His Holiness The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. He frequently states that his life is guided by three major commitments: the promotion of basic human values or secular ethics in the interest of human happiness, the fostering of inter-religious harmony and the welfare of the Tibetan people, focusing on the survival of their identity, culture and religion. His views on how world peace can be achieved are simple and yet deeply profound.
When I came to India as a refugee in 1955 I knew very little about religions other than my own. In the last fifty years I have spent a substantial part of my time and attention thinking and learning about the great world religions beyond my own Buddhism. This has been hugely uplifting, for it has affirmed for me the extraordinary richness of the human spirit when it comes to envisioning the ideal of perfection and examining the fundamental questions of existence.
On the metaphysical level, all major religions confront the same perennial questions: Who am I? Where do I come from? Where will I go after death? On the level of living a good life, all the faith traditions turn to compassion as a guiding principle. They use different words, invoke different images and root themselves in difference concepts. But what they have in common is far more than what divides them, and their differences form the potential for a tremendously enriching dialogue, rooted in a marvellous diversity of experience and insight.
‘there are no strangers, all are brothers and sisters in their journeys through life’
I have come to recognise that promotion of understanding among the world’s religions is one of the most serious and important tasks facing the world today. In fact, alongside advocating fundamental human values, this task has come to occupy a great deal of my time, especially when I travel to different parts of the world.
None of us can any longer remain secure behind the walls and narrow confines of our specific culture and faith. Today the world we live in has become a very small place. In the face of this, we might throw up our arms at all the complications. Yet, as our world gets ever more complex and interconnected at all levels, the solution to its problems may be found somewhere very simple. Indeed, what could be more simple or more sustaining that to return to our basic human quality of empathy and good heart? On that level, all differences break down. Whether one is rich or poor, educated or illiterate, religious or non-believing, man or woman, black or white, or brown, we are all the same.
‘physically, emotionally and mentally we are all equal.’
Physically, emotionally, and mentally, we are all equal. We all share basic needs for food, shelter, safety and love. We all aspire to happiness and we all shun suffering. Each of us has hopes, worries, fears and dreams. Each of us wants the best for our family and loved ones. We all experience pain when we suffer loss and joy when we achieve what we seek. On this fundamental level, religion, ethnicity, culture and language make no difference. Today’s great challenge of peaceful coexistence demands that we remain in touch with this basic part of our nature.
To all people, religious and non-believing, I make this appeal. Always embrace the common humanity that lies at the heart of us all. Always affirm the oneness of our human family. Let your heart be softened by the balm of compassion, reflecting deeply upon the needs and aspirations of yourself and others. Let not your differences from the views of others come in the way of the wish for their peace, happiness and well-being.
When we see another person, let us feel our basic affinity. In this place, there are no strangers – all are brothers and sisters in their journeys through life. We are but temporary guests on this earth. At most, our lives span a hundred years. Within the great age of our shared planet, this is but a hiccup or a breath of breeze. If we remain bogged down in divisions and perpetuate discord, how trivial a way this is to spend the brief time allotted is. Time never stops. So let us use it wisely in the service of others, or at least without contributing to their woes. Then as the last day approaches, we can look back and rejoice, “Ah, I have made my existence meaningful.” As the least we will have no regrets.
Taken from Towards The True Kinship of Faiths by His Holiness The Dalai Lama with kind permission from www.littlebrown.co.uk