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

By His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Study Guide Week One
• Warm-Up Session
• Chapter 1

Warm-Up Session

We found it useful to have a warm-up session before we started reading and formally studying Ethics for the New Millennium. It helped tremendously to get to know each other, get grounded in our own ethics and set a tone and intention for our time together.

Prior to our first session, we sent out an e-mail invitation providing logistics, the Objectives of the group and the Assignment for the first meeting as follows:

• Enhancing our understanding of ethics and applying this understanding to our lives and personal growth using Ethics for the New Millennium as a study text.
• Getting to know each other better and increasing our sense of connectedness as members of our community, of humanity and of the world.
• Better integrating positive ethical conduct into our own lives and thus, by example and influence, spreading the ethical revolution needed for a happier world.

Assignment for First Meeting
Our first meeting will be a chance to get to know each other and begin our discussion about the topic of ethics. Prior to our meeting, please reflect on the following and come prepared to share:

• As I ponder the term “ethics,” what does it mean to me and how have I developed and changed my personal ethics over time?
• At this point in my life, what are some ethical issues/dilemmas I personally face?
• Bring a newspaper, web or magazine article that addresses a community/world ethical issue that is of concern to you.

We opened by introducing ourselves and sharing our hopes and intentions for the study circle.

We then addressed the questions from the pre-work. Also, before embarking on our own exploration we found it useful to take a look at how the dictionary defines ethics (see following page).

We wrapped up with a discussion about study circles, facilitation and how we wanted to work as a group.

Chapter 1 – Modern Society and the Quest for Human Happiness

Key Concepts

Issues of modern society. People, and indeed all sentient beings, have a fundamental aspiration to be happy and to avoid suffering. It is the Dalai Lama’s impression that people living in modern materialistic urban societies are less happy and experience greater emotional and psychological suffering than those living in relatively poorer agrarian societies. It seems a paradox that this inner suffering is so often found amid material wealth.

Closer examination reveals a “link between our disproportionate emphasis on external progress and the unhappiness, the anxiety and the lack of contentment of modern society.” People in modern societies have a greater dependence on machines and services with much greater independence/autonomy relative to other human beings. This creates a sense that “others are not important to my happiness and their happiness is not important to me.” People therefore tend to relationships and human connection less and less such that the community and belonging that characterizes less wealthy rural societies is replaced by a high degree of loneliness and isolation. Additionally, our focus on growth and progress leads to competitiveness, envy and stress as we attempt to “keep up with the Jones’s”. Our basic desire for happiness is severely hampered.

Science as religion. Within this context, the extraordinary achievements of science and technology have caused it to replace religion as the final source of knowledge in popular estimation. Thus science stands beside, or in place of, religion for many people. There is a danger of inappropriate and blind elevation of scientific principles to an absolute status, without conscious reflection and thoughtful choice as to what is right or wrong, good or bad, appropriate or inappropriate. Science, business and technology surround us, yet they do not address the issues of how to lead a moral life and how to be happy – the inner dimensions that define and motivate positive ethical conduct.

Ethical problems. Many of the problems of modern life–crime, abusive relationships, addictions, divorce, and suicide–are fundamentally ethical problems. They differ from the sufferings of sickness, old age and death in that none of these problems are by nature inevitable. They are of our own making. As we strive to gain happiness and fulfillment via material gain, we limit ourselves to satisfaction at the level of the senses. While this may be enough for animals, it is not enough for our uniquely human cognitive, emotional, imaginative and critical faculties. Our inner dimension must be cared for if we are to “enjoy the same degree of harmony and tranquility as those more traditional communities while benefiting fully from the material developments of the world.”

Discussion Questions

1. The Dalai Lama suggests that the desire to be happy and avoid suffering is universal. What is it you seek in your life ...at the soul level?

2. Quote from page 7: “We find modern living organized so that it demands the least possible direct dependence on others.”
Name three ways this is true for you.
Name three dependencies that do exist in your life.
Reflecting on what you’ve shared, what do you make of this statement and how your dependence/independence impacts your life?

3. Quote from page 10: “Many people, believing that science has ‘disproven’ religion, make the further assumption that because there appears to be no final evidence for any spiritual authority, morality itself must be a matter of individual preference.”
What strikes you as you read this statement?
What experiences come to mind as supporting or refuting it for you and others you know?
What are the implications or results in our world?
How have you tended to or ignored your “inner dimension”? What links do you see to the ethical problems in your family and community?

Practice Exercises

1. Develop a practice to attend to your inner dimension on a daily basis...for example journaling, meditation, prayer, daily reflection with another, a walk in nature.

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