Measured Against Reality

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Wisdom of the Dalai Lama

I’m mostly done with The Universe in a Single Atom by the Dalai Lama (full review forthcoming), and I wanted to quote this passage from the Prologue:

I remember a disturbing conversation I had had only a few years earlier with an American lady who was married to a Tibetan. Having heard of my interest in science and my active engagement in dialogue with scientists, she warned me of the danger science poses to the survival of Buddhism. She told me that history attests to the fact that science is the “killer” of religion and advised me that it was not wise for the Dalai Lama to pursue friendships with those who represent this profession. By taking this personal journey into science, I suppose I have stuck my neck out. My confidence in venturing into science lies in my basic belief that as in science so in Buddhism, understanding the nature of reality is pursued by means of critical investigation: if scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims of Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims. [emphasis added]

Can you imagine the Pope saying, “if scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims of Catholicism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.” I certainly can’t. I find it amazing and refreshing that he takes that position. He never comes out and says this, but I suspect that he believes that the metaphysical tenets of a religion are absolutely trivial compared to the “spiritual” component of it.

If I were to apply that statement to Christianity, it would mean that the story of Genesis or the divinity of Jesus are irrelevant, what is relevant is the messages like “love thy neighbor”. It seems like people pay only lip service to messages like this, and focus on the ridiculous, unprovable, or outright false claims. Maybe I just don’t “get it”, but when I read about Christians trying to chase a business out of town for flying a rainbow flag (or some such incident), I just wonder how the “lamb of God” inspires people to acts of such ignorance and cruelty.

I also feel the need to say, as I have said before, that religion is not the only source of morality. I highly doubt it’s even an important source of a person’s morality. But if you look at how often (some) Christians flagrantly ignore the message “love thy neighbor as thyself” (which I think may be one of the best moral messages from the Bible, and Jesus claimed was the second most important religious law), it simply says that morality does not come from religion.

But that’s a different story. That quoted section left me hungry for an attitude like that in America. I can always hope.

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  • I'm glad you quoted that passage, Stu. I'd heard that amazing and beautiful quote by the Dalai Lama that you emphasized, but I didn't know it was part of a larger prologue.

    By Blogger Jeremy, at 2:48 AM, January 17, 2007  

  • thanks for sharing the quote, i'm gonna go check out that book. thanks,

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:33 PM, July 07, 2007  

  • Stuart,

    I was searching for information regarding the Dalai Lama and your blog was number 4 on the Google results list.

    Just wanted to let you know.

    Have a good semester man!


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:06 PM, December 02, 2008  

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