What the Dalai Lama is thinking:
Every day, we drive 150 species of plants and animals to extinction, expand the deserts by 50,000 hectares, and spew 150 million metric tons of greenhouse gases into the air. Essentially, we are fighting a World War Three against nature. Religions have not been able to stop this development. 2016 was the warmest year on record. The Himalayan glaciers and the polar ice caps are melting. What can secular ethics accomplish in these circumstances? What are the core tenets of secular ethics?An Appeal to the World by the Dalai Lama 2017
Do you or I think about this on a daily basis? That is my question, and I believe it is an important question. I will admit to you, I don’t think about it every day. I think about it often, and try to do what I can do, but I don’t think about often enough.
I guess I should stop here and say that the Dalai Lama was born in Tibet. It is believed that he is the reincarnation of a previous Dalai Lama, and he is therefore both the political and spiritual leader of the country. When he was a teenager, one night the Chinese invaded in the middle of the night. The people around him got him and his family out, and many other Tibetans were able to escape with them, by climbing down the terribly high mountains into India, and India supported them and gave them refuge and a place where they could live in exile.
The Chinese still claim Tibet as their own. They have destroyed many of the Tibetan temples; they have killed and raped many of the monks and nuns who felt they were called to stay in Tibet.
To me, the saddest thing was that the world did nothing to stop China in this horrific invasion and takeover.
The Dalai Lama believes that humans can get by without religion, but not without inner values; not without ethics.
The difference between ethics and religion is like the difference between water and tea. Religion-based ethics and inner values are more like value. The tea that we drink is made mostly of water, but it contains other ingredients as well. Tea leaves, spices, perhaps a little sugar, and, at least in Tibet, a pinch of salt, and that makes it more substantial, more lasting, something that we want to drink every day. No matter how it’s prepared, its main ingredient is always water. We can live without tea, but not without water. Likewise, we are born without religion, but not without the basic need for compassion, and not without the fundamental need for water.
I see with ever-greater clarity that our spiritual well being depends not on religion, but on our innate human nature, our natural affinity for goodness, compassion and caring for others. Regardless of whether or not we belong to a religion, we all have a fundamental and profoundly human wellspring of ethics within ourselves. We need to nurture that shared ethical basis. Ethics, as opposed to religion, are grounded in human nature, and that is how we work on preserving creation. Empathy is the basis of human co-existence. It is my belief that human development relies on compassion and not competition. This is scientifically proven. We must learn that humanity is all our big family.