As a public figure, His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, is a truly extraordinary presence. Not only is he the supreme religious authority of the Tibetan people, he is also a global statesman, one who is concerned with the well-being of the entire planet. From climate change to sectarian violence, clean drinking water to universal healthcare, he has spoken up on a range of issues all his life.
Now, as humanity reels under the covid-19 crisis, his words may help steer us to the right path. It is with this intention that The Little Book of Encouragement compiles some of His Holiness' best known sayings, as well as thoughts on the current state of the world. Some excerpts from the book of 130 quotes, edited by Renuka Singh.
Scientists have evidence to prove that basic human nature is compassionate. They have also found the opposite, that constant anger and hatred weaken our immune system. Therefore, just as we teach people physical hygiene to help preserve their physical health, for a happy and peaceful mind, we need to teach people about emotional hygiene—how to tackle their destructive emotions.
On bringing hope to people
Resting our hopes on the younger generation is not sufficient; politicians too must act urgently. It is not enough to hold meetings and conferences; we must set a timetable for change. Only if we start to act now will we have a reason to hope. We must not sacrifice our civilization for the greed of a few. Journalists have an equally important role. I tell them, that in these modern times, they have a special responsibility to bring awareness to the people; to not just report bad news, but bring people hope.
Religion should not just be limited to praying. Ethical action is more important than prayers. What are Buddha, Allah or Christ supposed to do if we human beings destroy our earth, fill the oceans with plastic so that fish, seals and whales perish, and cause rapid desertification and vast amounts of greenhouse gases to be released into the atmosphere?
On environmental damage
Our environmental recklessness has brought the planet to a stage where she can no longer accept our behaviour in silence. The sheer size and frequency of environmental disasters—hurricanes, wildfires, desertification, glacial retreat, and melting of the polar ice caps—can be seen as her response to our irresponsible behaviour.
On asking why
Regarding mental bullying on the internet that leads young people to self-harm and suicide—as human beings, we are intelligent and can evaluate and choose what to take seriously. Even the Buddha advised his followers:
‘As the wise test gold by burning, cutting and rubbing it, so bhikshus, should you accept my words only after testing them, and not merely out of respect for me.’
As a Buddhist and a follower of the Nalanda tradition, I find it very useful to always ask, ‘Why?’
On emotional education
Education is another preoccupation I have. The whole world should pay more attention to how they can transform their emotions. This should be part of one’s education and not religion. Children need to be educated about the inner world; we must teach them how to develop peace of mind.
No matter how difficult the situation may be, we should employ science and human ingenuity with determination and courage to overcome the problems that confront us. Faced with threats to our health and well-being, it is natural to feel anxious and afraid. Everyone, at present, is doing their best to contain the spread of the coronavirus. I applaud the concerted efforts of nations to limit the threat.
In this time of serious crisis, we face threats to our health, and feel sadness for the family and friends we have lost. Economic disruption is posing a major challenge to governments and undermining the ability of so many people to make a living. The crisis and its consequences serve as a warning—only by coming together in a coordinated global response, will we meet the unprecedented magnitude of the challenges we face. I pray we all heed the call to unite.