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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaks on science-based ethics and the Four Noble Truths

October 22, 2009

Amy Elmgren
The Tibet Post
October 20, 2009

Dharamsala, India -- On 20 October, Tibetan
spiritual leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama
began a three-day teaching on the Four Noble
Truths, the foundation of Buddhist philosophy and religion.

Before diving into an explanation of the four
truths, he discussed the international relevance
of Buddhist concepts and the need for a secular, science-based ethics.

7,000 people from more than 50
countries-including 4,000 Tibetans, 1,100 people
from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, and 500
Singaporeans-attended the first day of the
teaching. The English lecture was translated into
Chinese, Tibetan, Spanish, Korean, Japanese and Hindi.

Although he gave the teaching at the request of
his Southeast Asian followers from Singapore,
Vietnam, Hong Kong and Indonesia, His Holiness
noted that groups from far away non-Buddhist
countries such as Romania, Argentina and South
Africa had also traveled to Northern India to attend the lecture.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama attributed this
international interest in a traditionally Asian
religion to the growth of modern technology and
communications, but also the increasing relevance
of Buddhist concepts in our world today.

Tibet's spiritual leader explained that the
Buddhist concept of interdependence has a crucial
role to play in such areas as environmental
conservation, global economics and holistic
health. He noted that even scientists and
non-religious people have expressed their
interest in the idea of interdependence, and have
found that it has practical applications in daily life.

H.H. the Dalai Lama went on to praise the role of
scientists and discussed his ongoing dialogue with scientific experts.

"At the initial stage, when I expressed my desire
to meet with scientists and discuss reality, some
of my friends warned me that ‘science is a
killer'," His Holiness said. But after 20 years
of dialogue, he has found that "true" scientists
are brilliant and open-minded people, and that
"true" Buddhist scholars have a natural respect
for science, because the scientific method of
analysis and investigation forms the basis of their own religion.

"Buddhism can be divided into three aspects:
Buddhist science; Buddhist concepts or
philosophy; and Buddhist religion," His Holiness
stated, explaining that when he talks with
scientists he draws mostly on the first part,
leaving out religious ideas such as
reincarnation. By doing this, he has found that
modern science and Buddhist science have much to share with one another.

"Scientists are now showing that a calm, positive
mind is good for health," claimed His Holiness.
Asian religions, which have long cultivated the
practice of samadhi or "single-pointed mind,"
contain a deep wealth of information about the
mind and emotions, and scientists are eager to learn about these discoveries.

Buddhism, on the other hand, can use modern
scientific discoveries to learn about "external
things" or the material world, including subjects
such as quantum physics and cosmology.

His Holiness explained that his main objective in
this ongoing discussion with scientists is "to
bring a deeper awareness of modern ethics, or
right thinking," because, "when we lack this, we
create many unnecessary problems."

"We must develop a method to promote modern
ethics without religion," stated the Dalai Lama,
emphasizing that these ethics must be "purely
secular," but include a respect for and tolerance
of the world's various religious creeds.

His Holiness advised that even religious faith
should be based on personal experimentation and
analysis, rather than blind acceptance. He
explained that through such a critical study of
religion, "We can utilize human intelligence to
bring new awareness and transform negative emotions."

In the afternoon session, His Holiness applied
this approach of scientific and personal
investigation to the Four Noble Truths, which
explain the existence and origins of different
types of suffering; the possibility of overcoming
that suffering which is caused by human
attachment and ignorance; and the method or
"Eight-Fold Path" Buddhist practitioners follow
to decrease suffering at both a personal and global level.

His Holiness stressed throughout the day's
teachings that knowledge, more than faith, is
required as a counterforce to overcome our
ignorance and develop compassion for all sentient
beings. "The more you understand, the greater
your motivation to overcome the three ‘poisons'
of desire, hatred and ignorance, and attain nirvana," he concluded.
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