Is religion enough to curb the violence and unrest that's gripping the planet today? Even the Dalai Lama, spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism, is feeling unsure.
In a statement some might find odd coming from a world-renowned religous leader, the Dalai Lama—otherwise known as Tenzin Gyatso—posted this on his Facebook feed, likely in response to the graphic turmoil that's gripping the Middle East:
"All the world’s major religions, with their emphasis on love, compassion, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness can and do promote inner values. But the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I am increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether."
Very interesting—although the Dalai Lama has made similar statements on his Twitter feed this summer:
We need an approach to ethics which makes no recourse to religion and can be equally acceptable to those with faith and those without.
— Dalai Lama (@DalaiLama) August 13, 2012
Altruism is not merely a religious ideal; it is an indispensable requirement for humanity at large.
— Dalai Lama (@DalaiLama) June 27, 2012
I am increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether.
— Dalai Lama (@DalaiLama) June 13, 2012
The Dalai Lama has made a few other controversial statements in recent years, perhaps most notably his assertion that he may be the last Dalai Lama, dependant "entirely on the wishes of the Tibetan people."
On his website, he notes that the institution presently is useful to his countrymen, but may not be so forever - and he notes that the democratically elected Kanon Tripa, chief of Tibet's govenrment in exile, now runs most politcal affairs.
"Half jokingly and half seriously, I state that I am now in semi-retirement," remarked the Dalai Lama of this state of affairs.
The selection process for Dalai Lamas, who are believed to be perpetually reborn, is a drawn-out and complex affair, where religious officials hunt for a young child who fits the bill.
The charismatic religious leader has served as a symbol of Tibet's fight for justice since his exile from his native land in the 1950s. The Dalai Lama has become a globetrotter in his old age, giving speeches and talks promoting Tibetan freedom and Buddhism in a dizzying number of locations.
It is perhaps due to the Dalai Lama's willingness to embrace technology and modern communications that his cause has attracted so much support in the West—but thus far, it hasn't been enough to sway the opinions of the Chinese government, which continues to keep Tibet under tight control.