Dalai Lama urges ethics education in America


His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Photo by Martin Louis

Attending the Newark Peace Summit in New Jersey earlier this month, His Holiness the Dalai Lama led a panel discussion on ethics in education.

According to the Tibetan Buddhist leader’s website, he spoke about how all humans, irrespective of religious affiliation, desire the same thing: to be happy. Attempting to achieve happiness through material gain does not work, as the source of happiness lies within each individual.

We can tap into that source of happiness through education and action — specifically action that promotes peace. “From kindergarten, we have to teach that whenever there is conflict, teaching the use of force is the wrong method. It brings mutual destruction,” he said. “Whenever there is conflict, the immediate thought in our mind should be how to solve this through dialogue instead of how to solve this through force.”

Elaborating on the interdependent nature of the world, the Dalai Lama noted that America’s future depends on the future of other countries, so that destroying others is really destruction of self. (Any kid disciplined for fighting probably knows this fact to be true.) Forgiveness, the Dalai Lama said, doesn’t mean bowing down and letting people do whatever they want; it means separating the action from the actor, opposing wrongdoing without forgetting the humanity of the actor.

When asked if he had a message for the youth of Newark, a city beleaguered by gun violence even as the Peace Summit went on, the Dalai Lama said a message from him wouldn’t help. What’s needed in Newark and other American cities is a long-term plan. In addition to the need to lessen the gap between rich and poor, the Dalai Lama cited the need for the teaching of secular ethics in school. By secular ethics, he explained, he did not mean disrepect for religion, but respect for all religions and non-believers.

What’s your long-term plan for your students? Whether you already have one, or you want help implementing it, we know we can help you teach your students to value themselves and one another, and do their part to make this world a more peaceful place. Check out our training opportunities, or call 800-711-2670.

What do you think of the Dalai Lama’s emphasis on dialogue, forgiveness, and fairness? Add your comment below.

6 thoughts on “Dalai Lama urges ethics education in America”

  1. The wisdom from the Dalai Lama never ceases to amaze me. His book, The Art of Happiness was one of the best books I have ever read and it started my interest in the concept of universal ethics. The theme of the book was that true happiness comes from ethical behavior, compassion and understanding that everyone suffers, it is about how you choose to deal with the inevitable. Great article!

  2. Just wondering why the Character Counts organization is featuring a prominant religious leader of the Buddist faith on the front of your e-newsletter. How about the Pope on your next edition? He too believes that having excellent character is important.

  3. Good question, Teresa! The answer is that, though many people think of it as a religion, Buddhism is not one.

    As Buddhist teacher Chin Kung explains on his website:

     ”According to the Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of religion is as follows, ‘An organized system of beliefs, rites, and celebrations centered on a supernatural being power; belief pursued with devotion.’ Buddhism is not a religion because: First, the Buddha is not a ‘supernatural being power’. The Buddha is simply a person who has reached Complete Understanding of the reality of life and the universe. Life refers to ourselves, and universe refers to our living environment. The Buddha taught that all beings possess the same ability within to reach Complete Understanding of themselves and their environment, and free themselves from all sufferings to attain utmost happiness. All beings can become Buddhas, and all beings and the Buddha are equal by nature. The Buddha is not a God, but a teacher, who teaches us the way to restore Wisdom and Understanding by conquering the greed, hatred, and ignorance which blind us at the present moment. The word ‘Buddha’ is a Sanskrit word, when translated it means, ‘Wisdom, Awareness/Understanding.’ We call the founder of Buddhism Shakyamuni ‘Buddha’ because He has attained Complete Understanding and Wisdom of life and the universe. Buddhism is His education to us, it is His teaching which shines the way to Buddhahood.

      ”Second, Buddhism is not a religion because ‘belief’ in the Buddha’s teachings is not blind belief, blind faith, and far from superstition. Shakyamuni Buddha taught us not to blindly believe what he tells us, he wants us to try the teachings and prove them for ourselves. The Buddha wants us to know, not merely believe. The Buddha’s teachings flow from his own experience of the way to understand the true face of life and the univ`rse, and show us a path of our own to taste the truth for ourselves. This is much like a good friend telling us of his trip to Europe, the sights he has seen, and the way to go there and see for ourselves. The Buddha uses a perfectly scientific way of showing us reality in its true form.

      ”Third, Buddhism is not a religion because all the ‘rites and celebrations’ are not centered on a supernatural being, but rather the people attending the assemblies. The ceremonies and celebrations in Buddhism all serve an educational purpose, a reminder of the Buddha’s teachings and encouragement to all students who practice it. For example, the Thousand Buddhas Repentance Ceremony practiced during Chinese New Year is to help the participants cultivate a humble heart and respect for others. The point of all ‘ceremonies’ is to help others awaken from delusion and return to Wisdom and Understanding.

      ”Finally, Buddhism is not a religion because the ‘devotion’ used in Buddhism is not one based on emotion, but one based on reason. Students of the Buddha are devoted to their practice of maintaining Purity of Mind because this practice brings true happiness. We are devoted to help others and the Society attain Complete Understanding and Wisdom. Only through Complete Understanding and Wisdom can we realize our true selves and living environment. The Buddha’s education is truly not a religion but an education, teaching us the way to break through ignorance and arrive at a perfect understanding of ourselves and everything around us.”

  4. Quoting from above: “All beings can become Buddhas, and all beings and the Buddha are equal by nature. The Buddha is not a God, but a teacher, who teaches us the way to restore Wisdom and Understanding by conquering the greed, hatred, and ignorance which blind us at the present moment. The word ‘Buddha’ is a Sanskrit word, when translated it means, ‘Wisdom, Awareness/Understanding.’ We call the founder of Buddhism Shakyamuni ‘Buddha’ because He has attained Complete Understanding and Wisdom of life and the universe.”

    Acceptance of any/all of this package requires a great deal of FAITH, which I believe, is a RELIGIOUS concept!

  5. The origin of the word “faith” actually lies more in the concept of TRUST, which is not a religious concept.

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