Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dalai Lama on Religion

"Developing love and compassion and reducing anger and spite is a universal activity which requires no faith in any religion whatsoever." - Dalai Lama

dalai-lamaIn a previous post I talked about the problem with modern religion in order to consider the potential ‘religion’ may hold as an institution. This quote from the Dalai Lama adds another layer to that critique. Don’t you find it ironic when you hear stories about angry religious people who are full of spite? I don’t think religion is inherently bad, but I find many people either miss the point or move away from it since they don’t see a point. Those who miss the point – at the most extreme level – are out protesting in anger and burning the holy books of other religions groups (See Terry Jones). Those who don’t see the point have most likely been turned off by religious extremists, or have been brought up in sterile traditions which shove morality down your throat – or both. So what’s this point I’m talking about.

The point is increasing happiness – what we all look for anyway – through cultivating ‘love’ –Basically learning how to love harder. Now If you’re skeptical, let me explain. As Plato’s Socrates said, the highest purpose of love is to become a lover of wisdom – for him this is equivalent to becoming a philosopher. Wisdom, in its mystic sense, can be found at the core of each religion – hence the term ‘wisdom tradition’. If you strip religion of all its doctrine, hierarchies, and ‘unwavering’ laws, you will be left with its core ‘wisdom’.

By wisdom I don’t mean hidden rules or knowledge; I mean practices – particularly, practices which cultivate love. The benefits of specific practices can be seen in within the field of positive pychology (click to view insights into Buddhist practices). Loving-kindness meditation is actually considered a practice of Buddhism. This is not limited to Buddhism, but can also be found in Christian monasticism and several other religions. When you get down to this level of religion, it begins to lose its strong attachment to faith, authority, and other modern institutional structures.

So how does this relate to the Dalai Lama’s quote? He says love and compassion “requires no faith in any religion whatsoever." He has also said “kindness is my religion”. By equating religion with kindness, this eliminates the institutional structure altogether. If religion becomes ‘kindness’, where is the need for faith? The alternative to focusing on faith – which presupposes knowledge and laws – is the focus is on practices which are a tool for growth. Of course, this is a break from ‘religion’ as we commonly know it.

Rather than being a mere part of the flock, over-determined by the laws of a master, one must make religion into ‘kindness’; only then can freedom and individual growth begin to occur. On that note, I will end this post with another quote:

“All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness, the important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.” – Dalai Lama

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