politicians, ethics for professionals, and ethics for people from any walk of life. Without even touching on religious teachings or scriptures, we can talk about ethical values for everyone, so the concept of universal responsibility and the concept of secular ethics are equally of tremendous importance for us all.
The Scientific and Spiritual Dialogue
Then there is yet another field in which the present Dalai Lama has made a decisive contribution. That is the encounter between science and spirituality, and the ongoing dialogue between scientists and spiritual practitioners. Here we have an interaction in which neither discipline interferes with the methods or laws of the other, and where scientific knowledge and religion, scientists and spiritual practitioners, are coming together to find a common ground in their commitment to serve humanity.
Science and technology can be influenced and supplemented by morality or spirituality, so that they move towards greater constructiveness, and reduce their tendency to be used for destruction. This highlights how important it is for scientists to engage in dialogue with spiritual masters. I have known some leading scientists who believe strongly in such an approach. The late David Bohm, for example, had quite extensive dialogues with Jiddu Krishnamurti, in which I had the opportunity to participate. I have also had separate discussions with Fritjof Capra, an Indian scientist called Rajendra Priyadarshi, and several others.
These individuals believe that scientific knowledge as a whole can be immensely benefited by exposure to spiritual traditions, particularly Buddhist metaphysics and abhidharma. They feel that this could then influence science and technology in a positive direction, curbing their destructive use and inculcating a more spiritual attitude among scientists and world leaders that could be beneficial to the entire universe.
This collaboration between spirituality and science is another important facet and outcome of His Holiness’s vision. Not only has he had many encounters with scientists, but he also seems very popular amongst them. He has inspired and initiated a number of dialogues and conferences on mind and consciousness, which is where science approaches very close to Buddhist concepts and contemplative experience. Sometimes scientific knowledge, as it progresses, naturally seems to reach a stage where science itself shades into spirituality.
Inner Disarmament: The Path to Peace
The Dalai Lama’s argument is that we are all human beings, and whether we belong to one of the religious traditions, whether we are non-religious, whether we are involved in the interface of spirituality and science—whatever our faith or persuasion, in fact—individuals pursuing different paths can join together to help one another and to help others.
Inner disarmament depends on the reduction of doubt and suspicion, and a deepening in our ability to have confidence in one another
His long-term vision, perhaps his ultimate goal, is of a human society that lives in peaceful co-existence, free from violence. The reduction of violence remains always a prerequisite, because without eliminating force and violence we can never achieve that peaceful society.
Reducing violence means cutting military and armed forces, it means disarmament, it means creating zones of peace, and it means designating sanctuaries for the preservation of the environment. These are the kind of step-by-step programmes which will allow us to build a peaceful human society, free from violence of any kind.
When the Dalai Lama talks about the reduction of military forces and disarmament, he invariably speaks of inner disarmament, because without inner disarmament, outer disarmament will never be possible. This inner disarmament depends on the reduction of doubt and suspicion, and a deepening in our ability to have confidence in one another.
The Dalai Lama always advocates the resolution of conflict through dialogue, negotiation and person-to-person contact. This is the path that he follows, with complete sincerity, in the process of resolving the Sino-Tibetan conflict and the issue of Tibet. The 'middle way approach' that he is pursuing so wholeheartedly embodies at its core the principle of dialogue and the rejection of violence of any kind.
On many occasions the Dalai Lama has said that the twenty-first century must be a century of dialogue, and a century in which we seek to resolve conflict peacefully and by working towards mutual agreement. To achieve his ultimate vision of a violence-free society, in which we can all exist side by side with one another in peace, we have to take the steps necessary to reduce friction between religious traditions, to reduce social and economic disparity, to reduce violence and destruction, arms and armed forces, and to encourage a genuine process of dialogue aimed at resolving conflict and finding solutions for our enduring problems.
Professor Samdhong Rinpoche was born in 1939, in the Tibetan province of Kham. At the age of five, he was recognized as the reincarnation of the fourth Samdhong Rinpoche, and he began his monastic studies at the age of twelve at the great University of Drepung in Tibet. In 1959, Rinpoche fled to India.
There, he was commissioned by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to work in various capacities in Tibetan cultural and educational institutions. In exile, he completed his studies, obtaining a doctorate in divinity and doctorate in tantric studies. Appointed as director of the Central Institute for Higher Tibetan Studies in Varanasi in 1988, he remained there until 2001, playing an enormous part in the education of generations of Tibetan scholars.
On 29 July, 2001, in a landslide vote, Rinpoche became the first democratically elected Kalön Tripa, or Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile.
An eminent and distinguished scholar, teacher and philosopher, and fully ordained Buddhist monk, Rinpoche is widely known as an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi, and life-long campaigner for non-violence.
These extracts were taken from a talk given by Professor Samdhong Rinpoche in the Lerab Ling temple, France, in July 2006.
First published in View, August 2008
The Dalai Lama's website
From View Magazine @ http://www.viewmagazine.org/index.php/articles/tibet/114-the-vision-of-the-dalai-lama.html
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