Priceless Wisdom for Achieving World Peace in the Modern World.

Extract from the Dalai Lama’s speech given to the European Parliament, 24 October 2001.

“It is evident that the human community has reached a critical juncture in its history. Today's world requires us to accept the oneness of humanity. In the past, communities could afford to think of one another as fundamentally separate. But today, as we learn from the recent tragic events in the United States, whatever happens in one region eventually affects many other areas. The world is becoming increasingly interdependent. Within the context of this new interdependence, self-interest clearly lies in considering the interest of others. Without the cultivation and promotion of a sense of universal responsibility our very future is in danger.

Dalai Lama

I strongly believe that we must consciously develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. We must learn to work not just for our own individual self, family or nation, but for the benefit of all mankind. Universal responsibility is the best foundation both for our personal happiness and for world peace, the equitable use of our natural resources, and, through a concern for future generations, the proper care for the environment.

Many of the world´s problems and conflicts arise because we have lost sight of the basic humanity that binds us all together as a human family. We tend to forget that despite the diversity of race, religion, culture, language, ideology and so forth, people are equal in their basic desire for peace and happiness: we all want happiness and do not want suffering. We strive to fulfill these desires as best we can. However, as much as we praise diversity in theory, unfortunately often we fail to respect it in practice. In fact, our inability to embrace diversity becomes a major source of conflict among peoples.

A particularly sad fact of human history is that conflicts have arisen in the name of religion. Even today, individuals are killed, their communities destroyed and societies destabilized as a result of misuse of religion and encouragement of bigotry and hatred. According to my personal experience the best way to overcome obstructions to inter-religious harmony and to bring about understanding is through dialogue with members of other faith traditions. This I see occurring in a number of different ways. In my own case, for example, my meetings with the late Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk, in the late 60s, were deeply inspiring. They helped me develop a profound admiration for the teachings of Christianity. I also feel that meetings amongst different religious leaders and joining together to pray from a common platform are extremely powerful, as was the case in 1986 during the gathering at Assisi in Italy. The recent United Nations Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders held last year was also a laudable step. However, there is a need for more of these inititiatives on a regular basis. On my part, to show my respect for other religious traditions I went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem a site holy to three of the world's great religions. I have paid visits to various Hindu, Islamic, Christian, Jain and Sikh shrines both in India and abroad. During the past three decades I have met with many religious leaders of different traditions and have discussed harmony and inter-religious understanding. When exchanges like these occur, followers of one tradition will find that, just as in the case of their own, the teachings of other faiths are a source of both spiritual inspiration and as well as ethical guidance to their followers. It will also become clear that irrespective of doctrinal and other differences, all the major world religions help to transform individuals to become good human beings. All emphasize love, compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, humility, self-discipline and so on. We must therefore embrace the concept of plurality in the field of religion, too.

In the context of our newly emerging global community all forms of violence, including war, are totally inappropriate means of settling disputes. Violence and war have always been part of human history, and in ancient times there were winners and losers. However, there would be no winners at all if another global conflict were to occur today. We must, therefore, have the courage and vision to call for a world without nuclear weapons and national armies in the long run. Especially, in the light of the terrible attacks in the United States the international community must make a sincere attempt to use the horrible and shocking experience to develop a sense of global responsibility, where a culture of dialogue and non-violence is used in resolving differences.

Dialogue is the only sensible and intelligent way of resolving differences and clashes of interests, whether between individuals or nations. The promotion of a culture of dialogue and non-violence for the future of mankind is a compelling task of the international community. It is not enough for governments to endorse the principle of non-violence without any appropriate action to support and promote it. If non-violence is to prevail, non-violent movements must be made effective and successful. Some consider the 20th century a century of war and bloodshed. I believe the challenge before us is to make the new century one of dialogue and non-violence.

Furthermore, in dealing with conflicts too often we lack proper judgment and courage. We fail to pay adequate attention to situations of potential conflict when they are at an early stage of development. Once all the circumstances have progressed to a state where emotions of the people or communities involved in disputes have become fully charged, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to prevent a dangerous situation from exploding. We see this tragic situation repeated time and again. So we must learn to detect early signs of conflict and have the courage to address the problem before it reaches its
boiling point. “

See also:

More Priceless Wisdom for Achieving World Peace in the Modern World : Extract from the Dalai Lama’s Message for the 1st Anniversary of September 11, 1 September 2002