His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan
people. He is the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his 40-year search for a peaceful
resolution of Tibet’s occupation by China. He is the author of many books, including,
“Ethics for the New Millennium,” published by Riverhead Books, on which this essay is
based. Reprinted with permission.
© 1999, His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
THERE IS AN ABUNDANCE of severely negative trends within modern society.
The escalation in crime rates, with murder, violence, and rape cases is multiplying year
by year. We hear constantly of abusive and exploitative relationships both in the home
and within the wider community, of growing numbers of young people addicted to drugs
Yet unlike the sufferings of sickness, old age and death, none of these problems are
by nature inevitable. Nor are they due to any lack of knowledge. They are all ethical
problems. They each reflect our understanding of what is right and wrong, of what is
positive and what is negative, of what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. But
beyond this, we can point to something more fundamental: a neglect of what I call our
WEALTH AND HAPPINESS
Although I never imagined that material wealth alone could ever overcome suffering,
still, looking towards the developed world from Tibet — a country then as now very poor
in this respect — I must admit that I thought it would go further towards doing so than is
the case. I expected that, with physical suffering much reduced, as it is for the majority
living in the industrially developed countries, happiness would be much easier to achieve
than for those living under more severe conditions.
Instead, the extraordinary advancements in science and technology seem to have
achieved little more than linear, numerical improvement. In many cases, progress has
meant hardly anything more than greater numbers of opulent houses in more cities, with
more cars driving between them. Certainly there has been a reduction in some types of
suffering, including certain illnesses. But there has been no overall reduction.
A SPIRITUAL REVOLUTION
In calling for a spiritual revolution, am I advocating a religious solution to our
problems after all? No. As someone nearing seventy years of age, I have accumulated
enough experience to be completely confident that the teachings of Buddha are both
relevant and useful to humanity. If a person put them into practice, it is certain that they
and others will benefit. My meetings with many different sorts of people the world over
have helped me realize that there are other faiths, and other cultures, no less capable than
mine of enabling individuals to lead constructive and satisfying lives. What is more, I
have come to the conclusion that whether or not a person is a religious believer does not
matter much. Far more important is that they be good human beings.
RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY