Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World

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Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole WorldBeyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World (audio) by Dalai Lama XIV
Published: 2011
Narrator: Martin Sheen

I really like the Dalai Lama. I never thought I would, to be honest, but the more I read from him the more I see he’s someone with a real grounding in reality and science. I suppose my vision of him has been skewed somewhat by middle-class, new-agey white folk selling cancer-healing crystals at $60 a pop, but there’s definitely sincerity and real intelligence behind his advice.

[…] as the peoples of the world become ever more closely interconnected in an age of globalization and in multicultural societies, ethics based in any one religion would only appeal to some of us; it would not be meaningful for all. In the past, when peoples lived in relative isolation from one another — as we Tibetans lived quite happily for many centuries behind our wall of mountains — the fact that groups pursued their own religiously based approaches to ethics posed no difficulties. Today, however, any religion-based answer to the problem of our neglect of inner values can never be universal, and so will be inadequate. What we need today is an approach to ethics which makes no recourse to religion and can be equally acceptable to those with faith and those without: a secular ethics.

Beyond Religion is about viewing ethics from a secular understanding, that religion, while helpful to many, is not necessary for living a compassionate and moral life. It covers his view on approaching ethics through an understanding of everyone’s shared humanity, our shared aspiration to happiness and avoidance of suffering, which I know sounds like a wishy-washy load of nonsense, but he manages to articulate it in a way that’s both interesting and a bit inspiring.

He finishes with introducing the basics of meditation and mindfulness. I always thought of meditation as purely a device for relaxation, and never really gave it much consideration beyond that. He presents it more as taking a time-out during the day to focus on cultivating your inner values and ridding yourself of destructive emotions, and I do like the idea of that.

Oh god, I’m starting to sound like such a dirty hippie.

One of the key points I took away from The Art of Happiness was the idea that your emotions aren’t the result of someone else’s actions, but a result of how you choose to react to those actions. No one can make you angry; you choose to react with anger, and when you do so, you’re essentially making the choice to feel shitty. When coupled with making a conscious effort to understand the motivations of others and finding a way to relate, the thought actually does help calm me down, so I could certainly see how putting aside time each day to concentrate on reminding oneself to let go of emotionally debilitating thoughts could be very beneficial.

I listened to the Audible recording for this, in which Martin Sheen was the narrator. He did a great job. He has that gentle, wise old man voice that fits quite well here.

3 thoughts on “Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World

  1. George

    “Oh god, I’m starting to sound like such a dirty hippie.” C’mon, being a hippie is not about being dirty, but about your values. Hippie values are rational, ethical, and at least as much needed in today’s world as in the sixties. Buddhism had an appeal to hippies because Western religious traditions had become stale and dogmatic, not because they couldn’t provide answers.

  2. Rob Post author

    Okay, it was a cheap joke. I apologize. If anything my values lean much further towards hippies than towards…the man? Yuppies? Whatever the opposite would be.

  3. George

    Good answer! As I’m paying more attention, in connection with working on my site Thank A Hippie, I’m discovering that in many people’s vocabulary “hippie” is now a dirty word, literally and figuratively. This does an injustice to millions of people who earnestly believed in peace, love, caring for the environment, and community. Many are now respected community members who have (often quietly and “invisibly”) incorporated hippie values into their lives and careers in various ways, positively influencing new generations. Words matter. Changing this pejorative use is as important to me as eliminating the use of the “N” word (see, now white people can’t even write it out, let alone say it), “that’s so gay,” “faggot,” and various ethnic and racial slurs; and switching to gender-neutral pronouns instead of always using “he” and “his.”


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