[from: Tibetan Bulletin (March-April 1994)
            Universal Responsibility and Our Global Environment
                        His Holiness the Dalai Lama
   As the twentieth century draws to a close, we find that the world has 
   grown smaller. The world's people have become almost one community.  
   Political and military alliances have created large multinational 
   groups; industry and international trade have produced a global 
   economy. Worldwide communications are eliminating ancient barriers of 
   distance, language and race. We are also being drawn together by the 
   grave problems we face: overpopulation, dwindling natural resources, 
   and an environmental crisis that threatens our air, water, and trees, 
   along with the vast number of beautiful life forms that are the very 
   foundation of existence on this small planet we share.
   I believe that to meet the challenge of our times, human beings will   
   have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. Each of 
   us must learn to work not just for his or her own self, family or 
   nation, but for the benefit of all mankind. Universal responsibility 
   is the real key to human survival. It is the best foundation for world 
   peace, the equitable use of natural resources and, through concern for 
   future generations, the proper care of the environment.
   That is why it is so heartening to see such non-governmental 
   organisations as yours. Your role in forging a better future is 
   absolutely essential. I have come across many such orgaisations built 
   by dedicated volunteers out of genuine concern for their fellow human 
   beings. Such commitment represents the forefront of both social and 
   environmental progress.
   Whether we like it or not, we have all been born on this earth as part 
   of one great family. Rich or poor, educated or uneducated, belonging 
   to one nation, religion, ideology or another, ultimately each of us is 
   just a human being like everyone else. We all desire happiness and do 
   not want suffering. Furthermore, each of us has the same right to 
   pursue happiness and avoid suffering. When you recognise that all 
   beings are equal in this respect, you automatically feel empathy and 
   closeness for them. Out of this, in turn, comes a genuine sense of 
   universal responsibility -- the wish to actively help others overcome 
   their problems.
   The need for a sense of universal responsibility is present in every   
   aspect of modern life. Nowadays, significant events in one part of the 
   world eventually affect the entire planet. Therefore, we have to treat 
   each major local problem as a global concern from the moment it 
   begins. We can no longer invoke the national, racial or ideological 
   barriers that separate us without destructive repercussions. In the 
   context of our new interdependence, considering the interest of others 
   is clearly the best form of self-interest.
   We need to appreciate interdependence in nature far more than we have   
   in the past. Our ignorance of it is directly reponsible for many of 
   the problems we face. For instance, tapping the limited resources of 
   our world -- particularly those of the developing nations -- simply to 
   fuel consumerism, is disastrous. If it continues unchecked, eventually 
   we will all suffer. We must respect the delicate balance of life and 
   allow it to replenish itself.
   Ignorance of interdependence has not only harmed the natural 
   environment, but human society as well. Instead of caring for one 
   another, we place most of our efforts for happiness in pursuing 
   individual material consumption. We have become so engrossed in this 
   pursuit that, without knowing it, we have neglected to foster the most 
   basic human needs of love, kindness and cooperation. This is very sad.  
   We have to consider what we human beings really are. We are not 
   machine-made objects. However, since we are not solely material 
   creatures, it is a mistake to seek fulfillment in external development 
   To pursue growth properly, we need to renew our commitment to human  
   values in many fields. Political life, of course, requires an ethical 
   foundation, but science and religion, as well, should be pursued from 
   a moral basis. Without it scientists cannot distinguish between 
   beneficial technologies and those which are merely expedient. The 
   environmental damage surrounding us is the most obvious result of this 
   confusion. In the case of religion, it is particularly necessary.
   The purpose of religion is not to construct beautiful buildings, but 
   to cultivate positive human qualities such as tolerance, generosity 
   and love. Every world religion, no matter what its philosophical view, 
   is founded first and foremost on the precept that we must reduce our 
   selfishness and serve others. Unfortunately, sometimes in the name of 
   religion, people cause more quarrels than they solve. Practitioners of 
   different faiths should realise that each religious tradition has 
   immense intrinsic value as a means for providing mental and spiritual 
   I have been extremely heartened to follow the recent developments in 
   the search for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Laying down 
   guns on both sides, and talking face-to-face is, in my opinion, the 
   only way to resolve such disputes. We must learn to live together in a 
   nonviolent way that nurtures the freedom of all people.
   There is a wonderful verse in the Bible about turning swords into 
   ploughshares. It is a lovely image, a weapon transformed into a tool 
   to serve basic human needs, symbolic of an attitude of inner and outer 
   disarmament. In the spirit of this ancient message, I think it is 
   important that we stress today the urgency of a policy that is long 
   overdue -- the demilitarisation of the entire planet.  
   Demilitarisation would free great human resources for protection of 
   the environment, relief of poverty, and sustainable human development.
   I have always envisioned the future of my own country, Tibet, as 
   founded on this basis. Tibet will be a neutral, demilitarised 
   sanctuary where weapons are forbidden and the people live in harmony 
   with nature. I have called this a Zone of Ahimsa or non-violence.  
   This is not merely a dream -- it is precisely the way Tibetans tried 
   to live for over a thousand years before our country was tragically 
   invaded. In Tibet, wildlife was protected in accordance with Buddhist 
   principles. We enacted decrees to protect the environment, but it was 
   mainly protected by the beliefs which were installed in use as 
   I would like to conclude by stating that I feel optimistic about the 
   future. There are a number of recent trends which show our potential 
   for achieving a better world. The rapid changes in our attitude 
   towards the earth are a source of hope. As recently as a decade ago, 
   we thoughtlessly devoured the resources of the world as if there was 
   no end to them. We failed to realise that unchecked consumerism was 
   disastrous for both the environment and social welfare. Now, both 
   individuals and governments are seeking a new ecological and economic 
   It is true to say that as late as the 1980s people believed that war 
   was an inevitable condition of mankind. The notion prevailed that 
   people with conflicting interests could only confront each other.  
   This view has deminished. Today people all over the globe are more 
   committed to peaceful co-existence, as is evident here in the Middle 
   East. This is an astonishingly positive development.
   After believing for centuries that human society could only be   
   governed with rigid authoritarian discipline, people in all corners of 
   the world have woken up to the virtues of democracy. Speaking from 
   their hearts, they have shown that the desire for freedom and truth 
   and democracy stems from the core of human nature. Recent events have 
   proved that the simple expression of truth is an immense force in the 
   human mind, and as a result, in the shaping of history.
   One of the greatest lessons for all of us has been the peaceful change  
   in Eastern Europe. In the past, oppressed people have always resorted 
   to violence in their struggle to be free. Now, these peaceful 
   revolutions, following in the footsteps of Gandhi and Martin Luther 
   King, have given future generations a tremendous example of 
   successful, nonviolent change. When, in the future, the need arises to 
   change society, our descendents can look back to 1989 as a paradigm  
   for peaceful struggle: a real success story on an unprecedented scale, 
   involving more than half a dozen nations and hundreds of millions of 
   Meanwhile, there has been a growth of awareness of human rights.  
   Crude power can never subdue mankind's basic desire for freedom, truth 
   and democracy, which are our fundamental right. People simply don't 
   like a person or a system that bullies, cheats and lies. These 
   activities are essentially opposed to the human spirit.
   All these encouraging signs reflect a renewed appreciation of the 
   benefits of basic human values. Because of the lessons we have begun 
   to learn, the next century will be friendlier, more harmonious, and 
   less harmful. Compassion, the seeds of peace, will be able to 
   flourish. At the same time, I believe that every individual has a 
   responsibility to help guide our global family in the right direction.  
   Good wishes alone are not enough, we each have to assume 
   I hope and pray that in the days ahead, each of us will do all we can  
   to see that the goal of creating a happier, more harmonious and 
   healthier world is achieved.
   [This is the text of the address delivered to the Society for the 
   Protection of Nature, Israel, on March 22, 1994]
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  TITLE OF WORK: Universal Responsibility and Our Global Environment
  AUTHOR: His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso
  AUTHOR'S ADDRESS: Thekchen Choeling, McLeod Ganj
     Dharamsala, Distt. Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, India
  PUBLISHER: Tibetan Bulletin
     Department of Information & International Relations,
     Central Tibetan Administration, Dharamsala - 176215, H.P. India.
  DATE OF PUBLICATION: March 22, 1994
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