The Dalai Lama, known for being a revered Buddhist leader, issued some ironic commentary about faith and religion earlier this week. On Monday, he took to his Facebook page to make the claim that it may be time for society to “think about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether.”
Considering the Dalai Lama’s prominent faith role, his views are noteworthy. While he admitted that many of the tenets that the world’s diverse faiths share do help individuals to refine their “inner values,” religion may no longer be enough to sustain individuals — and society as a whole — when it comes to ethics and spirituality. He wrote:
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.
This curious post was liked by more than 139,000 individuals; 4,961 people commented on it, too, as of Friday morning.
This argument is odd, mostly because it seems to align the faith leader with atheists who also claim that religion isn’t necessarily a path to inner peace, prosperity and goodness. In fact, io9 notes that these comments mirror some statements that were recently issued by atheist Sam Harris. In a recent interview the prominent atheist said:
The moment we admit that questions of right and wrong, and good and evil, are actually questions about human and animal well-being, we see that science can, in principle, answer such questions. Human experience depends on everything that can influence states of the human brain, ranging from changes in our genome to changes in the global economy. The relevant details of genetics, neurobiology, psychology, sociology, economics etc. are fantastically complicated, but these are domains of facts, and they fall squarely within the purview of science.
Of course, Tibetan Buddhists don’t believe in a God, nor do they embrace the notion of a human soul. Still, they believe in karma, rebirths and reincarnation. It’s unclear what, exactly, the Dalai Lama is calling for in his Facebook message, but one must assume that the aforementioned faith sentiments would remain in the leader’s religious worldview.
Then again, thinking about ethics, while stripping religion aside, does, indeed, seem to be mostly secular in nature and not at all what one would expect to hear from a figure like the Dalai Lama.