On Monday, His Holiness the Dalai Lama took to Facebook to tell his four million friends that “religion is no longer adequate."
The Tibetan religious leader was quoting from a book he published last year, entitled “Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World," in which he argues that religion by itself may no longer provide a satisfactory solution to the ills of the world.
“Any religion-based answer to the problem of our neglect of inner values can never be universal, and so will be inadequate. What we need today is an approach to ethics which makes no recourse to religion and can be equally acceptable to those with faith and those without: a secular ethics," he wrote.
In a review of the Dalai Lama’s work, however, the Los Angeles Times notes the 77-year-old Buddhist monk was by no means “denouncing faith," but rather highlighting the need for a universally shared ethos that is rooted in compassion and is relevant in this modern age:
A metaphor the Dalai Lama likes to use goes like this: The difference between ethics and religion is like the difference between water and tea. Ethics without religious content is water, a critical requirement for health and survival. Ethics grounded in religion is tea, a nutritious and aromatic blend of water, tea leaves, spices, sugar and, in Tibet, a pinch of salt."But however the tea is prepared, the primary ingredient is always water," he says. “While we can live without tea, we can’t live without water. Likewise, we are born free of religion, but we are not born free of the need for compassion."
Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, the Dalai Lama has long been a vocal advocate for compassion, religious tolerance and the need to bring together science and spirituality in the face of modern suffering.
In his 2005 book, “The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality," he wrote:
The great benefit of science is that it can contribute tremendously to the alleviation of suffering at the physical level, but it is only through the cultivation of the qualities of the human heart and the transformation of our attitudes that we can begin to address and overcome our mental suffering… We need both, since the alleviation of suffering must take place at both the physical and the psychological levels.
For his dedication to science (particularly neuroscience) and its positive application in the world (both physically and spiritually), the Dalai Lama was awarded the Templeton prize this year.