universal responsibility

A Buddhist concept of nature: The sense of universal responsibility

If we have a genuine sense of universal responsibility, as the central motivation and principle, then from that direction our relations with the environment will be well balanced.

Everybody wants friends and does not want enemies. The proper way to create friends is through a warm heart and not simply money or power. Friends of power and friends of money are something different. These are not friends.

A true friend should be a real friend of heart, isn’t it so? I am always telling people that those friends who come to you when you have money and power are not your true friends but friends of money and power. Because as soon as your money and power disappear, those friends are also ready to say goodbye, bye-bye. So, you see these friends are not reliable. Genuine and true human friends will always share your sorrow, your burdens and will always come to you whether you are successful or unlucky. So, the way to create such a friend is not through anger, not mere education, not mere intelligence, but by the heart—a good heart.

So, as I always say if you think in a deeper way if you are going to be selfish, then you should be wisely selfish, not narrow-minded selfish. From that viewpoint, the key thing is the sense of universal responsibility, which is the real source of strength, the real source of happiness.

From that perspective, if in our generation we exploit every available thing: trees, water, mineral resources or anything, without bothering about the next generation, about the future, that’s our guilt, isn’t it? So, if we have a genuine sense of universal responsibility, as the central motivation and principle, then from that direction our relations with the environment will be well balanced. Similarly, with every aspect of relationships, our relations with our neighbours, our family neighbours, or country neighbours, will be balanced from that direction.

Actually, in ancient times many great thinkers, as well as great spiritual masters were produced in this country, India. So, I feel in modern times these great Indian thinkers, such as Mahatma Gandhi as well as some politicians, implemented these noble ideas like ahimsa in the political arena. In a certain way, India’s foreign policy of non-alignment is also related to with that kind of moral principle. So, I think further expansion or further development of these noble ideas, or noble actions, in this country is very relevant and very important.

Now in this respect, another thing which I feel to be very important is what is consciousness, what is mind? Up to now, especially I think in the western world, during the last one or two centuries science and technology have been very much emphasised and that mainly deals with the matter.

Now, today, some nuclear physicists and neurologists have started investigating and analysing particles in a very detailed and deep way. While doing so, they found out some kind of involvement from the observer’s side which they sometimes call “the knower”. What is,” the knower”? Simply speaking it is the being, the human being, like the scientists through which ways do scientists know? I think through the brain.

Now, about the brain, Western scientists have not yet fully identified the more than a hundred billion cells of the brain. I think out of a hundred billion only a few hundred have been identified so far. So now the mind, whether you call it mind or special energy of the brain, or consciousness, you will see that there is a relationship between the brain and the mind and the mind and matter. This I think is something important. I feel there should be some sort of dialogue between eastern philosophy and Western science on the basis of the relationship between mind and matter.

In any case, today our human mind is very much looking at or very much involved with the external world. I think we are failing to care for or study the internal world.

We need scientific and material developments in order to survive, in order to get benefits and in order to have more prosperity. Equally, we need mental peace. Any doctor cannot inject mental peace: no market can sell mental peace or happiness. With millions and millions of rupees, you can buy anything but if you go to a supermarket and say I want peace of mind, then people will laugh. And if you ask a doctor, I want genuine peace of mind, not a dull one, you might get one sleeping pill or some injection. Although you may get rest, the rest is not in the right sense, is it?

So, if you want genuine mental peace or mental tranquillity, the doctor cannot provide it. A machine like a computer, however sophisticated it may be, cannot provide you with mental peace. Mental peace must come from the mind. So, everyone wants happiness, pleasure. Now, compare physical pleasure and physical pain with mental pain or mental pleasure, and you will find that the mind is superior, more effective and more dominant. Therefore, it is worthwhile to increase mental peace through certain methods. In order to do that it is important to know more about the mind. That also, I always feel, is very important. I think that is all.

So, when you say environment or preservation of the environment, it is related to many things. Ultimately the decision must come from the human heart, isn’t that right? So, I think the key point is a genuine sense of universal responsibility which is based on love, compassion and clear awareness.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso is the spiritual leader of Tibet. Since taking asylum in India in 1959, His Holiness has become a global advocator of peace, compassion and happiness. He is the first Nobel Laureate to be recognised for his concern for global environmental problems.


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