by Stefan Schindler
There is now clearly a battle for the soul of civilization. Civility is losing, but there is still hope. The battle might be titled: “The Dalai Lama versus The New World Disorder.”
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama – spiritual leader of Tibet, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize – is the most famous person on the planet. Not since Muhammad Ali has a single individual been so recognized and admired on every continent as a global voice for sanity, equality, and peace.
The Dali Lama offers the world “a common religion of kindness.” His offer is urgent because our survival depends on awakening from – in James Joyce’s all too apt depiction – “the nightmare of history.” The Dalai Lama reminds us that Martin Luther King was right: “Wealth, poverty, racism, and war – these four always go together.” That means so does their solution. Meanwhile, religion is all too often used as a shibboleth upon which to hang justifications for violence.
So, as the world becomes just too absurd, more people realize: It is better to swim against the current than to be swept over a cliff. The Dalai Lama represents a Renaissance of The Renaissance. A reawakening to life’s enchanting beauty, with peace as the only sure foundation for creative evolution.
The word Buddha means “awake.” Tenzin Gyatso is awake to Buddhist common sense. Enlightened self-interest is taking care of each other and the planet.
Compassion is the path to wisdom, and the fruit of wisdom.
Wisdom and compassion – the “two wings” of Buddhism – find expression in Buckminster Fuller’s observation: “There are no passengers on spaceship earth; we are all members of the crew.” Hence Martin Luther King again: “We must choose between non-violence and non-existence.”
How is it that Tenzin Gyatso, one of the world’s most broken-hearted individuals, is also one of the world’s most equanimitous and cheerful? The answer is partly that Buddhism always involves paradox, and partly that “awakening” is rooted in love-wisdom as the “strong force” of the universe.
Tibetan sage Chogyam Trungpa said: “Buddhism is all about recollecting the sanity we were born with.” That sanity is the jewel in the lotus at the heart of every human; it rings the bell of truth; and it sings with joy and creativity.
The battle for the soul of civilization appears to be reaching a breaking point. Those in control of The New World Disorder – the super-rich, directing the levers of power – consolidate their wealth with armed force. Economic apartheid is the world’s great divide. Modern industrial culture – profit-driven business as usual – cannot survive the strain.
Mike Marqusee, author of astute biographies of Muhammad Ali and Bob Dylan, was prescient: “The battles of the Sixties may someday come to seem merely a skirmish in a war whose real dimensions we have yet to comprehend.”
Must the absurdity of modernity be nothing more than a tragic opera ending in a sea of blood? No, says a global mind change at work, demanding sanity and reform.
The Dalai Lama is a symbol for a great awakening. His message embodies the heart of the Torah; a social gospel of The Golden Rule.
Exiled by Chinese conquistadores from his native Tibet, Tenzin Gyatso offers the world a timely version of Buddha’s political philosophy. That philosophy has edifying overlaps with Socrates, Taoism, Thomas Merton, and social democracy. Worth investigating, don’t you think?