His Holiness the Dalai Lama: Universal Responsibility and the Inner Environment
First of all, I always think that it is very important to consider oneself as one human being or one member of a big human family. Because every human is basically the same irrespective of culture, religion, country or race. It means everyone has the right to be a happy person and the right to overcome suffering. After all, the purpose of our very life, I consider, is happiness. This is our birthright. Then, because of the changing situation today, the realization of oneness of all human beings is now very relevant. In ancient times, if you had that kind of perspective, good. If not, it did not matter. But now, today, in reality, whether we like it or not, every crisis is essentially linked to a global crisis. So talking about my nation, my continent, my family, my religion, my tradition is out of date. Therefore, there is really an urgent need to have a sense of Universal Responsibility and change of our Inner Environment. This I consider to be the basic’ foundation of our positive motivation. The prime mover of every human action is the motivation or the determination. Firstly, our motivation should be simple and sincere. Whether we achieve the goal or not does not matter so long as our motivation is very sincere and we make an attempt. Finally, even if we fail to achieve our goal we won’t regret making the effort. If our motivation is not sincere, even if the objective is achieved the person will not be so happy or satisfied deep down. So motivation is very important. So, any human action, whether the result is positive or negative, largely depends on motivation. If the motivation is sincere then every human. action can be positive- including political initiatives. If our motivation is not adequate, not pure, even religion becomes smeared. So, therefore, things ultimately depend upon proper motivation. I consider the important thing is unshakable determination based upon a genuine sense of brotherhood and sisterhood, or a sense of Universal Responsibility based upon human compassion or affection. That is the proper mental approach. Our goal may not be achieved so easily this way- it may take more time and may face many obstacles. I think right from the beginning, we must adopt that kind of attitude. If one expects to achieve the goal because our motivation is good, our work will be easy, and everyone will come to help, that is not right attitude. The world, unfortunately, is not pure; there are lots of negative forces. For 33 years I have been telling my fellow Tibetans that we should hope for the best but at the same time prepare with optimism for the worst. An optimistic attitude is the key factor for success. Right from the beginning, if you hold a pessimistic attitude, even small things may not be achieved. Therefore, to remain optimistic all the time is very important. As I mentioned earlier, many forms of human activity like religion, politics, technology, science and law, are supposedly meant for the betterment and happiness of humanity. Because of past experience many people feel that politics is something dirty. That is also a wrong concept. In a democratic country practicing democracy effectively, whether we like it or not, political parties must be there. Under such circumstances, if you remain removed from politics, just to criticize or complain or resent, that is not a wise way. For example, in the field of religion there is also abuse. In the name of humanity, and also in the name of religion, some exploitations and abuses are there. How can you change that just sitting on the sideline? If you only criticize, there won’t be much effect. Go into It and try to change things from within. That is the way. I want to praise the NGOs a little. Basically, every human Individual carries responsibility for the benefit or welfare of humanity and for the planet it self, because this planet is our only home. We have no alternative refuge. Therefore, everyone has the responsibility to care not only for our fellow human beings but also for insects, plants, animals and this very planet. However, the initiative must come from individuals. But then, in order to make an impact, the unified mobilization of individual forces through various organizations is the only path. So various organizations become very important. I think at a government level action is sometimes not true to desires. This is due to certain policies or reasons and sometimes due to elected leaders being concerned about their re-election. NGOs have more freedom and opportunity, so in many fields you can do many more and also you can create certain new ideas, new activities and act as a pilot. If this becomes something significant then the government will also follow your lead. Already some cases of this type have happened. So, therefore NGOs have a unique opportunity to contribute. Already you have contributed many things for humanity and planet and I hope you can continue your good work with full co-operation, confidence and determination. Now, already the East-West division is there, mainly in economic terms. The richer nations, sooner or later, will find some problems because of this gap. So, we have to find ways and means to reduce this gap. In this field both sides should have genuine discussion in the spirit of our world, rather than my nation or my continent. This is to the mutual interest of our mutual future. If one side adopts a defensive attitude, or another side seeks only to complain and criticize, that is not good. Come together and think in terms of one world. Both sides belong to that same world. With this attitude you can achieve many things. Another thing while we are talking about the gap between richer and poorer nations. There is no point in neglecting ones own community. Among nations there is a big gap between rich and poor people, like India and Brazil. So, a terribly pathetic situation is there. Practically, these are dangerous and critical situations. Today only one Super Power remains. Last year after the collapse of the Soviet Communist bloc, when I was returning from Europe to India, there was a high official from an African state on my plane. When we reached Delhi Airport we were together for a few minutes. I expressed to him that recent developments in the world are very hopeful and positive; now there is no more danger of a nuclear holocaust. I expected his response to be equally positive. But instead he raised another possibility. Before there were two superpowers, so the Third World can manage between the two. Now there is only one power so we have more fear, more anxiety. We are not sure what kind of future lies ahead. I think and feel this is quite unfortunate. The reason is not because of the American system of liberty, democracy, and freedom but primarily because of the US military forces. Perhaps economic power also has some relevance there. Soon after the Gulf War happened I myself made some pledge or resolution that the rest of my life will be committed to the demilitarization of this planet. Yesterday I heard through BBC that about 18 million people in Africa face the danger of starvation. Of course one immediate cause is drought but another cause is civil war in recent years. A lot of money is being spent on weapons and agriculture is neglected. All these unfortunate experiences are ultimately related to weapons. The military establishment or war is part of human history. But I think today things are completely changed and now we must find some new way of thinking. After all, we have such beautiful human intelligence but this intelligence certainly is not meant for destruction. If we use our intelligence for destruction it is really unfortunate. Once I expressed that I consider the worst event on this planet in this century was the October Revolution in Russia. Because, in order to achieve that revolution and in order co sustain that revolution, so much bloodshed happened. Although, as far as original Marxism is concerned, I’ve deep sympathy, because of its practice and eventual development the outcome was so terrible. During a certain period weapons in general, and particularly nuclear weapons, did some good that we call deterrent. Now the Berlin Wall has collapsed and Soviet Communist Empire has collapsed. That leaves only Communist China. Now there is no danger from communism, so I think nuclear weapons did their job. Now the time has come to say farewell to these dreadful weapons. We don’t need them any more. When we get seriously ill we need medicine and even some poison is needed. But as soon as one is cured then these poisonous medicines must be thrown out of the home. To keep them is really dangerous. Now a quite favorable time has come and we should think seriously. First of all we should eliminate nuclear and biological weapons. Eventually we must think seriously about the very concept of war and military establishments. A recent Chinese proposal to totally ban nuclear weapons is good; whether they really stick to it or not is another question. They carried out a nuclear test recently. That is awful. During one of my interviews with German television, one written question put to me was that Westerners very much fear death and Easterners don’t fear death. Why is it? Then told the interviewer that I believed the contrary. You Westerners love war, you love these horrible weapons. These weapons kill, and war means death, and it is natural death. This is awful and it seems you have no fear of death! We Tibetans, in our time, saw soldiers and the military as something negative. That means we have more fear of death! So, I think our concept of building military establishments in the name of defense is wrong. I consider military establishments as the worst kind of human rights violation_but legalized. Then, at the same time, I think it is true that with five billion people there are bound to be some mischievous people. In future world community there will be also never be a 100 percent perfect society. Therefore counter measures to that are also necessary. During the Gulf War crisis the main force came from America. Because of the world situation the system of collective forces has already happened. In future a police or military force should be ‘created by nations big or small, irrespectively, by equally balanced forces. These collective forces should be controlled by collective leadership on an international basis. Forces can be mobilized everywhere. If we achieve this then there will be no more violent conflict between nations, no more civil war. On the other hand, we save a lot of money and also we save a lot of destruction. So fear in the world atmosphere can be reduced to some extent. Even if we take every precaution to preserve our planet, this is simply not possible because of the population. According to scientists, if the present rate of population growth continues, there is a real danger and the situation is increasing in seriousness every day. As a Buddhist monk, of course, I consider every human life is something very precious, almost like a jewel. Therefore, from that viewpoint, to control human birth is not appropriate. This is the individual case. If we look at the whole then obviously, because of its high population, eventually this planet simply can’t provide sufficient requirements for human beings. So this is not a question bf one individual, or two human beings, but the suffering of all humanity- including other species. Therefore, and from a Buddhist viewpoint, it is absolutely worthwhile to think about, and seriously implement birth control.
Transcript of the address on June 6, 1992 to the Parliamentary Earth summit (Global Forum) of the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.