Violence in name of moral principle 'very sad,' he says
Love, compassion, forgiveness, absolutely.
But if anyone tells you they've found inner peace, ask for their secret.
The Dalai Lama himself was the main event Wednesday as a star-studded, boysonly cast of theologians and holy men gathered at the Palais des congrès to ponder the state of the world's religions 10 years after the attacks that rocked our world on Sept. 11, 2001. The only woman on the bill, Nobel Prize Peace Prizewinner Shirin Ebadi, had to bow out at the last minute.
In media-friendly phrases, they stressed the ways believers of all faiths are more alike than they are different. They also proclaimed the wrongness of post 9/11 campaigns that tarred all Muslims for the actions of Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda bombers.
"Anyone coming to say 'I can kill you in the name of my religion' is not following their religion," said Tariq Ramadan, a professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford University. He said people must have the courage to stand up to brethren who invoke God's name in their unholy battles.
"If you criticize Islam due to the acts of a few mischievous people, you will need to criticize Christianity or Judaism, too," said the Dalai Lama, his English not quite up to knowing that the word mischief doesn't cut it when you kill 3,000 people.
"If we use religion for division and more solitude, that's wrong and destructive. But it's the person who uses it who makes it wrong, not the religion. You don't have to be religious to be a good person. But if you have faith, you must be serious about it. You can't cheat God."
But the panellists also warned that the faithful and non-believers alike have a long way to go to heal old wounds and learn to coexist.
"We will not achieve understanding through prayers to God or Buddha," the Dalai Lama said. "We have to make an effort to talk to each other."
"Religion does motivate people to life and death level," said Robert Thurman, a professor of Buddhist studies at Columbia University. "Dialogue has to go on within every religion and between believers and non-believers."
"Our world today is telling us to stop dreaming," Ramadan said. "If we are serious about peace, we have to speak about justice, corruption, poverty."
Thurman had scathing words for the Tea Party movement in the United States, accusing its followers of using "fake populism" to distract Americans from real issues, "the inequality of wealth and the domination of U.S. politics by the wealthy."
"Corruption is some new kind of disease on the planet," the Dalai Lama said.
Ramadan said peace is elusive, an "ideal, a goal" we must strive for, as individuals and communities. "Even people who are in love are not at peace, because there is tension," he said. "But if we want to talk about peace, we have to be willing to talk about violence."
"Violence in the name of moral principle is very sad," the Dalai Lama said, like a "medicine that is supposed to cure you but only makes you sicker."
The 76-year-old Buddhist monk said religious traditions share the same common values - love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance and self-discipline. And people everywhere stumble on the same emotional obstacles - fear, anger, jealousy, suspicion and hatred. "We need to find ways to minimize these destructive emotions."
"Love without action is meaningless," said Deepak Chopra, the author of numerous bestselling books on spirituality and self-fulfillment. Chopra and Catholic theologian Gregory Baum expressed concern for the absence of women's voices from the debate, and the highest reaches of religious life.
"Fifty per cent of the population has little to say," Chopra said, citing causes dating back through human evolution, when men were the hunters. "We can't feel militant about it. We're made to be predatory."
Ramadan challenged members of the media to show greater leadership in explaining and tackling complex issues. "Are you just covering catastrophes?" he asked. "We are living in the same world."
Learn to coexist, Dalai Lama urges (external - login to view)