In this most recent of his several books, Beyond Religion: Ethics for the Whole World (Dec. 2011) the Dalai Lama advocates for an ethical framework that emphasizes the cultivation of inner values and the enhancement of the natural human capacity for compassion and empathy. Pointing to the many ills that that plague our world such as crippling poverty, war, and environmental destruction, he asserts that the fundamental problem is that we pay too much attention to the external, material aspects of our lives while neglecting moral ethics and inner values. While acknowledging the important role that religion has played in providing moral guidance, the Dalai Lama believes we need a more all-encompassing secular ethics that applies to all of humanity. He concludes the work by pointing to the benefits of mindfulness and meditation practice as a way to cultivate equanimity and compassion.
SYNOPSIS: Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World
prepared by Carol Stansfield, CCSU graduate student, Counseling and Family Therapy Department
It may seem strange that His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, is talking about a secular approach to universal ethics – one that extends beyond religion. What he proposes is aligned with religion in that it is concerned with the welfare and benefit of all human beings. But, the Dalai Lama believes that, by itself, religion is no longer an adequate basis for ethics. Why?
- Many people no longer follow a particular religion
- Globalization and the increase in multicultural societies make ethics based on any one religion not meaningful for all.
The fundamental problem, he says, is that we are giving too much attention to the external or material aspects of life while neglecting moral ethics and inner values.
His premise is based on the belief that human beings are naturally inclined toward good and that there are ways to cultivate the good within us. He proposes a two-pronged mindfulness approach: actively promoting our positive inner qualities like compassion and loving-kindness, while combating our more destructive qualities and emotions like hatred and greed.
He believes any external system of ethics, such as instituting laws or regulations, are only as effective as the individuals responsible for their implementation. For people who lack integrity and their own set of inner values and morals, no laws or regulations will be adequate.
Therefore, solving our ethical problems lies in the heart of every individual.
We have a choice whether we continue to give priority to materialistic values – which will cultivate injustice, corruption, inequality, intolerance and greed. Or, we can begin to give priority to inner values – which will cultivate empathy, compassion, patience, love, and kindness.
The latter approach is what the Dalai Lama proposes –ethics from the inside out. This is the path that can lead us to genuine happiness, joy and fulfillment as human beings while also increasing our chances for global survival.
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