The opening premise of Beyond Religion is that many of the world's greatest problems are due, in large part, to our failure to cultivate moral ethics and inner values. The Dalai Lama believes that we have paid too much attention to the external, material aspects of life. This, he said, has brought out some of the worst of human qualities, such as excess, greed, self-centeredness, corruption, and intolerance. His vision for a more just, peaceful, and sustainable future is through the intentional cultivatation of the better human qualities such as compassion, loving-kindness, patience, and self-discipline. His message is very hopeful, but is it too idealistic? For example, billions of advertising dollars are spent every year, telling little white lies about the benefits on one product or another or promoting images of the perfect body, perfect car, perfect house. Can you imagine commericials that promote the virtues of compassion, or the benefits of meditation? The Dalai Lama believes that mainstream education could play a pivotal role in cultivating positive human values. But, public education seems too hell-bent on paying attention only to the rational-empirical-quantitative. How else could it prepare students for a our consumption-crazy world that is more interested in speed, technology, and productivity? Ask any public school teacher if they have time to integrate contemplative practices into their curriculum and they will either give you a funny look or ask you if there will be contemplative practices questions on the state mandated tests.
What do you think? Can you envision a world where we begin to pay more attention to the inner values of care and compassion versus the external values of fame, fortune, and lots of stuff??