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Dalai Lama Targets Inner Peace in Charlottesville Talk

October 14, 2012
His Holiness the Dalai Lama and musician Dave Matthews fist bump onstage at Seeds of Compassion festival in Seattle, Washington. April 11, 2008

Dalai Lama and musician Dave Matthews fist bumping onstage at Seeds of Compassion festival in Seattle, Washington. April 11, 2008

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet rolled into Charlottesville on Thursday. The mayor declared October 11, 2012, “Day of Peace.” Formally, the Dalai Lama’s outdoor talk at the downtown Pavilion was called, “Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World.”

Simply and eloquently — in basic English with only occasional assistance from his long-time translator — His Holiness (HH) made a wide arc across happiness, religion, materialism, science & technology, health, mind training, human values, biology, community, your mother, loneliness, families, global peace, violence, education, moral ethics, the end of the world in 2012, and hope. With inner peace as the ultimate target.

“You want happy life. I also want happy life. We both have every right to achieve that wish. Entire seven billion [people on earth] want happy life,” he began. A particularly fitting statement in the hometown of Thomas Jefferson, an author of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, who held the pursuit of happiness to be self-evident.

“Now the method in order to achieve happy life….” Ah yes, the rub.

He spoke about how a few thousand years ago, people would rely on prayer to some mysterious force, which may or may not be answered. He observed, “…Feel better to pray, although no guarantee,” which got a laugh from the crowd. Later in the talk, he will say, “I think, firstly, I feel, not only in past history, but even today, religion itself sometimes causing problem. Religious faith dividing people. Even within family, religion causing negative things.”

Then 200 years ago, by His Holiness’ reckoning, science and technology came along, and our religious concepts became more materialistic. So that eventually, even a billionaire might begin to realize that material value would not bring inner peace. Begin to realize the limitations of the material realm. “Now seek some other way to find inner peace.”

This led HH to comment, “For physical health, mental state very important factor.” Noting that there are obviously different levels of mental states, i.e., daytime, deep sleep, coma. To which he added, “People realizing that real disturbance of our mind — of peace of mind — is mind itself.” And he wasn’t talking about the next life or talking about heaven or those such things. “Simply for well-being, life of body.”

How to change the brain? “Train mind…compassion,” he asserts, “All major religions carry the message of love, compassion — and with that, tolerance, forgiveness, and self-discipline.” There may be different philosophical approaches, but all religions have the same purpose: To bring inner peace through the practice of compassion and love.

HH advises that when we face some obstacles, practice tolerance and forgiveness. “Not by giving religion lip service,” he said, moving his thumb and fingers together in the universal “talk talk talk” sign — to laughter from the audience. “Like I am Buddhist. Pray to Buddha, ‘Today, my, sort of, exploitation or bully or cheating other people should be successful,’” eliciting more laughter, “How can?” he exclaimed, hands up. Only by religious practitioners becoming genuinely faithful about the practice of love/compassion can, “These things [be of] immense benefit to others and self.”

“Compassion is a very effective emotion, which brings inner-peace.”

“Once that’s there, the religious practice, I think, can be genuine, sincere religious faith.  I feel like that.” But he bemoans the lack of basic knowledge about these values — love and compassion — without inner conviction. Further in the talk, he says, “We need a way to approach these fundamental human values without touching religion.” India, he believes, is a country that respects all religions. Yet also in India, there is respect for non-believers as well, the secular, where they are called “rishi,” which means “sage.”

Secular, non-religious ethics can be based on biological factors. “Every individual’s survival depends on the rest of the community.” This germinates from the immense care and affection most everyone has received from their mother. So according to human nature, on an emotional and mental level, we are already equipped with affection. Affection brings humans together. Hatred and fear are also part of our mind, but their function is to expel (push away). “So any social animal… It is very important, sort of, friendship, some spirit of cooperation.”

“An emphasis more on self-centered sort of attitude — me, me, me, me, me — that’s totally against reality. In order to get maximum benefit to yourself, you must take care more people. Then you get better future!” The self-centered person who exploits others, bullies others, cheats other…is the ultimate loser. “You will be a lonely person.” Because you cannot rely on others. “Distrust result lonely,” HH says, “Against our basic reality.”

If we speak to others from an emotional level…, “Through that way, we can act truthfully, honestly, transparently. That brings trust. Trust brings friendship. That brings happy community, happy society.” He observes that those families that have real human affection amongst its members and their neighbors, no matter how poor…those families are very powerful and attain very rich inner peace.

While an agitated mind is the result of constant fear, constant anger — hatred, “Calm mind very important factor for our human body system. Then question come how to develop calm mind.” Answer: Loving kindness.  Loving kindness as a practice, as something we pay attention to, familiarize ourselves with. “No need religion, holy text…scriptures. Instead listen to our common sense, our common experience. Ultimate source of inner-peace, peace of mind, is inner good quality, human values.”

“In global terms, genuine peace must come through inner-peace.”

As to unjust situations, such as the huge gap between rich and poor, he says more people commit crimes because more frustration brings violence. “Must pay more attention and make effort to reduce this.” Then he touched on the human population increasing, saying that maybe older people born in the last century “should go bye-bye…including myself,”  which received more laughter.

And this is where he addressed his talk to the younger generation, saying that the 21st century is in their hands. “This century can be more happier century, peaceful century, compassionate century.”

To hearty applause, HH expressed the opinion that now the time has come to think more about how to introduce into modern education more compassion. How now we have to think at the fundamental level and try to change the fundamental level. That fundamental level is education. Education is universal. It doesn’t matter how important or very helpful one or another religion is, because religion will never be universal.  “Education is universal, so in it we must include some education about warm-heartedness or more moral ethics. Not relying on concept of heaven or hell, not relying on next life or Nirvana. Not talking of these things. Simply how to build healthy society, happy society.”

Toward that end he suggested adding more discussion and teaching about moral ethics into educational curriculums. Just a few weeks training in mindfulness could make a difference in students’ attitudes toward each other. He called for secular ethics beyond religion.

That concluded his formal talk. But in answer to a question about how we might become a more loving nation, HH talked about lifestyle, drawing a distinction between the big city and farmers in the country. He expressed the opinion that we cannot change unless the whole society’s way of life, way of thinking, changes by some sort of deeper understanding about reality. “Know the mental sort of system better…that way whole list of problems can reduce.” Again, by training our mind in the ways of loving kindness.

In answer to another question wondering if there is hope for human beings, HH said that some people had asked him if 2012 is the end of the world. “So now already October, so if really end come now, should be started,” he chuckled along with the crowd.

In fact, HH believes there are many hopeful signs as witnessed by the maturity of humanity’s thinking since the beginning of the last century. For instance, he believes “many, many, many” different parts of the world desire peace. Another sign of hope is that spirituality and science were incompatible in the early part of the 20th century. Now those two are becoming “closer, closer, closer,” with reality — a clear indication that “humanity through our own difficult experiences…we’ve become more mature.”

“So I am very much optimistic. Whole picture very, very positive change. Should not think we are doomed. […] No need worry.” In parting — shaking many hands onstage, including the translators for the deaf — His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama raised his hands in namaste to the crowd as he walked off to rapturous applause. (1)


Dalai Lama. “Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World.” Charlottesville, VA: October 11, 2012. The AV Company. Retrieved October 12, 2012, from



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