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Lions Roar : January 2007
61 His logic begins with a simple but powerful comparison of the world today with previous times, how a world that is more complex, interdependent, and dangerous requires us to care for all humanity. As always, this is not stated as a moral dictum but as a practical requirement of our survival. Perhaps he puts this argument best in his book, The Global Community and the Need for Universal Responsibility: The world is becoming smaller and smaller—and more and more interdependent—as a result of rapid technological advances and international trade as well as increasing trans- national relations. We now depend very much on each other. In ancient times problems were mostly family-size, and they were naturally tackled at the family level, but the situation has changed. Today we are so interdependent, so closely inter- connected with each other, that without a sense of universal responsibility, a feeling of universal brotherhood and sister- hood, and an understanding and belief that we really are part of one big human family, we cannot hope to overcome the dangers to our very existence—let alone bring about peace and happiness. Looking at the problems of the world—war, terrorism, pov- erty, injustice—the Dalai Lama finds their roots at the emotional level. “No one [in political leadership] takes the emotional level seriously,” he told the conference. “They just look at actions. But negative actions come out of motivations, and out of negative emotions. We have to look at the emotional level.” His remedy is easy to say but seemingly so hard for us to do: to develop a feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood for all people (and indeed all beings) without exception. To feel love and com- passion that is unbiased by attachment or personal identification. “Compassion means concern for others,” he said, “and our own survival depends on others. Extreme self-centered, selfish views always bring disaster.” No longer can we afford to feel compas- sion for those close to us, say, over a murder in our hometown, and indifference to thousands of deaths on another continent. This distinction we make between near and far, our group and another group, failing to recognize our common humanity, is at the root of the world’s problems. “This is the reality,” said the Dalai Lama. “There is a group of Northern industrialized nations that are rich, and nations in Latin America, Africa, and Asia where there are a lot of poor. We’re all the same as human beings, so why does this continue? Because when our own people are dying we feel a deep response, but when people are dying far away we don’t feel much. We take it for granted; it becomes like a routine. I see this kind of detach- ment as a chronic disease we are experiencing, and it’s something we must change.” He doesn’t deny the reality of our differences or the inevitabil- ity of conflict. What’s important is how we choose to react. “Of course there are different views and interests, including different faiths, so conflict is always a reality,” he said. “We can respond to conflict with either violence or nonviolence. Violence is absolutely wrong; nonviolence is the human way, the appro- priate way. Nonviolence means dialogue on the basis of mutual respect and appreciation, and for that compassion is needed.” (At the Dalai Lama’s public talk in Vancouver, at the city’s larg- est arena, it was clear that his nuanced and quite liberal views on world politics are an important part of his appeal. He was intro- duced at the event by the news anchor for Canada’s right-wing television network, who made an attempt to invoke the Dalai Lama as an ally in the “war on terror,” much as other right-wingers have used him as an anti-communist icon. His Holiness failed to Opposite: The Dalai Lama greeting student-moderator Angela Tsui at the Nurturing Compassion dialogue with young people. Drawings by children taking the Roots of Empathy program, in which students develop emotional awareness through observing mothers and infants. The drawing above reads: “When my friend is scared of the slide I will help him.” The child who did the drawing left said, “This baby cries because she is hungry.” The caption of the drawing on page 59 is “And it makes me happy...My heart.” PHOTOBYRAFALGERSZAKDRAWINGSCOURTESYOFROOTSOFEMPATHY SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2007