H.H. The Dalai Lama: ETHICS FOR THE NEW MILLENIUM
(A summary of the speech given by H.H The Dalai Lama in Maribor, Slovenia on 6th of April 2010)
Physically, mentally and emotionally we are all the same. Everybody wants happiness and have the right to achieve that happiness. Inspite of having the same right and the desire to achieve happiness we all face many problems which unfortunately we ourselves have created. Another reason for faceing problems although we desire happiness, is due to our short sightedness and unholistic perception. All things are very much interrelated including the things that we want is very much related to other factors. However usually when we want a particular thing we do not see the interplay of the other factors and so this gives rise to problems such as anger and so on. Due to such a lack of a holistic picture our perspective becomes unrealistic. So we need a realistic approach and for that to come about we need to know the reality and for that we need to look holistically.
We all want a happy life and happiness or joyfulness has two levels. One level is a sense of happy experience on a sensory level. However a deep satisfaction is not based on a sensory level but rather on a mental level which is the second level of happiness. For example the satisfaction or joyfulness of seeing something beautiful, hearing good sound, good smell, good taste and so on are levels of happiness which depend on sensory level. Here the means to get the facilities which provide joyfulness on a sensory level can be got through money but mental level satisfaction cannot be bought through money. Technology can produce facilities that provide sensory level pleasures but cannot bring about a deep level of peace. What brings about a deep inner peace is called ethics.
Ethics has many levels. Theistic religions, those who believe in a creator have one level of ethics. For example world religions traditions like Christianity, Islam etc have a basic faith in Christ, Allah and so on. Another level of ethics is by non- theistic religions, those which do not believe in God as a creator. Jainism and Buddhism has no concept of a creator, their view is that of a law of causality. If we perform actions that bring some benefit to others as a result we also benefit. If we perform actions that bring about suffering to others this also results in bringing us suffering. That is the law of causality. Both the above mentioned ethics belong to some religion or faith. The third level of ethics is one without any religious belief. In India over thousand years there is a tradition of respecting people even those who have wrong views. The Charvaka School of thought deny both God and the law of causality as they are nihilistic. Although so, we must respect these non believers as has been done in the Indian tradition. Some people believe that any moral ethics must be based on religious ethics. If we emphasise this, then moral ethics cannot be universal and in that case we cannot implement it in secular education. Out of six billion humans’ majority are non believers. They are also like our brothers and sisters so we must be concerned about them. When we talk of humanity we must also include them, so secular ethics is without a religious basis. Some people view secularism as something which disrespects religion. Secularism does not mean so as it respects all religion and even non- believers. Secularism is India’s way of thinking and even their constitution is based on that. It respects all religions without preference or bias. This kind of ethics that belongs to the third category is universal and so the way to promote it must also be secular.
What is secular ethics? Secular ethics means honesty or truthfulness which brings openness and transparency which further brings about trust, friendship and harmony. Since we all are social beings harmony is very important. Even bees and ants live and work all together as they are social animals and their individual survival depends on the community. Harmony and unity is very essential for us social beings. I admire European Union where for example this country of Slovenia although small has equal rights as all other countries in the Union. Before all the countries were fighting with each other but now the new reality is showing us to work together and from this new ethics have developed. The global economy makes this whole world one entity. We must develop the concept of all human beings included within the concept of “we”. Even our former enemy is considered as a part of “we” and this is our reality. I tell our Chinese brothers and sisters that no matter how powerful they are, harmony that comes from openness and transparency is important. A secret society is unable to overcome fear so trust is the basis of harmony. Money and power will not bring about and develop honesty and trust. As long as we have more compassion and sense of others wellbeing we will not have the possibility to harm and cheat others. So to bring trust we need warm heartedness. I am here just one refugee but I have nothing to hide on the other hand the Communist leaders are powerful but hypocrite. This is not an anti Chinese statement as I love and respect them and all of us even love Chinese food. We are criticising their secrecy which brings fear. However this is not a political statement. A compassionate heart brings honesty and that brings trust and openness. Health too is very important and we take maximum care of it. According to studies of many neuroscientists calm mind is an important factor for good health. When I was passing through surgery two years back being 73years, I mentioned that I am not young but according to the doctor my physical condition resembles as though I am 60 years so he referred to me as a young patient. My mental state as compared to some of my friends is very calm. Ofcourse disturbing news brings on the surface, unhappiness and disturbances but deep down I am very calm. Because on the deep level we practice concern and well being for all sentient being, that keeps mental calm and peace. Another factor for a happy life is a happy marriage. To have a good marriage inner beauty is important. If the external things are beautiful but the inner beauty is missing good marriage does not last long. But if the external beauty is missing and the inner beauty is there the marriage is happy.
In the sixties one official monk disrobed and married, I teased him regarding his wife not being attractive. He said, externally she is not nice but internally she is so nice. After hearing this I had nothing to say. Inner beauty is honesty, respect, and trust. These secular ethics are secular because they are common to even animals. Animals for example dogs too appreciate love, kindness and affection. These are universal values and have nothing to do with religion. How to develop and promote these values? Firstly these can be developed because of the seed of compassion which we have received from our mothers. We have survived due to the compassion of our mothers. The seed of my compassion that I have received is from my mother, not from Buddhist teachings. That is our common experience. Those who received maximum attention when they were young are very calm, while those who were abused when they were young, deep inside are much more disturbed. When we look at our neighbourhood more compassionate families are full of life and happiness. In the families where one family member is very self-centred and does not care for others in the family, the family is unhappy. Children who belong to happy families are happier and mentally function much better. In America experiments are being conducted on people who practice compassion, readings taken before and after such practice have shown a reduction in the levels of blood pressure, mental stress and an increase of mindfulness and sharpness of the mind.
Through our education system we should include education of moral ethics. In America and Canada educationalist are having serious discussions of including moral ethics within the educational system. Modern education concerns itself with material values but it should now also include moral ethics. In this field women have a special role to play as biologically females are more sensitive of the pain of others. To promote human values females should take more active role. In human history to begin with there was no concept of leadership as the people shared everything together. Gradually the population increased and control and leadership developed. Physical strength and leadership was the base of dominance. Then education developed which brought more equality. In the 21st century education alone is not enough; there should be emphasis on the education of a warm heart where females should take a more active role. Real peace or satisfaction must come from the mental level, from within our mind. We usually pay attention to external objects and believe money can provide deep satisfaction but the main basis for getting satisfaction is inner value. Consumption of drugs etc is due to emphasising only on external things and a lack of the realisation of inner potential. So pay attention to inner values.
During the question answer session that followed the main teaching H.H the Dalai Lama said,
“The 20th Century was a century of bloodshed so the 21st century should be a century of dialogue.”
17 members of our Buddhist group-Padmasana were fortunate to drive to Slovenia as a group, to listen to the talks held in Maribor. Just seeing H.H and hearing his precious words overwhelmed us with joy, inspiring us to follow the Dharma sincerely and continue the good work which we are doing in our Buddhist Society.