I was fortunate enough to attend the Dali Lama's Visit 2013 last Tuesday. It is an honor to be present when someone so enlightened chooses to speak. He is a delightful, funny and wise elder who is focusing on Secular Ethics right now. So remember, Buddhism is strictly not a religion but rather a way of life that promotes a lack of attachment and proposes compassion to end the suffering that is now part of the human experience.
He was joined by a panel of scientists from around the country who are mammal researchers and educators. The studies they presented were fascinating and spoke eloquently to the subject of secular ethics. I was mesmerized by the material about primates that shows conclusively that these animals have great compassion. I was similarly entranced by the studies about human infants who clearly are more engaged by goodness, kindness and helpfulness as expressed in well thought- out experiments that were simple to understand.
The point is: mammals do "go to the light". And I think that we, as parents, grandparents, family members and friends, teachers and mentors must recognize this phenomenon and support it unconditionally. Loss of innocence is really just the loss of innate knowledge and behaviors that little human animals are taught to eliminate from their experiences. Our world is complicated and often cruel. Grown-ups are responsible for re-learning and teaching kindness, compassion and presence that is lost and must be found again.
The message is so simple. Meditation, yoga and ethics training is important to teach from the earliest years by parents andteachers and reinforced by the entire community for the well-being of the human animal. We are born with the skills we need to make the world a kinder, safer place. Intolerance, fear, threatening behaviors and just plain meanness are learned behaviors. It is those behaviors that set us apart from the secular ethics of the mammalian world.
The twenty-first century could be the end of so much suffering and pain, destruction and death, perhaps even annihilation if we just allow infants and small children to do what comes naturally and not learn from us what negates what all the other animals innately know and live. Treat others as you would expect to be treated. Be conscious of the moment that you are in. Show compassion to end suffering. Attachment is illusory. We come into the world the same way we go out. Alone and without. What we do with the rest is what could truly make us human beings.