Towards Human Understanding The Dalai Lama/1978
For many centuries man has been talking about justice, harmony and peace.
In this age of material abundance and stupendous advancement in science and technology, it seems that the more we progress materially, and the more sophisticated our lives become, the less we seem to be conscious of these high ideals. And yet there is no doubt about the need for them, for without them the very survival of human society is at stake.
The achievement of justice, harmony and peace depends on many factors.
I would like to think about them in terms of human benefit - benefit in the long run rather than in the short. I realise the difficulty of the task before us. But we have no alternative. The world has shrunk and has become more interdependent that ever before.
Nations have no choice but to be concerned about the welfare of others, not only because of their belief in humanity, but because it is in their self-interest. Under the circumstance, there is definitely a growing need for human understanding and a sense of universal responsibility.
The key to the achievement of these high ideals lies in generating a good and kind heart. For unless we develop a feeling of humaneness, we can hope to achieve neither universal happiness nor lasting peace.
I believe in the need for human understanding and harmony for a wider reason, which is simply that we are all human beings.
Geographical, cultural and physical differences are superficial. Even differences of faith and ideology are transcended when we begin to think of ourselves as human beings. We all want happiness and do not want suffering, and every human being has the right to pursue happiness. For in the final analysis, all of us basically have the same hopes and aspirations, and all of us belong to the same human family.
Buddhism is one of the many religions which teaches us to be less selfish and more compassionate. It teaches us to be humane, altruistic and to think of others in the way we think for ourselves. Our daily thoughts and actions should be directed towards the benefit of others.
Mahayana emphasizes self-sacrifice and the development of altruism, while Theravado teaches us the importance of not harming others.
The practice of Buddhism in essence is, therefore, not to harm others under any circumstances, and to help others as much as possible. By living in society we should share the sufferings of our fellow beings and practise compassion and tolerance, not only towards our loved ones but also towards our enemies. This is the test of our strength and practice, and is what is stressed in Mahayana.
Only if we can set an example by our own practice, can we hope to convince others of the value of Dharma - not by mere words. We should engage in the same high standards of integrity and sacrifice that we ask of others.
The ultimate purpose of Buddhism, and for that matter all religions, is to serve and benefit man. That is why it is of the utmost importance for us to ensure that Buddhism is always employed to realise the happiness and peace of man and not to convert others or derive benefit from them.
In this ever-changing world there are two important things that Buddhists should keep in mind. The first is self-examination. We should re-examine our own attitude towards others and constantly check ourselves to see whether we are practising properly. Before pointing our finger at others, we should point it towards ourselves. Secondly, we must be prepared to admit our faults and stand corrected.
Efforts are also being made in various parts of the world for religious unity and for better understanding among the different faiths. This is indeed an important task. But we must remember there is not quick and easy solution. We cannot hide the differences that exist among various faiths nor can we hope to replace the existing faiths by a universal belief.
Each religion has its own distinctive qualities and contributions to make, and each in its own way is suitable for a particular group of people. For I believe that each of them basically aims at transforming man into a better and decent human being. The world needs them all.
I therefore feel that if we want to achieve harmony and goodwill not only among followers of Buddhism, but also among different religions, we must make every effort to create better understanding and more repect for one another's religion. Above all, we must never use religion for selfish reasons such as to promote communal interests.
However difficult it may be for us to achieve these goals, I think we owe it to all mankind to make every effort.
His Holiness The Dalai Lama. New Delhi, 18th September 1978