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Mainstream, VOL L, No 9, February 18, 2012

Dalai Lama on Secular Ethics, Opening China’s Mind for its Own Future

His Holiness’ Interview To Sagari Chhabra

Sunday 19 February 2012, by Sagari Chhabra


In the struggle over a homeland, how have you managed to keep six million Tibetans completely non-violent?

Before Buddhism, Tibet was all tribes using the sword and horse. Then Buddhism reached—the whole way of life changed. But Tibetans from the beginning respect life, even that of insects. Non-violence of thought and action is a Tibetan tradition. Tibetan culture is one of peace and compassion. So, the Tibetan community is carrying out that tradition. Inside Tibet, there’s constant fear, constant anger—but still, the people generally stay non-violent.

That’s linked to deep religious and cultural belief—is there a code of conduct for those who may not subscribe actively to any religion?

That’s a very serious matter. Some of my friends, religious people, feel moral ethics must be based on religious principles. All religious traditions carry moral principles based on love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance... However, in reality, the number of non-believers is quite big. Even those who claim to be Buddhist, Hindu or Christian may not be very serious about these teachings in their daily lives. We need to promote moral ethics... but for your own interest, your family’s interest and for the sake of the community, we need secular ethics—now, some people will say, the Dalai Lama is becoming anti-religion! But India is the proper place to make a curriculum of secular ethics.

Please tell us more about secular ethics?

Well, people do not know the way to bring about inner peace. They’re only looking at the material way—that’s harmful. People are not taught about inner potential, real sources of inner peace, self-confidence and inner strength. Within India too, it’s quite shameful that it is a deeply religious nation but there is a lot of corruption. It’s a total contradiction. These days, i express to my Indian friends only two ways—either believe in God and follow ethics, or forget God and worship money and corruption.

With materialism growing, is there a solution to this situation?

The real thing is education. We must introduce moral education and secular ethics from kindergarten to university level. Then there’s real hope. People becoming judges, politicians, businessmen and leaders will have a different way of thinking. Then society will be totally different.

Your ideas find resonance in India and elsewhere but China, a dominant world power, has rejected your middle path. How do you view this?

India respects all religions, including the rights of non-believers. That is the basis of a successful democracy. In China, there is a lack of democracy, a totalitarian system. Their own people suffer. Their totalitarian system has too much ambition. That should change. The Chinese people themselves, led by intellectuals and thinkers, show a strong desire to change...we need to give moral support to these people.

China is the most populated nation. In order to carry out a constructive global role, China needs respect from the rest of the world. Respect is related to trust. China must open its secret society which is very harmful. This is not anti-China. We are helping China open its mind for its own great future. Democratic China, open China, with proper rule of law and trans-parency—that’s a medicine for many problems.

(Courtesy: The Times of India)

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