(continued from Part 1)
When I first saw a photograph of our Earth from outer space, it brought home powerfully to me how small and fragile the planet is and how petty our squabbles are. In the midst of our perceived differences, we tend to forget how the world’s different religions, ideologies and political systems were meant to serve human beings, not to destroy them. When I traveled to the former Soviet Union in the late 1970s, I encountered widespread paranoia, even among ordinary people who feared that the West hated them so much that it was ready to invade their country. Of course, I knew this was mere projection.
Today, more than ever, we need to make this fundamental recognition of the basic oneness of humanity the foundation of our perspective on the world and its challenges. From the dangerous rate of global warming to the widening gap between rich and poor, from the rise of global terrorism to regional conflicts, what we need is a fundamental shift in our attitudes and our consciousness — a wider, holistic outlook.
As a society, we need to shift our basic attitude on how we educate our younger generation. Something is fundamentally lacking in our modern education when it comes to educating the human heart. As people begin to explore this important question, it is my hope we will be able to redress the current imbalance between the development of our brains and the development of our hearts.
To promote greater compassion in human society, we need to pay special attention to the role of women. Given that mothers carry the fetus for months within their own body, from the biological point of view, women in general may possess greater sensitivity of heart and capacity for empathy. My first teacher of love and compassion was my own mother, who provided me with maximum love. By speaking of mothers’ role in teaching compassion, I do not mean to reinforce in any way the traditional view that women’s place is confined to the home. I believe that the time has come for women to take more active roles in all domains of human society, in an age where education and the capacities of the mind, not physical strength, define leadership. This could help create a more equitable and compassionate society.
In general, I feel optimistic about the future. As late as the 1950s and ’60s, people believed that war was an inevitable condition of mankind and that conflicts must be solved through the use of force. Today, despite ongoing conflicts and the threat of terror, most people are genuinely concerned about world peace, far less interested in propounding ideology and far more committed to coexistence.
The rapid changes in our attitude toward the Earth are also a source of hope. Until recently, we thoughtlessly consumed its resources as if there was no end to them. Now not only individuals but also governments are seeking a new ecological order. I often joke that the moon and stars look beautiful, but if any of us tried to live on them, we would be miserable. This blue planet of ours is the most delightful habitat we know. Its life is our life, its future our future. Now Mother Nature is telling us to cooperate. In the face of such global problems as the greenhouse effect and the deterioration of the ozone layer, individual organizations and single nations are helpless. Our mother is teaching us a lesson in universal responsibility.
The 20th century became a century of bloodshed; despite its faltering start, the 21st could become a century of dialogue, one in which compassion, the seed of nonviolence, will be able to flourish. But good wishes are not enough. We must seriously address the urgent question of the proliferation of weapons and make worldwide efforts for greater external disarmament.
Large human movements spring from individual human initiatives. If you feel that you cannot have much of an effect, the next person may also become discouraged, and a great opportunity will have been lost. On the other hand, each of us can inspire others simply by working to develop our own altruistic motivations — and engaging with the world with a compassion-tempered heart and mind.
The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual leader of Tibet. Since 1959, he has been living in Dharamsala, northern India, the seat of the Tibetan government in exile.