When we wake up and open our social media feeds, we are confronted daily with the same sad news: violence, crime, wars and disasters. No previous generation has had to continually experience so much bad news.
This constant barrage of fear and tension will make almost anyone question the progress of our modern world.
You may be surprised to read that the Dalai Lama shares this perspective:
“I cannot recall a single day without a report of something terrible happening somewhere. Even in these modern times it is clear that one’s precious life is not safe.”
The Dalai Lama wrote this in an essay for his website, where he reveals what he views as the greatest threat facing humankind. It’s a long essay, so we’ve summarized the key points as there’s such an important point to be made that needs to be shared.
Unfortunately, the threat is all too real and something we need to address quickly.
Before we reveal the key threat, it’s important to first understand the Dalai Lama’s views on science and technology.
Science and technology have worked wonders, but basic human problems remain
The Dalai Lama says:
“It is ironic that the more serious problems emanate from the more industrially advanced societies. Science and technology have worked wonders in many fields, but the basic human problems remain. There is unprecedented literacy, yet this universal education does not seem to have fostered goodness, but only mental restlessness and discontent instead. There is no doubt about the increase in our material progress and technology, but somehow this is not sufficient as we have not yet succeeded in bringing about peace and happiness or in overcoming suffering.”
It’s interesting to see the Dalai Lama saying that while science and technology have created so much progress in the world, they have not resulted in a universal education system that brings peace and helps us to overcome suffering.
The reason this is important is that we can’t rely on our human ingenuity alone. We need to create a shift in how we relate to each other, so that science and technology can serve humans in improving the world.
As he says:
“We can only conclude that there must be something seriously wrong with our progress and development, and if we do not check it in time there could be disastrous consequences for the future of humanity. I am not at all against science and technology – they have contributed immensely to the overall experience of humankind; to our material comfort and well-being and to our greater understanding of the world we live in. But if we give too much emphasis to science and technology we are in danger of losing touch with those aspects of human knowledge and understanding that aspire towards honesty and altruism.”
The key point is this:
“Science and technology, though capable of creating immeasurable material comfort, cannot replace the age-old spiritual and humanitarian values that have largely shaped world civilization, in all its national forms, as we know it today. No one can deny the unprecedented material benefit of science and technology, but our basic human problems remain; we are still faced with the same, if not more, suffering, fear, and tension. Thus it is only logical to try to strike a balance between material developments on the one hand and the development of spiritual, human values on the other. In order to bring about this great adjustment, we need to revive our humanitarian values.”
The single greatest threat facing humankind
Human beings are amazing and profound for the progress we have made in science and technology. But this may also be our downfall, which is why the Dalai Lama is placing emphasis on its limitations.
The greatest challenge we face is a result of science, and we need to transform how we relate to each other in order to deal with it.
As the Dalai Lama says:
“By far the greatest single danger facing humankind – in fact, all living beings on our planet – is the threat of nuclear destruction. I need not elaborate on this danger, but I would like to appeal to all the leaders of the nuclear powers who literally hold the future of the world in their hands, to the scientists and technicians who continue to create these awesome weapons of destruction, and to all the people at large who are in a position to influence their leaders: I appeal to them to exercise their sanity and begin to work at dismantling and destroying all nuclear weapons. We know that in the event of a nuclear war there will be no victors because there will be no survivors! Is it not frightening just to contemplate such inhuman and heartless destruction? And, is it not logical that we should remove the cause for our own destruction when we know the cause and have both the time and the means to do so? Often we cannot overcome our problems because we either do not know the cause or, if we understand it, do not have the means to remove it. This is not the case with the nuclear threat.”
We have the knowledge and understanding to address this problem
Here’s the key passage from above that we want to highlight:
“Often we cannot overcome our problems because we either do not know the cause or, if we understand it, do not have the means to remove it. This is not the case with the nuclear threat.”
Our political leaders won’t take the decision to remove nuclear weapons. These calamitous bombs are an instrument of state power and leaders will always try to increase the power they have and what they can wield.
We saw this with Barack Obama, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his statements of intent for removing nuclear weapons from the world but did little to achieve this.
Instead, the movement for change needs to come from us, the people.
This is why the Dalai Lama is focusing on universal education around the world, rather than science and technology alone. He is emphasizing the importance of creating a shift in global culture where there is more peace, compassion and understanding between people of difference.
As the Dalai Lama says:
“Every being wants happiness and does not want suffering. If we, as intelligent human beings, do not accept this fact, there will be more and more suffering on this planet. If we adopt a self-centred approach to life and constantly try to use others for our own self-interest, we may gain temporary benefits, but in the long run we will not succeed in achieving even personal happiness, and world peace will be completely out of the question.”