Dalai Lama: Stop praying for Paris — humans created this problem and humans must solve it

Nov 18, 2015

By Deutsche Welle

Following the deadly Paris attacks, the Tibetan spiritual leader tells DW that people should not expect God to resolve man-made problems, and that a systematic approach is needed to foster humanistic values.

For millions of his devotees across the world, the Dalai Lama is the embodiment of humanity and compassion. The Dalai Lama, whose real name is Tenzin Gyatso, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, and is known for his decades-long struggle for Tibet’s autonomy.
The spiritual leader believes that his middle-way approach is the best way to peacefully resolve the Tibetan issue and promote co-existence between the Tibetan and Chinese people. The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 and has been since living in exile in Dharamsala, a city in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh.
In an DW interview, the 80-year-old spiritual leader talks about his role as the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan issue, and the rise of violence globally.
DW: How do you view the terror attacks on Paris?
The Dalai Lama: The twentieth century was a violent one, and more than 200 million people died due to wars and other conflicts. We now see a spillover of the previous century’s bloodshed in this century. If we emphasize more on non-violence and harmony, we can herald a new beginning. Unless we make serious attempts to achieve peace, we will continue to see a replay of the mayhem humanity experienced in the 20th century.

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19 comments on “Dalai Lama: Stop praying for Paris — humans created this problem and humans must solve it

  • A little more context from the article will help:

    We cannot solve this problem only through prayers. I am a Buddhist and I believe in praying. But humans have created this problem, and now we are asking God to solve it. It is illogical. God would say, solve it yourself because you created it in the first place.
    We need a systematic approach to foster humanistic values, of oneness and harmony. If we start doing it now, there is hope that this century will be different from the previous one. It is in everybody’s interest. So let us work for peace within our families and society, and not expect help from God, Buddha or the governments.

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  • I came to say: there is no necessary contradiction between being a humanist and being religious/mystic.

    I have a joke – being fully enlightened (or close), or just being ‘Spiritual’ (whatever that means – and I’m not sure that the Dalai Lama is said to be fully enlightened) is not meant to mean, you know how to repair a printer. And nor does it mean that you are meant to know how to solve political problems. No person following a Buddhist or Daoist path should claim this kind of “authority”, (wrongly given, apparently, to Buddhist monks in robes… and to Nobel Prize winners). My printer example: “a spiritual person said to be able to understand things exceptionally clearly”, still, if they have not been taught how to fix a computer, they will not know how to fix a computer. When they look at a broken computer they will “clearly see” that they haven’t a clue what to do, and call for someone who they think looks like they know what they are doing. The only “knowledge” they have is the “knowledge” that is is not sensible to shout “stupid machine! why don’t you work?” and smash it up because they are angry, but instead far better to find a healthier way of responding to whatever feelings arise. So however “spiritual” they are, you should not turn to them to solve a practical problem where they have no experience.

    The Dalai Lama is of course experienced in politics. I know nothing about his politics except thay he is stuck in a stalemate with China, but I doubt he has the genius that someone like Nelson Mandela had in politics. That was truly “the right man, in the right place, at the right time.”

    So his words show that he is a humanist, as any intelleigent person in today’s world should be, and -while making an appeal to people’s better feelings such as compassion – he doesn’t use a political event to promote the mystical/religiious path that he represents and teaches. Doing that would risk creating division and distract people from comprehending and dealing with the problem. He is a good enough politician not to offend in this way. And – if atheists are meant to be beyond allegiences, and just observe and consider what works best – shouldn’t they use the Paris attacks to promote a “problem solving” mentalilty where we consider 1st how important it is to solve these problems, then how look with patience at how to realistically do that, rather than with a point scoring mentality where we say “this proves that religion is violent”. What does that achieve?

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  • “essentially a non-theistic religion” yes, but some branches at least have their share of Deities (not the same as the spirits or psychic entities of shamanism/folk religion) and all branches have “beliefs” about the nature of reality etc. which can’t be verified by scientific instruments (!)

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  • 7
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    Nov 18, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    …. “We cannot solve this problem only through prayers. I am a Buddhist and I believe in praying.”

    I guess I was mistaken about Buddhism being a non-theistic religion… I’m also guessing that the Dalai-Lama does believe in some god(s)… otherwise, who do you pray to? Unless he believes that Buddha in Nirvana is sitting on his cloud watching everything we do…. But wouldn’t that make Buddha some kind of god-like superior being in his eyes?

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  • How much of a difference is there between (a) sincerely and deeply wishing for peace and (b) directing a request for peace to a Supreme Being? I’m sure that the majority of intelligent Christians believe that their God will also listen to, and work for, those who don’t address him by name, or even believe that he exists.

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  • Stephen
    Nov 20, 2015 at 7:02 am

    How much of a difference is there between (a) sincerely and deeply wishing for peace and (b) directing a request for peace to a Supreme Being?

    Usually quite a lot of difference in the actions of the individuals and the methodology they employ.

    I’m sure that the majority of intelligent Christians believe that their God will also listen to, and work for, those who don’t address him by name, or even believe that he exists.

    That is one of the main differences. Many believers think their god is going to do it for them, or that prayer will achieve part of the job .

    Atheists know we are going to have to take responsibility and do it ourselves.

    Of course as with other religions and their sects, not all Buddhists are peaceful!


    More than 2,000 Christians gathered in Colombo on Sunday (January 26) to protest against a perceived lack of religious freedom in Sri Lanka, following recent attacks on Christian places of worship by Buddhist extremists.

    Two churches and a Christian prayer centre were attacked on Jan. 12 by Buddhist mobs claiming they were illegal and aiming to take Buddhists away from their religion.

    The prayer centre, belonging to the Church of the Foursquare Gospel in Pitipana, near Colombo, was set alight on the same day as attacks on the Assemblies of God Church and Calvary Free Church in the southern coastal town of Hikkaduwa.

    The fire was quelled in Pitipana before the centre was completely destroyed. Release International reported that a note was left outside the building, threatening further violence. Both churches in Hikkaduwa suffered extensive damage, with windows and furniture smashed and Bibles burned.

    The Assemblies of God Church had been one of three churches attacked on Christmas Eve and had been warned on Jan. 11 of the threat of a new attack. Several policemen were stationed outside the church on Jan. 12, but they failed to prevent a mob of around 250 people breaking through the gates of the church, as captured by this video on Derana TV.

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  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22356306
    .Of all the moral precepts instilled in Buddhist monks the promise not to kill comes first, and the principle of non-violence is arguably more central to Buddhism than any other major religion. So why have monks been using hate speech against Muslims and joining mobs that have left dozens dead?

    March saw an outbreak of mob violence directed against Muslims in the town of Meiktila, in central Burma, which left at least 40 dead.

    On Tuesday, Buddhist mobs attacked mosques and burned more than 70 homes in Oakkan, north of Rangoon, after a Muslim girl on a bicycle collided with a monk. One person died and nine were injured.

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  • 13
    Stephen says:

    Nothing new; in the past, Buddhist monastries have fought each other and have fought pointless wars on behalf of local leaders. It is a reminder that Enlightenment values etc. produced something which, while not utterly unique, is pretty special. Pinker’s famous “Better Angels” is not a work of fiction! Human rights are a very, very good idea!

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  • 14
    Stephen says:

    However long Buddhism and Daoism have been the objects of study for Western scholars, my perception is that it is only recently that we have people able to explain them well. They are best understood as “methods” which are each centred around a philosophy of how to best approach the cultivation of the “spiritual” aspects of an individual. So the question isn’t “what are their beliefs, and are they rational?” but “what are their methods, and what do they claim that these methods can achieve?

    As an analogy: If I take you by the collar and lift you up with one hand, it would be rational to believe my claim that I have an effective method for training physical strength. If I run a marathon, it would be rational for you to believe my claim that I have an effective method for training endurance. As for the claims of Buddhists: with tools to measure brain activity, Buddhists and Daoists can show one of the effects of their training. Psychologists may confirm other effects. But for the vast majority of claims, there is currently no conceivable way of demonstrating the effectiveness of their methods; the results can only be internally observed.

    The Dalai Lama is typical of Buddhists and Daoists in not being particularly “evangelical” – although actually, I do think that many Daoists go too much for the “hard sell”. (Often these authors spent their youth training as martial artists, exercising for 10 hrs a day etc., and maybe it’s just part of the “no-nonsense” style martial artists tend to have.)

    Hard Sell, from Wikipedia: “In a hard sell, the advertisement or seller will focus heavily on the quality of the product and explain how purchasing such a product will be a rational decision that will help improve the buyer’s life.”

    A product may be good, but the consumer doesn’t need to buy it if they already have something which will basically do the job. Hence the Dalai Lama doesn’t say “everyone should meditate and study Buddhist moral teachings” he says,

    If you consider others as brothers and sisters and respect their
    rights, then there is no room for violence.

    He knows that there are many ways of arriving at that philosophy/state of mind, so it is logical for him to support secularism. He’s a modern man, he’s travelled the world, he’s a politician.

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  • 15
    Stephen says:

    In reply to : “Many believers think their god is going to do it for them, or that prayer will achieve part of the job.”

    Sticking with prayer: a potential, “material” benefit of prayer would be if someone was angry and hurt, but then prayed and became sorrowful, but calmer and better able to function and help those around them.

    Of course: if the prayer just encouraged them to vent their indignant anger and gave them a belief that anytime soon they will see God accomplish their request, then it will do harm – they will not solve problem of violence, their hard atitudes can make peace less likely.

    But Buddhists would say that “(a) sincerely and deeply wishing for peace and (b) directing a sincere request for peace to a Supreme Being” should achieve the positive tangible result – and something more: in some small but real way, a prayer may “put something good into the atmosphere”, something real but immaterial. But I think they would say, the greatest benefit of prayer is if it helps the person find a calmer and more compassionate way of being, which can have an effect on people.

    But all of this is can be generated without any spiritual practice. So Buddhists should not claim to be superior to anyone or try to make people feel inadequate as a means of selling their methods.

    “Atheists know we are going to have to take responsibility and do it ourselves.”

    I don’t live in a country where Atheist rights is one of the major issues so “Atheism” isn’t a category I use much. I think and talk about “humanism”. In today’s USA, and around the world, humanists (or simply “reasonable individuals”), atheist or not, have a lot to do to battle “stupidity defended by religious-based arguments”.

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  • 16
    Stephen says:

    [another PS to balance out one of my statements] :

    “stupidity defended by religious-based arguments” is rather a light statement in terms of the harm some religious movements can do to an individual.

    People can be drawn into extremely harmful and dysfunctional cult-like ways of thinking and living by certain brands of Christianity, by some New Age systems, and even by a not-well-understood version of Daoism or Buddhism. But I’d add that in the opening of “The Extended Phenotype”, Dawkins descibes meeting a woman who had feel condemned to misery by the philosophical notion of “Hard Determinism”, which she wrongly thought followed logically from the Neo-Darwinism.

    But either way, I wanted to say I can understand the deservedly strong criticism directed at some forms of religion, which have caused many people brought up with such beliefes much misery.

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  • 17
    Stephen says:

    I could write several essays further explaining things, but I’ll just add a bit more detail on “the results can only be internally observed” and how it relates to Daoism.

    The less-old, hybrid daoism which is better known in the West uses much visualization, opening it up to the charge, what people claim to experience is merely imagined. But the older tradition of Daoism doesn’t have visualisation, instead concentrating on relaxation of the physical body. After a certain amount of work, physical tension has quietened down and sensitivity/awareness has developed to a level where you can feel, for example, the famous 12 meridian pathways (without ever consulting a chart). At that stage, it is hard to claim that all is merely imagined. – Many Daoist practices require a lot of patience, some carry risks, but I think that as the quantity and average quality of teachers improves and their potential in combating stress becomes better known, intererest will grow. But for the meantime their low popularity and the fact that much of what they do can only be observed by the practioner will keep scientific interest in them low.

    Voila, Classical Daoism. Attack it, defend it, but first you need to know what it is, and I don’t think there is anything in the West to compare it to. Same goes for Buddhism.

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  • When I hear people saying “I’ll pray for you” it makes me cringe.

    It may have some value to them but as far as I’m concerned they might as well be saying ‘Fuck you mate your on your own’. It’s a lame and impotent notion from people with pretentions of caring but with no real empathy at all.

    If anyone provided us with proof that praying is useless it must have been all those jews that got gassed and cremated by the bods with ‘Got mit Uns’ on their uniforms. I bet there was some serious praying going on.

    Besides if events are all gods will and cosmic plan he’s not going to listen to some body trying to screw it up by asking him for favours.

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