His Holiness the Dalai Lama Introduces Secular Ethics and Buddhist Teachings to a Group from Vietnam

November 7th 2013

Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, India, 7 November 2013 - His Holiness the Dalai Lama met today with a group of 71 Vietnamese CEOs, artists and intellectuals, the majority of them women, within his residential compound. He began, as he so often does, by emphasising his and their common humanity.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking to a group from Vietnam at his residence in Dharamsala, India on November 7, 2013. Photo/Dang Tran Dung
“As human beings we are the same. A neurologist will tell you that Vietnamese and Tibetan brains are the same, our emotions are the same, and our intelligence is the same. Therefore, we have the same potential to think more deeply about the situation we find ourselves in.”

He remarked that the society we live in is oriented toward material development and our education system concerns itself with material values. As a result there is a general lack of moral principles. He discovered by questioning his guests that the Vietnamese economy has grown immensely over the last 30-40 years, that literacy in Vietnam is about 95% and that there are probably only 2 billionaires in the country.

He commented that corruption has become a kind of cancer afflicting many parts of the world, as a result of which it is mostly the poor who suffer. This and climate change is among the major challenges that need to be addressed today. Corruption takes place because of a general lack of ethics. His Holiness suggested that ways need to be found to inculcate basic values like honesty in the younger generation; otherwise corruption will continue to fester. This is why he believes so strongly in the need to foster secular ethics in the education system. Secular ethics form a basis on which to resolve the majority of problems we face today, many of them man-made.

His Holiness invited questions from his audience. One woman said she was a Buddhist which makes her happy. Her friends ask her for help and advice and she tells them to ask the monks, but they insist they are more interested in what she has to say - what should she do? His Holiness replied that since we are increasingly interdependent it is time to develop a sense of global responsibility, to help each other and promote human values. Another questioner said that increasingly people she knows find that prayers and rituals are not helpful, what should they do? His Holiness replied:

A member of the audience asking His Holiness the Dalai Lama a question during is meeting with a group from Vietnam at his residence in Dharamsala, India on November 7, 2013. Photo/Dang Tran Dung
“If mere recitations of mantras were all it took to overcome suffering the Bodhisattvas would have done it already, but that’s not enough. The Buddhas show us the truth about reality, they reveal the path, but it is up to us to follow it.”

Drawing on the observation of a Sufi teacher at an inter-religious conference in India that all religions tend to address three questions: What is the self? Does it have a beginning? And does it have an end? His Holiness introduced Buddhist teachings in the context of the general outlines of other major world religions. He explained that only Buddhism teaches that the self is not something that has a solid, independent existence, but is designated on the basis of the body and mind, much as a cart is labelled on the basis of its parts.

Referring to the Four Noble Truths, he highlighted two patterns of causality: suffering and its cause as described by the first two truths and cessation and the path to it outlined in the third and fourth truths. He reiterated that the cessation of suffering is brought about by practising the path and that the path consists of the three trainings in concentration and wisdom based on ethics.

His discussions with the group will continue tomorrow.

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