Towards a Spiritual Revolution

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All beings have a fundamental aspiration to be happy, and this aspiration motivates our actions. In the first lesson you learned that the Dalai Lama views modern technological society's emphasis on knowledge and materialism as paradoxically creating greater emotional and psychological suffering. This inner suffering affect our ability to conduct ourselves ethically, that is to help others live happily and free from suffering.

We alluded to the fact that in the underdeveloped world and in earlier times in the developed world people looked to religion as a source of ethical guidance and principles. Although the Dalai Lama is the leader of a religious group, he seeks to offer a universal ethics.


Everyone can understand that being human, you want a happy life, a happy family, to be a happy individual. But material things will not provide you with genuine inner peace or inner happiness. Human values are essential. We must find a way to present basic human values to everyone — and present them not as religious matters but as secular ethics that are essential whether you are religious or not.

Beyond Religion

What are some of the potential pitfalls of using religion as the vehicle for teaching morality and ethics?

Most of the world's religions attempt to guide people toward positive and satisfying lives. Although religions share the overarching goals of helping people achieve lasting happiness, they do not all agree on the approach. If religions offer varying ethical paths, which do we embrace as a universal ethic?

The Dalai Lama points out that religious belief has never in itself assured ethical virtue. Throughout history people, while professing faith, have brought violence and harm on others. While religions have offered tenets of right and wrong, moral and immoral actions, the Dalai Lama questions whether such sets of rules or laws could ever be the basis of morality.

No one should suppose it could ever be possible to devise a set of rules or laws to provide us with the answer to every ethical dilemma, even if we were to accept religion as the basis of morality.

Furthermore even if the world's major religions do provide ethical systems, we have to recognize that the majority of the earth's citizens do not practice religion. People who do not embrace religion are not without a sense of right or wrong. So the Dalai Lama seeks to find a way to serve all humanity outside the realm of religious faith.

As long as you are a part of humanity, as long as you are a human being, you need human affection, human compassion. This is actually the essential teaching of all the religious traditions: the crucial point is compassion, or human affection.

So rather than base ethics on any religion, even his own, the Dalai Lama aspires to a spiritual revolution.