His Holiness the Dalai Lama Participates in a Symposium - Ethics for a More Prosperous World

October 23rd 2012

London, UK, 23 October 2012 - In London today, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was the guest of the Legatum Institute at a Symposium on Ethics for a More Prosperous World joining in a conversation with accomplished young professionals from a variety of backgrounds, including finance, politics, the law, and journalism. President and CEO of the Legatum Institute (www.li.com) Jeffrey Gedmin introduced His Holiness saying that he had been charmed by his recent book, Beyond Religion - Ethics for a Whole World.

In his opening remarks His Holiness said,

“Brothers and sisters, the most important thing is that we are all human beings. The problems we are trying to reduce today concern all humanity. Therefore, we have to discuss them on a human level. We are social animals; because our success comes from co-operating with each other, we have to respect the rights and well-being of others while keeping in mind our own.”

His Holiness the Dalai Lama participating in Legatum Institute's  Symposium on Ethics for a More Prosperous World in London, UK, on October 23, 2012. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
He explained that he is 77 years old and that he lost his freedom at the age of 16 and then lost his country at the age of 24. Shortly after he was born China and Japan were at war and the Second World War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the violence of India’s partition followed. Consequently, during his lifetime he has witnessed great violence. Although the twentieth century saw immense achievements in science and technology, it was also an era of bloodshed and suffering. If the twenty-first century is to be different there needs to be a new approach to solving problems, which implies a new approach to ethics. His conclusion is that to promote change, education is most important. There is a need to promote fundamental human values, which, coupled with human intelligence, can be the basis for creating a better world.
 
He acknowledged that self-interest has a role in this, which is right and proper because people beset by self-hatred are incapable of arousing concern for others. Thinking that cultivating concern for others involves neglecting our own interests is mistaken. Regarding ethics for a whole world, he suggested that once it becomes possible to encourage training in secular ethics within a secular education system, from kindergarten to university, popular appreciation of such values should naturally follow. He envisages a time when politicians, business people and the like are more motivated by sound ethics. He clarified that when he uses the word secular, he does not mean to imply a rejection of religion, but an impartial respect for all religions as a source of values. He said,

“Our education systems at present are intended to provide benefit, so it’s logical that if we introduce ethics into education we can improve popular well-being.”

Those sitting around the table introduced themselves and made brief comments. Christopher Chandler, founder of the Legatum Institute said,  “Ethics involves the intention to do good; prosperity is having the means to do it.”

China came into the conversation and His Holiness said that he regards the Chinese people as a hard-working, realistic people. He remarked that communism does not have its origins in Asia, but in the exploitation that accompanied industrialisation in the West. He mentioned that in his youth he found Marxist theories of equal distribution very attractive and that he had observed for himself how Chinese communists in the 1940s and 50s were truly dedicated to serving the people. Indeed he still counts himself as a Buddhist Marxist. However, after 1956, due to a mixture of lack of discipline and moral decline this dedication became corrupt.

Responding to discussions of the merits of the left and right, he said,

“Left and right are only aspects of economic or ideological views. There is no absolute left or right; things are never black or white, there’s always room for grey and a middle way. Everything depends on the motivation of the persons involved.”

Coming back again to the need to educate people about positive human values, His Holiness remarked,

“Just as we observe standards of physical hygiene to protect our health, we need to introduce standards of mental hygiene. Discipline is not a result of external influence, but is something that has to arise from within. ”

He said that society is based on relations between human beings,

“If you are truthful and honest you will attract genuine friends, not just short-term hangers-on. Trust is the key factor. When you are motivated by concern for others, there is no room for exploitation, cheating and corruption. Trust is not something you can buy; nor can you acquire it by force. Trust depends on openness and honesty. It is a fundamental source of self-confidence and inner strength.

He concluded the morning session by noting that while people of his age belong to the twentieth century, the future is in the hands of those who belong to the twenty-first, who have the opportunity to make it an era of peace and prosperity.

Following lunch, Jeff Gedmin conducted an interview with His Holiness that was webcast live and which can be viewed on the Legatum Institute website, www.li.com. He stressed that it is our motivation that determines the quality of our actions. To illustrate how our own happiness is dependent on everyone else’s, he asked, “How could you enjoy a meal while the rest of your family were starving?” He said that we need patience and to adopt a realistic approach if we are to achieve change, adding, “Overall it’s my conviction that the world is getting better.”


Jeff Gedmin interviewing His Holiness the Dalai Lama as part of Legatum Institute's  Symposium on Ethics for a More Prosperous World in London, UK, on October 23, 2012. Photo/Jeremy Russell/OHHDL
During the afternoon session, representatives of smaller discussion groups reported back on what they had discussed. His Holiness was also invited to contribute his comments. These included the suggestion that when a corporation is transparent, its image is good and everyone involved benefits.

“Being naturally generous and good-hearted is of much greater value in promoting your good name than hiring a public relations firm. One thing this old person has learned,” he said, “is that the truth is powerful. The Tibetan struggle, for example, is between the power of the gun and the power of truth. And while the gun may appear to be more effective in the short term, the truth is more powerful in the long run. The value of truth and honesty doesn’t change, but is persistently resilient.”

Having asserted that political and religious institutions should be separate, he remarked that when a hermit is corrupt it doesn’t do society much harm, but when political leaders are corrupt the harm is widespread. He suggested that some of our ideas about leadership may no longer be relevant; we shouldn’t need to wait for leaders to take the initiative for change. He quoted the Buddha as saying, “You are your own master, and your own future depends on you.”

Christopher Chandler thanked everyone for coming, saying it had been a good opportunity to talk about the heart not just things that can be measured like, GDP and profit. Love, compassion and warm-heartedness are difficult to measure. He appreciated His Holiness having emphasized individual responsibility. He asked, “What if we stopped asking who has the wealth? And instead asked who are we becoming?  Who are our children becoming?” He said it’s often suggested that capitalism is somehow not moral because it’s driven by profit, but he proposed that a business is only successful if it solves people’s problems.

Jeff Gedmin joined him in pronouncing the day’s discussions a success. He called on participants to buy and read His Holiness’s book, Beyond Religion and to read the Legatum Prosperity Index (www.prosperity.com) that will be published next week. He ended by telling His Holiness that the gift of the day had been his presence.

His Holiness’s closing words were,

“My generation created enough problems in the last century; I hope the twenty-first century will be more sensible, prosperous and peaceful. Collective discussions like this are very important because we are all responsible. I appreciate your efforts in bringing us together, thank you.”

Tomorrow, His Holiness returns to India. During the course of this visit to the USA and the UK, he has spoken at nine universities and in other public forums; approximately 73000 people have attended his talks.
 

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