Friday, December 11, 2009

Dalai Lama Closes Parliament with a Call to Action

The Dalai Lama, who has a kind of rock star status at this event, closed the 2009 Parliament of the World's Religions on December 9 in Melbourne. The aging spiritual leader was playful and self-deprecating at first, then became extraordinarily serious in his remarks. He called on the leaders of the world's diverse faiths to act together to address the pressing problems of war and climate change. He said we must not just gather together but also act together; otherwise people will say we just went home and went to sleep.

The spiritual leader urged the participants to develop a common ethic of compassion and mutual respect. Peace of mind cannot be purchased in a store; it must be developed within. We need to pursue a sense of peace within our own traditions, then move out into the world to spread that peace. Meeting together to share our experiences is a crucial part of this process. No one group can do this work alone.

The Dalai Lama made a particular point of saying that our shared community of compassion must include people who are not religious. He noted that China is not a religious country but must be drawn into the shared community of compassion. His call to compassion resonated powerfully with the Charter for Compassion proposal of Karen Armstrong and the Global Ethic work of Hans Küng.

The words of the Dalai Lama strongly reinforced the core message of the Parliament, which was that while our beliefs and traditions are delightfully different, our problems are shared in common, and the core teachings of our traditions are strikingly similar. We need to work with that core of shared values to bring a compassionate response to the pressing problems that threaten our ability to survive on this planet. This may sound like a simple message, but it is a striking turnaround from the all-too-common antagonism of the world's religions.

Amid much inspiring pageantry, the 2009 Parliament came to an end. All of the participants I talked to said that they had been profoundly moved and were ready to go home and find ways to make a difference.


  1. Thank you, Michael, for these updates from the Parliament of World Religions. More than being interesting, they are messages that bring me hope and inspiration. Thank you.

  2. next time you plan to see the dalai lama, let me ride in your suitcase please. :)

  3. that was from jen mcdaniel, btw (aka crazy mama)

  4. Jen,
    The Dalai Lama is a wonderfully simple yet powerful person. I must say that it is more and more apparent that he is aging and that he will not last forever at least in the usual sense. The world will change significantly when he dies and that is a concern to many folks. But for now he is truly a spiritual leader for the whole planet. We need such leaders.
    As far as the suitcase idea is concerned, I'll leave it up to you. I hope it's somewhere close than Australia. That's a long trip even with a seat on the plane.