Universal Ethics

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There are many areas where Buddhism and modern science can mutually learn from each other. Along with the feelings attached with the body, there are also feelings attached to the mind. This highlights the need for an education, which addresses the feelings of pain and happiness, of both physical and mental spheres. As for creating greater peace and happiness in human society, modern science in conjunction with psychology can contribute to bringing a new kind of education towards this very end.

It is my view that science will help us to investigate and discover the final reality more closely and thus add to the already existing education system. Ultimately, there should be a comprehensive and beneficial system of education.

Human beings encounter problems consisting of natural disasters, as well as manmade disasters. Since the manmade disasters are the creation of human beings, there is no doubt that they can solve them, too. Despite humanity not lacking in education, manmade problems abound, clearly indicating the inadequacy of the means to avert these problems. These problems are the results of increased self-cherishing minds, attachment, anger, greed, partiality, jealousy and competition. On the other hand, these problems also happen due to our lack of virtuous qualities, such as other-cherishing minds, loving kindness, patience, conscientiousness and wisdom. Since religions with philosophical bases have extensive discourses on how to adopt good values, like loving kindness, and shun various mental afflictions, such as attachment, aversion and ignorance, there is no doubt that these religions have the potential to contribute to eliminating manmade problems.

It is through modern science that humanity has evidently acquired great benefits in the areas of health, environment, economy, travels, basic facilities for living, relationships and so forth. Despite these advancements, manmade problems still persist. What we witness today, even in nations that are highly developed in science and technology, of problems such as corruption, killings and abuse, conflicts, and so on are a clear indication of this fact. Particularly the sufferings related to the mind, still abound as they did aeons ago. Despite profuse external comforts and facilities at one’s disposal, one can never have a happy life, if one is festering internally with greed, anger, and jealousy. On the contrary, if one has a peaceful and pacified mind, with qualities such as contentment, loving kindness and so forth, one can have a happy life although one does not have much in a worldly sense. Therefore, there is no doubt that whether or not one will have happy life is primarily determined by internal mental states of mind.

The above excerpt is from His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s message in the Compendium of Buddhist Science and Buddhist Philosophy – Volume 1:

The Objectives of Secular  Ethics:

During frequent travels of His Holiness the Dalai Lama all over India and the world, a question that is most often posed to His Holiness when he meets with individuals and groups, educated people, scientists, philosophers, scholars and practitioners of various religions, politicians, bureaucrats, educationists, environmentalists, lawyers, academics, doctors and so on, is, “Despite the height of advancement in science and technology in today’s time, what underlies and explains the constant decline in the moral values of people?” His Holiness always responds that it is very clear that modern education, with its emphasis on advancing in the material world, alone cannot give rise to the happiness of human beings.

Paraphrasing His Holiness’s thoughts on the matter from his book, ‘Beyond Religion’: “If human beings lack moral values, and self-discipline, then no matter how many rules and laws there might be, it cannot be of any help. As long as priority is given to materialism, we will continue to suffer from fraud, corruption, inequality, impatience, and greed, and not pay much attention to inner values”.

In order to inculcate inner values of love, patience, forgiveness, generosity, contentment, self-discipline, restrain and so forth, it is crucial to embed, integrate and implement moral values within the education system from the time of kindergarten itself, right up to the university level. Otherwise, the situation will degenerate even further from where it stands today.

To this end, it would be extremely beneficial if Secular / Universal Ethics can be introduced in all the educational institutes. This will then be a beacon of hope and happiness for future generations. Courses on Secular Ethics should be given primacy over and be taught extensively. It is important that both teachers and students should have good knowledge of Secular Ethics. More precisely, teachers of such courses should go through rigorous and particular training, with the result that they should be able to apply these values within their own daily lives.  The teachers involved in this course have a special responsibility. This is rightly indicated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who said, “When one teaches moral values and inner values, it is not adequate to simply explain what they are, but more important to teach by embodying such qualities, thereby being a powerful living role model for students”.