On Tuesday, October 3rd, Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, spoke at the Tsuglagkhang temple in Teckchen Choling, Dharamsala to an audience of over 6000 people. As part of a series of teachings, the Buddhist leader pointed out that they were joined by practitioners of a number of different countries and cultural organizations, all coming together to discuss the state of the world today.
He challenged his followers to reconsider their faith, explaining that many have lost sight of the true meaning behind identifying as a Buddhist. As a society, we have shifted our focus away from our spiritual journeys and the goals of finding spiritual enlightenment, instead we are distracted by materialistic goals and temptations in the physical world.
“All sentient beings have an instinct to seek happiness and avoid suffering. Pain and pleasure come from causes and conditions, but we human beings are the only ones who can understand this. Every day I pray for the welfare of all sentient beings, but the only ones I can really do anything for are my fellow human beings on this planet. Our human intelligence enables us to examine how to reduce human suffering. However, as education has become more focused on materialistic goals, and as people increasingly seek happiness in sensory pleasure, less attention has been paid to our inner world, to peace of mind and to morality.”
In short, he warns his followers that we have lost touch with our very beliefs and morals in an effort to seek pleasure in the physical world around us. No longer focusing on the bigger picture that exists in the Universe, we are instead drawn to our current lives. We spend our time and energy on materialistic views of success, judging a ‘good life’ on our career position, salary, the house we live in and the car that we drive. This change in focus results in us overlooking the ways in which we can make a genuine difference in the world as a whole.
It is at this point that the spiritual leader expressed his grief and condolences for those lives that were lost in the recent Las Vegas massacre.
He explains how this shift in thinking leads to such tragedies, stating:
“One result is that we face problems largely of our own making. Because of a lack of compassion wars break out and we witness unthinkable killing. We pursue trade in weapons whose sole purpose is to harm and kill. Look at what happened in Las Vegas yesterday where nearly 60 people were killed and more than 500 were hurt.”
This lack of compassion, he explains extends beyond the great tragedies. He calls on his followers to open their eyes to the suffering and pain that exists around the world, pointing out that distancing ourselves from their struggles only allows these situations to continue.
“In other places poor sanitation and a shortage of food mean children are dying of starvation. Anger and hatred, seeing our brother and sister human beings in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them’, limit our outlook and lead to the bullying, exploitation and killing we learn about in the news.”
As we watch the country divided on the topics of gun control and violence, the Dalai Lama explains that the root of the problem extends further than these specific issues. Instead, it is rooted in the most basic of human behaviors. It is only by challenging our foundation and our daily behaviors as they pertain to those around us that we are going to see a change in the violent world that we live in.
“We are social animals, who live in communities, who depend on each other to survive,” he said, “Therefore we need to respond to each other with love and compassion. Scientists have found evidence, revealed by young infants, that basic human nature is compassionate. However, our natural instinctive compassion tends to be biased toward those close to us. Since we’re all interdependent, we all benefit if our neighbors are peaceful, whether they are a neighboring family or a neighboring country. Therefore, we need to extend our compassion to the whole of humanity.”