Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Saving the World Through Compassion and Discernment

In preparation for making meaningful New Year's resolutions I just read an important book I recommend to all my friends of any religious, agnostic, or atheistic beliefs. I am not a Buddhist myself but the fourteenth Dalai Lama has a new book out called "Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World" that is wise, considered and surprising.

The first surprise of course is the title, "Beyond Religion," coming from someone who is considered to be one of the World's great religious leaders. The book shows that the Dalai Lama is more of a universal spiritual leader than simply a spokesperson for his Buddhist religion. The message of the title is that the problems facing the planet will logically require a more universal viewpoint that goes beyond the limited beliefs and practices of any one religion.

A second surprising argument is that ethical and moral values do not require religious faith. Ethical and moral actions exist outside of religious faiths as well as in them and these values can and must be learned and assimilated by anyone regardless of religious training or not.

Other surprising elements include the Dalai Lama's statement that if science finds new knowledge that calls into question ideas put forth in religious teachings, we must be willing to change our minds and adopt the new knowledge. This enlightened approach is not held by many faith-based religious adherents so it is worth reading about how he has arrived at this startlingly sensible stance.

The main message is that we must actively engage in compassion and empathy toward everyone and everything on the planet if we ever hope to see peace on Earth. And secondly, we must practice discernment because the right path is not always clear and uncomplicated but requires thoughtful decision-making in which either course of action might have positive and negative effects. Practicing careful discernment is the only way we can determine the better path.

Click below to hear the Dalai Lama's ideas voiced by the actor Martin Sheen. I wish us all compassion and discernment in the New Year.

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