9 Week Study Course for
"Ethics For the New Millennium"

By His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Study Guide Week Eight
• Chapter 14
• Chapter 15

Chapter 14 - Peace and Disarmament

Key Concepts
Qualities of violence:
• Violence means suffering. Violence begets violence.
• It is impossible to predict the outcome of violence, and impossible to be sure of its justness at the outset.
• War is like fire in the human community, one whose fuel is living people.

Nature of peace.
We must make a distinction between peace as an absence of war and peace as a state of tranquility founded on the deep sense of security that arises from mutual understanding, tolerance of others’ point of view and respect for others’ rights. Peace in this sense did not exist during the 40 years of the Cold War. That was just an approximation. Real peace is something more profound than a fragile equilibrium based on mutual hostility. It ultimately depends on the resolution of internal conflict. The fact of human interdependence is so fundamental and clear today that the only peace meaningful to speak about is global peace.

Peace starts with the individual.
War and peace do not exist independently of us. Peace in the world depends on peace in the hearts of individuals. We must each discipline our responses to negative thoughts and emotions. We need to develop basic spiritual qualities. We need to develop compassion.

This is often difficult, as we are conditioned to regard warfare as exciting, even glamorous. But nowadays those who instigate war are far removed from the conflict. It’s like a computer game where weapons exist solely to destroy human beings but without the need for face-to-face fighting, or for feeling the impact of our actions. Meanwhile, the impact on non-combatants grows ever greater. Women, children, and the elderly are the prime victims not only during, but long after the war is over.

But weapons cannot act by themselves. Someone has to push a button to launch a missile strike or pull a trigger to fire a bullet. We must dismantle the military establishments we have built. Peace cannot be imposed by force. We cannot enjoy true peace until we dismantle injustice in our own human hearts. Lasting peace is only possible when each of us makes an effort internally. We must learn to do nothing to contribute to the suffering of others.But weapons cannot act by themselves. Someone has to push a button to launch a missile strike or pull a trigger to fire a bullet. We must dismantle the military establishments we have built. Peace cannot be imposed by force. We cannot enjoy true peace until we dismantle injustice in our own human hearts. Lasting peace is only possible when each of us makes an effort internally. We must learn to do nothing to contribute to the suffering of others.

Disarmament. If we can develop a broad commitment to disarmament, then we can establish clear objectives for disarming gradually. We must create the conditions favorable to those objectives by building on existing initiatives. Those initiatives, although they have proven less than successful, testify to humanity’s basic wish to live in peace.

• There is a growing recognition of the irony that weapons of mass destruction can hardly be considered useful. They are expensive to produce, and expensive to stockpile and yet we stockpile them because we can’t imagine using them. How can we foster a dialogue and increase the recognition that weapons of mass destruction, in whatever context, no longer serve the interests of humanity?
• There is a tendency towards regional security groupings and less narrowly defined communities. This could lead to the elimination of the danger of many nation states defending themselves and harboring weapons of mass destruction. This, in turn, could lead to a global police force. A global police force would safeguard justice, communal security, and human rights worldwide. It would protect against the appropriation of power by violent means. Already we are used to the UN’s protective forces, which is a step in this direction
• We can build on the work of the United Nations and its subsidiaries such as UNESCO, UNICEF, etc. The communications revolution has spawned an emerging global consciousness. If we could develop the UN to its full potential, it could carry out the wishes of humanity. For that, we would need to end the manipulation of weaker nations by the more powerful and give individuals the right to be heard by the UN council in complaints against their governments.
• We need to create Zones of Peace, internationally recognized demilitarized zones. Naming places like Tibet such peace zones would free other countries from the need to defend themselves from that place. Germany could be a zone of peace.
• The coming together of individuals in international groups to help those less fortunate, e.g. Doctors Without Borders is a powerful setting for the spirit of connection and compassion to flourish.
• Individuals working in any way to foster the making, selling and transporting of arms can help to dismantle the arms industry. They can begin by asking themselves whether they can really justify their involvement. There is no such thing as a “safe” arms client.

Ethics monitor. We must learn to dialogue in the spirit of reconciliation and compromise. We need to establish a body whose principle task is to monitor human affairs from the perspective of ethics. Their deliberations would be the world’s conscience.

Discussion Questions
1. Is a world without violence and war possible, in your opinion? Why or why not?

2. Is it possible for people living under oppressive governments to achieve self-determination and justice through non-violent means?

3. The Dalai Lama often speaks of “world peace through inner peace.” In what ways can you connect this formula to your own life?

4. How do you establish tranquility in your own heart based on a profound sense of inner security?

5. What are your inner work practices? Are they effective? How do they impact violence and peace in your daily life? In your community? In the world?

6. What can you do to contribute to some of the suggestions in this chapter to support disarmament and foster world peace?

7. How could you begin to change the attitude of those around you towards war, violence and world peace? (What about their jadedness? Sense of powerlessness? Disillusionment? Your own?)

8. How can individuals influence governments to work more seriously for world peace?

Practice Exercises
1. Within your own environment, be it at home, at work or at school, develop a “Zone of Peace” that includes others (e.g. redecorate the room, use words that reflect a more peaceful attitude towards situations, play music).

2. Identify friends and family with whom you can engage in meaningful dialogue around this topic and do it on a routine basis for the next 3 months.

3. Notice an arena of conflict in your life and strive to approach others involved with a spirit of reconciliation, compromise and compassion.



Chapter 15 - The Role of Religion in Modern Society

Key Concepts
Religion valuable but not necessary. It is not a given that religion is relevant to the modern world. Religious belief is not necessary for either ethical conduct or happiness. The spiritual qualities of compassion, peace, patience, and tolerance are what is necessary. The Dalai Lama’s view is that these spiritual qualities are best developed in the context of religious practice. Properly employed, religion is an extremely effective instrument for achieving happiness. It encourages a sense of responsibility toward others, provides support for developing ethical discipline, and is concerned with addressing human suffering in a fundamental way. And today people still suffer, perhaps more mentally than physically.

Inter-religious harmony. Religion has often been a source of conflict in human history. Religious conflict is a real issue in today’s interconnected world, in which people with diverse beliefs and practices come in close contact. The key to overcoming such conflict is inter-religious harmony. How can this be encouraged?

The Dalai Lama’s method relies on cultivating understanding - identifying the obstacles that obstruct inter-religious harmony, and developing ways to overcome them. One of the obstacles is lack of understanding for the traditions of others. The best way to overcome this is through dialog, both among experts and also ordinary practitioners. Other beneficial practices include people of different traditions gathering together to pray for a common good, or making pilgrimages to sacred sites together. All these practices help people see that regardless of doctrinal differences, all the religions are concerned with promoting happiness through the cultivation of compassion, love, patience, tolerance, humility and so on.

From one “true” religion to religious pluralism. Another source of religious disharmony is the misuse of religion in the sense of using religion to reinforce one’s selfish attitudes. It is all too easy to relate to our religion as a label which separates us from others. This brings up a real problem, i.e. the claim of each religion to be the one “true” religion. How to resolve this? The practitioner needs to have a single-pointed conviction in his or her chosen path, which is supported by a deep conviction in the truth of that path. At the same time it is necessary to reconcile this belief with the reality that other people hold their traditions in the same way. The practitioner must find a way to at least accept the validity of other religions while maintaining a wholehearted commitment to his or her own. For example, the Dalai Lama says that personally it is his conviction that Buddhism is the best path for him, but he can’t say it’s best for everyone.

The Dalai Lama’s way to resolve the contradiction is with the formula: “one religion for each person, many religions for humanity”. The diversity that exists among different traditions is enormously enriching. There is no need to find ways of saying that all religions are ultimately the same. Yes, they all emphasize the spiritual qualities, but that’s not the same as saying they’re all one. As we advance along the path, we are eventually forced to acknowledge real differences in the teachings.

If we are serious about human rights as a universal principle, it is essential to develop a genuine sense of religious pluralism. Rather than a “world religion,” the Dalai Lama supports the idea of a “world parliament of religions”, which suggests democracy, mutual respect and pluralism.

Cautions re: religious conversion. Religious conversion alone will not necessarily make someone a better person. While it is fine to learn from other traditions, it is best to look to develop one’s practice within the tradition of one’s birth and culture. This avoids confusion between the different ways of life that go with different religious traditions. If one is seriously attracted to the fundamental teachings of another religion, it is important to ask again and again, “am I attracted to this religion for the right reasons, because of the essential teachings, or because I find the cultural customs or rituals attractive, or I imagine it might be less demanding?” If one does, after long and mature consideration, convert to another faith, it is important not to fall into the trap of criticizing one’s previous faith, in order to justify one’s decision to others.

Practice of religion key to value. It is unhealthy to argue the merits of this or that tradition on the basis of metaphysical truth claims; the important thing is whether the practice is effective in particular cases. You can’t consider the effectiveness of a medical treatment separate from its effect on the patient. Taking religious teachings is of little value if it remains at the level of the intellect, and does not enter the heart. Simply relying on faith without understanding or implementation is of limited value.

Religious people have a lot to contribute to today’s world, but until they really put their religion into practice, they will never be taken seriously. And this means, among other things, developing good relations with other faith traditions.


Discussion Questions
1. What do you think about the role and effect of religion in today’s world? Is it a force for good? Is it a negative force, something that mainly divides people? Is it relevant in today’s world of science and global commerce?

2. What are your means of cultivating the spiritual qualities of compassion, peace, patience, tolerance? How would you describe your spiritual life? How might you move one step further along the continuum from intellectual concept to heartfelt practice?

3. Do you actively practice the religion you were born into or have you adopted another faith tradition as your own? If you’ve converted, have you reflected on what attracted, and continues to attract, you to that new tradition, i.e. is it the essential teachings, or the cultural customs and rituals associated with the tradition?

4. If you’ve converted, how do you relate to your religion of origin? Are there painful feelings or criticisms associated with it? If so, are there any possibilities for healing those feelings?

5. In what ways do you encounter religion as ‘one true religion’ in your life and community? Religion as ‘one religion for each person, many religions for humanity’?

6. Are there opportunities you could explore for expanding inter-religions harmony and understanding by sharing something meaningful with people of different faith traditions, for example meals, informal or structured discussions, shared celebrations or worship?

Practice Exercises

1. Choose one of the core spiritual qualities of compassion, peace, patience, tolerance you want to cultivate in pursuit of ethical conduct and happiness. Survey your religion, other religions or spiritual teachings to find, choose and implement a practice to help you in cultivating this in your life.

2. Implement one of the ways you identified for expanding your understanding and harmony with those of different faith traditions.

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