23 July, 2007

Hamburg wrap-up

Just back from Hamburg and had a great weekend. The sessions with the Dalai Lama were truly amazing. These particular lectures were for the general public and did not include any Buddhist teachings. His focus was on current politics and the steadily increasing violence on the world stage.

Unlike many other religious icons the Dalai Lama promotes tolerance for all religions. He made a sharp distinction between faith-based and secular ethics. He stressed the importance of moral conduct and compassion outside of religion-- because if you think about it, we all have that in common. Regardless of our faith we all are taught to be kind, not to steal, not to covet the spouses of others, to help our neighbors, to protect the weak in our society, etc. (At least in theory.)

In earlier eras we might have been rewarded for striking down our neighbors, but in a modern society with precise technology and increasingly powerful weapons this just doesn't work. The stakes are too high-- if you invade your neighbors there is sure to be a counterstrike, and destruction escalates these days at an exponential level.

The Dalai Lama is famous for his charisma and his infectious laugh, but he is also known for his intelligence. He cites scientific studies and uses biological explanations to illustrate his theories. He is extremely adept at pulling facts from a wide variety of sources and manages to deliver his message in a coherent, convincing manner.

I have been dismayed at the reactions I've gotten from several people who have heard that I was going to Hamburg. Otherwise intelligent, well-educated people seem to have labeled him and anyone who chooses to listen to him as a crackpot.

But seriously-- the last decade has seen an increase in violence and horrific aggression in both words and deeds. The situation in the Middle East and parts of Africa is worsening. People throughout Europe and America live in fear of terrorist retaliation. And aggressive actions just breed increasingly aggressive behavior.

I think it's pretty obvious that we're heading in the wrong direction. And then isn't it worthwhile to brainstorm some alternative solutions?

The Dalai Lama admitted that he doesn't have "the answer" to solve the world's problems. But he is convinced that education and tolerance would go a long way toward ameliorating many of these conflicts. We strike out in fear because we are ignorant, and often refuse to try and understand or truly negotiate with our "enemies".

Compassion and open-mindedness are not a sign of weakness! It takes a strong person and a stronger nation to seek non-aggressive solutions to difficult situations.

I am afraid I do not fully share the Dalai Lama's belief that all humans are essentially good. But I do see the value in trying to mediate our problems before we lash out at our "enemies".

And before you write me off as a soft-headed lunatic you might want to just stop and be open-minded yourself. Because the people who laugh at him seem to be the ones who have never taken the time to listen to what he has to say.

Don't walk away just because he wears a monk's clothing and looks different than you do. Just stop and listen. Try to exercise a little open-mindedness yourself. If you still don't agree with him afterwards, fine, but at least then you will have earned the right to your opinion.

And who knows? You might actually find that his message somehow resonates with your own ideals. Because essentially we all want the same thing: safety, happiness and a secure future for our children...


Anonymous said...

Amen. Well said. I've always wanted to hear his vision on the world. Thanks for sharing. I'm one of your lurkers. Stuttgart - Lisa

Carol said...

Oh so true! All of it. Tolerance and compassion -- if we had more of both, the world would be a better place. Good for you for speaking -- and living -- it!


Susie Q said...


Runaway Rubber Duckie said...

Um... Hamburg Wrap-Up sounds like it would be good with a pickle and some ketchup. mmm....

Betsy said...

Thanks guys!

Lisa: How great to have a lurker from Stuttgart! Drop me a line at dyevushka *at* yahoo *dot* com if you'd like to have a coffee (real or virtual!) with me. Am always interested to hear about others' experiences here in Germany...

Goofball said...

I think we all need more open-mindedness and compassion!!

I don't know the teachings of the Dalai Lama, but I think I'd like to listen to him as well. His face is already so peacefull, he shows peace and compassion already in his body language! He must be such an interesting man.

Personally I am a Christian and the main teaching in the bible for me is "love one another". That's for me the summary and I cannot understand how so many "Christians" can act intolerant in the name of God. That's simply a contradiction :(.

I am also very interested and respectful towards other religions...because indeed we share all the same values and potentially the search towards something 'deeper'.

I am glad that you enjoyed your weekend in Berlin!

christina said...

I think anyone who would label the Dalai Lama (of all people!)a crackpot is speaking out of fear and ignorance. It's such a shame that so many won't open up their minds and their hearts to this very charismatic man and "get" his message.

I'm so glad you came away from this with positive feelings.

Jenn in Holland said...

Here am I dripping green with envy that you had a chance to hear His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
What a treasure.