His Holiness The Dalai Lama 

Spirituality For A Better World 

Spirituality For A Better World

Asiaweek, August 20-27, 1999
(Millennium Special Issue)

Balancing material progress with inner development to achieve true success

By The Dalai Lama AS THE NEW MILLENNIUM approaches, our world requires us to accept the oneness of humanity. In the past, isolated communities could afford to think of themselves as fundamentally separate. Some even existed in total isolation. But nowadays, whatever happens in one region eventually affects many other areas. In the context of this new interdependence, self-interest clearly lies in considering the interests of others. Many of the world's problems and conflicts arise because we have lost sight of the humanity that binds us together as one family. We forget that despite the diversity of race, religion and ideology, people share a basic wish for peace and happiness. These will not be achieved, however, by talking or thinking about them, nor by waiting for someone else to act. We each have to take responsibility as best we can within our own sphere of activity, using our unique intelligence to try to understand ourselves and our world.

I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. From the core of our being, we desire happiness. In my own experience I have found that the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove fears or insecurities and gives us the strength to cope with obstacles. As we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development. The key is to develop inner peace. We need to embark on the difficult task of developing love and compassion within ourselves. By nature peaceful and gentle, compassion is also very powerful. Some may dismiss this as impractical and unrealistic, but I believe its practice is the true source of success - a sign of inner strength. To achieve compassion we do not need to become religious or ideological. We need only develop our basic human qualities.

Today, the followers of many faiths sacrifice their own welfare in the service of others. The various religious traditions clearly have this similar commitment as well as a sense of universal responsibility. This altruism, I believe, is the most important goal of all religious practice. People possess diverse temperaments and interests and it is therefore inevitable that religious traditions emphasize different philosophies and practices. Since their essence is to achieve individual and collective benefit, it is crucial that we maintain harmony and respect between them. This will benefit not only the followers of our own faith, but create an atmosphere of peace in society. There is not much concern for human values in today's world. Money and power dominate. If society loses the values of justice, compassion and honesty, we will face still greater difficulties. Some may think there is no real need for such ethics in business or politics. I strongly disagree. The quality of our actions depends on our motivation. From my Buddhist viewpoint all things originate in the mind. A real sense of appreciation of humanity, compassion and love are key. Once we develop a good, altruistic heart - whether in science, agriculture or politics - the result will be more beneficial.

With proper motivation these activities can help humanity; without it they go the other way. This is why the compassionate thought is so important for humankind. Although it is not easy to bring about the inner change that gives rise to compassion, it is absolutely worthwhile to try.

It is natural that we strive to improve our standard of living, but not at any cost. The more we pursue profit and material improvement, ignoring the contentment that comes of inner growth, values will disappear from our communities. When there is no place for justice and honesty in people's hearts, the weak are the first to suffer. The resulting resentments lead to unhappiness for all. We must balance material progress with the sense of responsibility that comes of education and inner development.

We may face obstacles in pursuit of our goals. If we remain passive, making no effort to solve problems, no change for the better can be achieved. Transforming obstacles into opportunities for positive growth is a challenge to our ingenuity. It requires patience, compassion and the use of our intelligence. To ignore such opportunities is to waste our human potential. It is extremely important to realize that the graver the crisis we encounter, the greater our need for patience. Above all, we must not lose our determination. This has been a century marred by conflict and war. Let us take steps now to ensure that the coming century will be characterized by non-violence and dialogue, the preconditions of peaceful co-existence. In any society there will be differences and conflicts, but we have to develop confidence that dialogue and friendship is a valid alternative to violence. What we all need as we approach the new millennium is an enhanced sense of universal responsibility. The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, is a Nobel Peace laureate.

WTN-L World Tibet Network News 

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