Dalai Lama urges respect for non-religious

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The Dalai Lama on Tuesday called for the teaching of secular values in education, saying that it was critical for the world to respect all religions — as well as the right not to believe.


Despite devoting his life to the study of Buddhism, Tibet's spiritual leader said he was convinced that all people — and often even animals — shared basic moral values regardless of their religion.

"In the West, there is some connotation that secular means a little negative, or disrespect, towards religion," the Dalai Lama told a packed arena at the University of Maryland at College Park in Washington's suburbs.

"But according to the Indian understanding, secular means respect for all religions — and respect for non-believers," said the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India since 1959.

"That is the only way it can be acceptable to a whole universal level," he said.

Written By: AFP
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35 COMMENTS

  1. He came to Vancouver and I went to hear him. I was surprised that he pooh poohed belief in Buddhism and said that the really important thing is to be kind to each other.

    I remember watching a documentary. People were hitting each other to get some trinkets the Dalai Lama was handing out. He said so much with a look, that he was embarrassed, and that this too was normal. This too is just a stage of enlightenment.

  2. The Dalai Lama greeted O’Malley on stage by pressing their noses together.

    I thought Maori were the only ones to do this?

    Well said though Mr Lama, I can hear the mainstream religions gnashing their teeth over your comments regarding non belief and secularism. I have a new found respect for the man.

  3. The Dalai Lama is known for criticising homosexuality. It doesn’t look like he’s taking back that. However, kudos to him for reducing the number of obvious things that needed to be said but which he hasn’t by 1. I wonder how much longer it will be before (a) religious leaders are mostly decent on all issues or (b) people don’t “follow” them enough for the effects of them not being so to be pernicious, whichever comes first (which will, BTW?)

    On topic, however, it’s good when a religious leader admits the non-religious deserve respect too, because a lot of the time the religious go along acting as if “interfaith” is by definition fair, when in fact by definition it is unfair, because there are people who have no faith. What’s more, considering what “faith” actually means, it’s unfair to precisely the people whose thinking is the best. So if the DL or the pope or any other major figure in religion encourages people not to commit a mistake like that, their influence could do the world of good.

    • In reply to #4 by Jos Gibbons:

      The Dalai Lama is known for criticising homosexuality. It doesn’t look like he’s taking back that. However, kudos to him for reducing the number of obvious things that needed to be said but which he hasn’t by 1. I wonder how much longer it will be before (a) religious leaders are mostly decent on al…

      He does seem to be making progress.

      In 1990s (?) sometime he said this-

      Although he viewed homosexuality as “sexual misconduct” for Buddhists, he said that it was “non-harmful” for non-Buddhists. The San Francisco Chronicle quotes him as saying, “From society’s viewpoint, mutually agreeable homosexual relations can be of mutual benefit, enjoyable and harmless.”

      Commenting on the traditional Buddhist view of sex, to whit the right organ in the right orifice at the right time-

      He elaborated in 1997, explaining that the basis of that teaching was unknown to him. He also conveyed his own “willingness to consider the possibility that some of the teachings may be specific to a particular cultural and historic context”

      and later in

      2006 when the DL sent greetings and support to the International Lesbian and Gay Association on the occasion of their 28th World Congress.

      • In reply to #5 by phil rimmer:

        In reply to #4 by Jos Gibbons:

        The Dalai Lama is known for criticising homosexuality. It doesn’t look like he’s taking back that. However, kudos to him for reducing the number of obvious things that needed to be said but which he hasn’t by 1. I wonder how much longer it will be before (a) religious…

        He seems to have made more progress than the parents of some gay sons and daughters have! I know he has stated something like if science contradicts Buddhist teachings then Buddhism needs to change.

        • In reply to #20 by whiteraven:

          he has stated something like if science contradicts Buddhist teachings then Buddhism needs to change.

          For me the Dalai Lama now has views that I find down the pub of a Thursday night. Nothing outlandish, pretty mainstream, no more certain of his wisdom than me or my mates, broadly pretty open, kindly, tolerant, modest and he would probably never miss his round. Probably would get on well with the bar staff too, who seem to think karma a good explanation for occasional crap in their lives.

          I think the Buddhists should be re-named the Dog and Duckists.

          My point is…whats the point?

  4. He’s good at stating the obvious.

    I seem to recall reading something Russell wrote in the nineteen twenties on the oppression of Tibetans under Tibetan rule before the Chinese got in on the act, but as always I stand to be corrected.

    • In reply to #6 by Stafford Gordon:

      He’s good at stating the obvious.

      I seem to recall reading something Russell wrote in the nineteen twenties on the oppression of Tibetans under Tibetan rule before the Chinese got in on the act, but as always I stand to be corrected.

      I’ve read that too. Human rights were not what you would expect under a buddhist theocracy. The peasants are arguably better off under the Chinese, in fact. Though obviously being free would be better still.

      • In reply to #11 by mr_DNA:

        In reply to #6 by Stafford Gordon:

        He’s good at stating the obvious.

        I seem to recall reading something Russell wrote in the nineteen twenties on the oppression of Tibetans under Tibetan rule before the Chinese got in on the act, but as always I stand to be corrected.

        I’ve read that too. Human ri…

        The Chinese are flooding Tibet with ethnic Chinese, destroying the culture, language, way of life, etc. They have no more interest in the Tibetan people than the US government had for slaves or Native Americans. What gave you the impression anyone is better off in Tibet since the Chinese occupied it? They want territory, strategic geographic position, control of water sources (even ones supplying Southeast Asia), and who knows what might be there in the way of oil, mineral deposits or other natural resources.

    • In reply to #6 by Stafford Gordon:

      He’s good at stating the obvious.

      I seem to recall reading something Russell wrote in the nineteen twenties on the oppression of Tibetans under Tibetan rule before the Chinese got in on the act, but as always I stand to be corrected.

      What did Russell have to say about the oppression of native inhabitants of every place the British Empire colonized or dominated? Their grasp did not begin to loosen until WW2.

      P.S. I was aware of his antiwar activity, wikipedia says he was a “campion of anti-imperialism” among other things so it looks like he was consistent all around the block.

  5. His heart is in the right place i guess. But lets be honest, what important christian or muslim is going to pay attention to the words of someone outside their religion and try to make changes?

    • In reply to #8 by HellFireFuel:

      “willingness to consider the possibility that some of the teachings may be specific to a particular cultural and historic context”

      I wish the other religions would do that

      I agree. But it would be a significant moment in history if a major religious leader of a major religion would say “willingness to consider the possibility that MOST of the teachings may be specific to a particular cultural and historic context”!- That would be the beginning of the end of faith for sure.

      • In reply to #12 by KRKBAB:

        In reply to #8 by HellFireFuel:
        I agree. But it would be a significant moment in history if a major religious leader of a major religion would say “willingness to consider the possibility that MOST of the teachings may be specific to a particular cultural and historic context”!- That would be the beginning of the end of faith for sure.

        I don’t believe so. I would argue a large portion of Christians nowadays take that perspective, and are not that keen on following the Bible, creationism, ect…, cherry picking their way. Jews too.

  6. The “Indian understanding” of what secular means is the same as mine – and also the UK’s National Secular Society.

    Secularists do not argue that religion should be banned, or against anyone’s freedom to profess their faith (peacefully….). We argue against religions enjoying undue and unequal privileges in society. We simply want freedom from discrimination, and certainly in much of “old Europe” religions have accrued many ways to legally discriminate over the centuries, and they are not giving up without a fight.

    Secularism is not about a spiritual outlook (or lack of one). It is about politics.

    • In reply to #9 by Stevehill:

      The “Indian understanding” of what secular means is the same as mine – and also the UK’s National Secular Society.

      Secularists do not argue that religion should be banned, or against anyone’s freedom to profess their faith (peacefully….). We argue against religions enjoying undue and unequal pri…

      seconded

      it’s a word that had very positive connotations during the sectarian violence in northern ireland but i think it’s just religious political spin. it’s crude and childish but i’m pretty sure you only have to say a word in front of believers with a look of disgust and it instantly becomes a term of insult. i’m sure there are thousands of people in the western world who are unable to understand why people elect to call themselves secularists (comments on things like facebook confirm as much)

  7. Relatively speaking, Buddhism has no deity, so in this regard, Buddhism could be thought of as atheistic. Also the dedication to inner inquiry and the discovery of the nature of the human condition and it’s relationship with reality, could also be thought of as a type of scientific process.

    No surprise then that the Dalai Lama supports secularism.

    • tyga,

      While the buddists “say” they have no deity that’s as far as they stray from being a full fledged out of your mind religion, that’s it. Remember “Buddha” came out of his mothers leg FFS! What is wrong with the vagina like everyone else including Jesus?

      Having all the qualities of religion bar one is in no way atheism. It is hard to believe that anyone would make this argument unless they truly didn’t understand atheism in anyway what-so-ever.

      “Dedication” to inquiry is certainly a good description of some theologians including William Lane Craig. Does that make them atheists or has dedication nothing to do with the issue?

      I understand now why you’re confused by vaccinations – you have no idea what religion or the scientific method is! Alarming, I hope we can help – but you have to listen!

      Mods, maybe it’s time for an atheist dictionary on the site to help newcomers and theists? I’ve got censored a couple of times for using dictionary dot com to educate but one of our own might be a useful tool?

      Let’s face it if a user of “the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science” thinks buddhism is atheist and scientific you’re doing something wrong! The entry could read; Buddhism – Religion, Woo, Mumbo jumbo, Horse Shit, a collection of stories of limited and dubious value, no evidence or value.

      In reply to #14 by tyga:

      Relatively speaking, Buddhism has no deity, so in this regard, Buddhism could be thought of as atheistic. Also the dedication to inner inquiry and the discovery of the nature of the human condition and it’s relationship with reality, could also be thought of as a type of scientific process.

      No surp…

      • In reply to #22 by alaskansee:

        tyga,

        While the buddists “say” they have no deity that’s as far as they stray from being a full fledged out of your mind religion, that’s it. Remember “Buddha” came out of his mothers leg FFS! What is wrong with the vagina like everyone else including Jesus?

        Having all the qualities of religion ba…

        Atheism simply means lack of belief in god(s), it does not mean non-religious, and as such an athiest can believe in all kinds of woo/superstition, etc – just not god(s). While all this crap you describe is antithetical to a rationalist/sceptic that is a separate thing from atheism.

        Personally I think it’s good that religious leaders stand up for secular values. The more the better. Secularism isn’t just for the non-religious, everyone, religious or not benefits from secularism’s stand against religious tyranny by any religious majority. His comments about education are also encouraging.

        • In reply to #26 by I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing:

          If your story starts off with the need to believe that the fat fellow came out of his mothers leg, there’s you sign.

          I don’t think I can accept the premise that their magical figurehead isn’t just a little god like but never-the-less I’d be interested to hear of some religions that have no gods? I’m counting “mother earth” as a god though.

          “Atheism simply means lack of belief in god(s), it does not mean non-religious, and as such an athiest can believe in all kinds of woo/superstition, etc – just not god(s). While all this crap you describe is antithetical to a rationalist/sceptic that is a separate thing from atheism.”

      • In reply to #22 by alaskansee:

        While the buddists “say” they have no deity that’s as far as they stray from being a full fledged out of your mind religion, that’s it. Remember “Buddha” came out of his mothers leg FFS! What is wrong with the vagina like everyone else including Jesus?

        Having all the qualities of religion bar one is in no way atheism. It is hard to believe that anyone would make this argument unless they truly didn’t understand atheism in anyway what-so-ever.

        “Dedication” to inquiry is certainly a good description of some theologians including William Lane Craig. Does that make them atheists or has dedication nothing to do with the issue?

        I understand now why you’re confused by vaccinations – you have no idea what religion or the scientific method is! Alarming, I hope we can help – but you have to listen!

        Mods, maybe it’s time for an atheist dictionary on the site to help newcomers and theists? I’ve got censored a couple of times for using dictionary dot com to educate but one of our own might be a useful tool?

        Let’s face it if a user of “the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science” thinks buddhism is atheist and scientific you’re doing something wrong! The entry could read; Buddhism – Religion, Woo, Mumbo jumbo, Horse Shit, a collection of stories of limited and dubious value, no evidence or value.

        I suggest reading my reply in context before going off half baked.

        I said “relatively speaking” Buddhism has no deity. Which is to say, that Buddhism as a philosophy, has no deity, which doesn’t stop Buddhists themselves adopting some form of deification.

        Buddhism is a philosophy that has evolved into a religious style adherence. The Buddhist philosophy has no deity per se, which means that Buddhism “could be (maybe) thought of as atheistic”, which doesn’t stop Buddhists from adopting a form of deity.

        And I was suggesting that inner inquiry could be (maybe) thought of as “a type of” (possible) scientific process.

        Lets face it, you need to read my replies within context, and keep your hysterical criticism to a minimum.

        • Yup, “relatively” speaking atheism is a faith too isn’t it? No that’s just not the correct use of the word and to say something that is specifically the opposite of what it is ridiculous. Your thought process was less than “half baked.” Buddhism might well have what you feel is the least crazy but it’s still crazy, so sane isn’t the right place to start your definition.

          Your “hysterical” (another incorrect use of a word) response missed the point that atheism and science are actual things, look ‘em up. If you try to redefine something using the opposite of the correct definition what does that even mean? Words are important and the christian use of the word “Truth” is a perfect example of why you should be less casual with yours, especially important ones like science!

          Science and Reason are in the title I’m uncomfortable with your unhelpful redefinition. There is no context for saying that Buddhism is atheism or scientific. He came out a leg (faith) and that’s not falsifiable! (science)

          I can certainly agree that the buddhist are the nicest loonies in the bin if that makes you any happier?

          In reply to #30 by tyga:

          In reply to #22 by alaskansee:

          While the buddists “say” they have no deity that’s as far as they stray from being a full fledged out of your mind religion, that’s it. Remember “Buddha” came out of his mothers leg FFS! What is wrong with the vagina like everyone else including Jesus?

          Having all the…

  8. The Dalai Lama is an excellent guy. He does believe in some strange things though, like karma and rebirth of course, but also some pseudoscientific stuff. That I know by reading one of his books. Must be be the influence of some of his most famous fans?

    • In reply to #16 by Fouad Boussetta:

      The Dalai Lama is an excellent guy. He does believe in some strange things though, like karma and rebirth of course, but also some pseudoscientific stuff. That I know by reading one of his books. Must be be the influence of some of his most famous fans?

      In terms of religious leaders, he’s not the worse :)

      • In reply to #17 by papa lazaru:

        In reply to #16 by Fouad Boussetta:

        The Dalai Lama is an excellent guy. He does believe in some strange things though, like karma and rebirth of course, but also some pseudoscientific stuff. That I know by reading one of his books. Must be be the influence of some of his most famous fans?

        In terms…

        yes, and maybe not even the worst

  9. What does the Buddhist monk say to the hot dog vendor….

    Yeah, I’ll grant that the Dalai in comparison to a few other religious leaders seems moderate enough, but his non-sequiturial twaddle is as profound as a doorknob.

    But if that keeps the herd quiet, sure, all game.

  10. local madman who thinks he is divinely selected urges people to respect people who don’t believe in jumping to outrageous conlusions without evidence. Well before that i was against rational evidence based thiking, now the chosen one endorses it i know it is right. just a guess but was he sitting in a limosine and giggling like a 14 year old when he said this.

    • In reply to #24 by jjbircham:

      local madman who thinks he is divinely selected urges people to respect people who don’t believe in jumping to outrageous conlusions without evidence. Well before that i was against rational evidence based thiking, now the chosen one endorses it i know it is right. just a guess but was he sitting i…

      Local douche bag thinks he’s somehow able to denounce people because they live in a different region of the world and practice different traditions. Just a guess, I bet you’re really upset with the quality of your life if you’re flaming the DL. Buddhism is one of the most harmless spiritual practices in the world, and yet you have to be an angsty little atheist about him making a valid point that the majority of other religious leaders wouldn’t even think about. I have no problem with people being atheist, at the end of the day they are still my fellow people and I wish nothing but the best for any one of any spirituality. But then there are the special kinds of assholes, people that act like believing/ not believing in a higher power some how grants them the right to go around and act like a total jagoff to any one who believes differently. >.>

    • Hi, I would recommend you to watch a simple video by an Atheist too, “10 Questions for the Dalai Lama” by Rick Ray. I hope you understand the context of Buddhism and the Dalai Lama’s works and teachings before you pass judgement.
      Have a great day!

  11. It goes without saying that I would befriend the Dalai Lama over your typical imam or Bible-beating pastor any day, but I take issue with this notion that all creeds must be shown obeisance.

    Religions, like ideas, must earn respect. The former, though, seems forever condemned to an inferior position given its reliance on credulity.

  12. I remember the Dalai lama saying something about forgiving the fat-cat bankers who caused the financial crisis. I think his bloopers cancel out all the good things he has said. He’s pretty much an average guy, as others have said. No more or less wise than most.

  13. In reply to #21 by phil rimmer:

    In reply to #20 by whiteraven:

    he has stated something like if science contradicts Buddhist teachings then Buddhism needs to change.

    For me the Dalai Lama now has views that I find down the pub of a Thursday night. Nothing outlandish, pretty mainstream, no more certain of his wisdom than me or my…

    Maybe the point is you appear to find those names amusing when you’re not at the pub. :)

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