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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Compassion in troubled times

October 1, 2009

The Dalai Lama, who will give a talk at the Bell Centre this weekend, speaks
to The Gazette about morality in the face of economic crisis, and his
personal drive to keep travelling the world to promote human values

By Patricia Miotto, The Montreal Gazette - September 28, 2009

The Dalai Lama, whose familiar face is famous for its laughter and
compassion, will be in Montreal on Saturday. The spiritual leader of Tibet
will give a public talk, at the Bell Centre, titled Educating the Heart: The
Power of Compassion.

The Gazette spoke recently with the Dalai Lama - who has been living in
exile from Tibet since 1959 - about the values he wants to highlight during
troubled times.

Gazette: The world is facing one of the worst economic crises in modern
history. In your opinion, what impact has this crisis had on individuals and
spirituality?

Dalai Lama: Hopefully, this economic crisis, albeit tragic, will provide us
with food for thought when assessing our priorities and set of values.

If nothing else, it has revealed that materialism is just too fragile a
foundation on which to build one's vision of life.

It also gives us an opportunity to experiment with a simpler form of
lifestyle, a lifestyle that is in fact based on contentment and much more in
tune with a responsible attitude toward nature.

Gazette: What triggered this crisis?

Dalai Lama: There seems to be a general consensus that an appalling lack of
moral qualities such as honesty, integrity and transparency has greatly
contributed to this crisis.

The financial world, in particular, appears to have created a cultural
environment where the only real criterion of success is the increase in
returns on investment. And clearly, key values, such as transparency,
accountability and integrity, all essential ingredients for a sound
financial transaction, were severely compromised.

When I asked a friend of mine who is a businessman the reasons for today's
global economic crisis, he told me that there were three that stood out:
greed, excessive speculation and lack of transparency.

This situation seems to have created an environment where human greed was
allowed to run free with no restraints at all.

Gazette: Does the current crisis call into question existing ethics?

Dalai Lama: The problem is that our society is so dominated by consumerism,
and people judge their level of happiness purely in terms of materialism.

They forget that the genuine source of happiness comes from within.

Many years ago, during one of my visits to Asia, I did speak of the
importance of not making the assumption that the economy will always
continue to grow.

I spoke of the need ... of the acceptance of limitations, and that it is
better and healthier for people to accept this.

Now, I am quite sure that during this current economic crisis, those who
have values that are not materialistic - strong family ties, for example, a
deep spiritual vision of life, a communal outlook - are better equipped to
deal with economic hardship, including job loss.

In contrast, those with tangible values that are purely materialistic will
suffer greatly because their set of values has been put into question.

Gazette: Is it possible to build a better set of moral values for the
future?

Dalai Lama: I think it is important to remember that we have all contributed
in some way to this modern consumer-led society.

When society as a whole glorifies materialism and excessive lifestyles, we
can not just criticize the financial community for its greed and
extravagance.

I believe that to re-establish people's trust in the social system, we need
to find a way in which individuals are made to feel that they matter, and
that those who are entrusted with our hard-earned savings handle the funds
with due respect for our welfare.

I also believe that regulation should also play an important role.

At the end of the day, we need to find a way of promoting compassion as the
foundation of all our values.

Gazette: Fleeing a homeland to seek liberty is what millions of Tibetans
have done, leaving behind all their possessions. This exodus dates back to
1949 when China invaded Tibet, resulting in the death of a million Tibetans,
and the destruction of 6,000 monasteries.

China has suppressed all religious practices, on the pretext of morality.
The situation hasn't changed with China, and it has for some time suppressed
Buddhism. Can we talk of genocide?

Dalai Lama: It's a tragic situation.

Public opinion has its way of judging China's conduct.

On the one hand, China cultivates its image and in doing so, lies and
censures if necessary. And yet the mask drops when the going gets tough,
take Tiananmen Square for example, and they don't hesitate to raze entire
villages to the ground. The world's media was present for Gorbatchev's
visit. All eyes were on China, but they killed regardless.

This, in my opinion, is the worst form of destruction. Therefore, I remain
very guarded with regard to China.

Gazette: We see you travelling the world. What inspires you during your
travels?

Dalai Lama: I travel when I am invited somewhere. I also travel because I am
expected to do so. I can make a contribution from my desire to implicate
myself.

You see, to be perfectly clear, I have two commitments. (My) No. 1
commitment is to promote human values. I make no distinction between
nations, nationalism, religions, faith, believers or non-believers, no
distinction whatsoever.

I consider every human as a brother or sister. And in order to be a happy
human being, a happy family, and a happy community, to promote non-violent
methods and a spirit of dialogue, you must be prepared to break bread even
with your enemy, despite the differences, the conflicts, they remain a human
being.

Come what may, I must show concern and share their problem. This is what
feeds the spirit of dialogue.

Now, we have suffered a lot under Chinese control but we deliberately try to
retain our compassionate attitude, we deliberately keep all negative
feelings under lock and key. This is the most powerful weapon at our
disposal: compromise, respect and acceptance of another point of view.

My commitment No. 2 is the promotion of religious harmony.

All of the major traditional religions have the same potential to help
humanity, to serve humanity. In order to promote human values, I do not base
myself on religious human values or religious ethics but I adopt a more
secular approach which isn't necessarily rooted in religion; a more
scientific approach.

A more compassionate mind breeds a healthier body and brings peace of mind.

- - -

In the news this week

The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet who has lived in exile from
that country since 1959, will be in Montreal this Saturday to give a public
talk at the Bell Centre. The talk is entitled Educating the Heart: The Power
of Compassion. While here, he will also meet a group of final-year students
from universities throughout Quebec. The Bell Centre event is at 2:30 p.m.
For more information, go to www dot bellcentre dot ca
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