The Art of Peace

The following article is from the Autumn, 2001 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

"One of the most wonderful aspects of this remarkable book is the interaction between the laureates..."—Today's Librarian

While many people who strive to bring the world into peaceful balance work in relative anonymity, only a few have received international recognition for their efforts. Nine of these outstanding individuals convened recently at the University of Virginia to discuss the topics of human rights, conflict, and reconciliation.

At the core of their agenda is the conviction that ethical concern for the welfare of others is essential for personal, political, social, and economic balance. The Laureates: Jose Ramos-Horta, Betty Williams, Dr. Rigoberta Menchu Turn, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, President Oscar Arias Sanchez, Ham Yawng-hwe, for Aung San Suu Kyi, Bobby Muller, Jody Williams, His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

"This is education at its best and highest...inspiring and uplifting."—Julian Bond

"Readers with an interest in world affairs and human freedom will enjoy this."—Library Journal

"The road to world peace will be long and difficult, but Hopkins helps lead the way with this landmark book."—Kirkus Reviews

The following is a presentation by the Dalai Lama excerpted from The Art of Peace.

"The Need for Compassion in Society: The Case of Tibet"

My English is very poor, and also my English is getting older, so it is difficult to express myself fully. I am extremely happy and privileged to participate in this gathering. I have learned some new things and also got some kind of feeling, more convincing, that if ordinary people see their objective clearly, then once determined, they can change things. That is a great inspiration. Also, I really admire some of these detailed presentations, like that of the former president of Costa Rica—wonderful, wonderful. All the presentations were very impressive.

Now, my own presentation: compassion in society and the case of Tibet. I believe that in human actions, the prime mover is motivation. On the spot, it is important to tackle the symptoms of problems, but in the long run, it is necessary to look at the motivation and whether there is a possibility to change it. For the long run, this is crucial. As long as the negative motivation is not changed, then although there might be certain rules and methods to stop counterproductive actions, human beings have the ability through various ways to express their negative feeling. Thus, for the long run, we need to look at our motivation and try to change it. This means that we must try to cultivate the right kind of motivation and try to reduce the negative motivation.

Basically, the concept of "I" is key. The things that surround you, all these ultimately are designated, so the designator, the self, is supreme. That's why, in many countries, one's own country is the center of the universe. Then, within the country, ultimately the person himself or herself is the center of the whole universe. Now, this self wants happiness and does not want suffering. Generally speaking, violence produces suffering; compassion or non-violence brings us happiness. Therefore, violence we consider to be negative, and non-violence we consider to be positive. Violent things like Hurricane Mitch in Central America are without any motivation, so we call them natural disasters. These we can't avoid. But in the other type of violence, which is created by humans ourselves, motivation is involved. Those kinds of violence can be changed—we can reduce them, and there is even a possibility to eliminate them. Therefore, we need to try to change our attitude, to cultivate the right kind of motivation.

Through what methods? I feel that prayer or religious belief is to some extent useful and can be helpful. But basically, simple awareness—knowledge of long-term and short-term consequences—brings great help. If we make clear to people the negative long-term consequences, eventually they can develop clear realization that these negative, violent activities are bad, because of inducing painful experience and unhappiness.


I believe that in human actions, the prime mover is motivation. On the spot, it is important to tackle the symptoms of problems, but in the long run, it is necessary to look at the motivation and whether there is at possibility to change it.

Again, what is violence and nonviolence? We can't make a clear demarcation between violence and non-violence on a superficial basis, since it is related with motivation. Out of sincere motivation, certain verbal actions, as well as physical actions, may look more wrathful, more violent, harsher, but in essence, because these activities come out of a sincere motivation of compassion, or a sense of caring, they are essentially non-violent. On the other hand, with negative motivation, trying to cheat, trying to exploit, trying to deceive, and using nice words—although with a big artificial smile and with a gift—might look like a friendly gesture, but because of the motivation, it is the worst kind of violence. So I feel that in certain cases violence can be said to be a manifestation or expression of compassion. Nevertheless, non-violence is the basic expression of compassion; therefore, the concepts of nonviolence and compassion are very, very close.

In order to promote non-violence and reduce violence, ultimately we have to address motivation through education, through awareness. Here, I want to share with you a few thoughts about the concept of war. In ancient times, when people remained separately, more or less independently, there was no need for other people's cooperation. You could survive, you could live, completely independently. Under those circumstances, the concept of war, destruction of your enemy, and the victory of your side were a real possibility. Today's world is no longer that kind of reality. Your survival, your success, your progress, are very much related with others' well being. Therefore, under these circumstances even your enemies—for whatever reason you categorize them as an enemy in the economic field and in some other fields—and you are still very much interdependent. In such a situation, destruction of your enemy is actually destruction of yourself. Judging from that viewpoint, the concept of "we" and "they" no longer applies. Thus the concept of war, destruction of the other side, is not relevant to today's situation. Therefore, I think it is very important to make it clear that the concept of war not only is a painful experience but also is self- destructive.

Non-violence and peace do not mean that we remain indifferent, passive. Problems and contradictions always remain. I believe that as long as human beings remain, as long as human intelligence is present, some kind of conflict, some kind of contradiction, always remains. If we look at contradictory or different ideas, they are not necessarily negative. Even if we consider our body, many elements co-exist. These elements oppose one another—they are contradictory. Forces that contradict one another are the basis of further development; things stay more balanced, and that is healthy. Therefore, as long as this smart human brain remains, some kind of contradiction is always there. Even within one single person—because of the power of imagination, the power of vision, you get different ideas: in the morning, something different, and in the evening, something different. There are big differences, contradictions. Sometimes these are so great that, if one lacks the ability to overcome them, even suicide sometimes can occur.

We need a method, a technique, to overcome these contradictions. That is compromise. In today's reality the only way to solve a problem is compromise. Since your interest is very much related with others' interests, you can't sacrifice others' interests. Therefore compromise, 50-50. Realistically speaking, there is no possibility of 100 percent victory for oneself. If possible, one's own side 60 percent, other side 40 percent! If possible, that's the best!

But while reality is much changed, our perception, our way of thinking, remains behind. We retain an attitude that is essentially outmoded—"my nation," "their nation," "my religion," "another's religion," and sometimes the beautiful name "patriotism" is used with too much narrow-minded nationalism, sometimes even making people mad.

Since the situation in which we live is much changed but the attitude of the people who are in that situation is at variance with the times, this is one of the causes of unnecessary pain, unnecessary problems. Therefore, education is needed to communicate that the concept of violence is counterproductive, that it is not a realistic way to solve problems, and that compromise is the only realistic way to solve problems. Right from the beginning, we have to make this reality clear to a child's mind—the new generation. In this way, the whole attitude towards oneself, towards the world, towards others, can become more healthy. I usually call this "inner disarmament." Without inner disarmament, it is very difficult to achieve genuine, lasting world peace.

So, it is extremely important to look inward and try to promote the right kind of attitude, which is based on awareness of reality. A sense of caring for others is crucial. And it is actually the best way of caring for oneself. Because human nature is social, in simple things we need human companions with a genuine human smile. That provides us comfort, satisfaction. As I mentioned yesterday, the moment you think of others, this automatically opens our inner door—you can communicate with other people easily, without any difficulties. The moment you think just of yourself and disregard others, then because of your own attitude, you also get the feeling that other people also have a similar attitude toward you. That brings suspicion, fear. Result? You yourself lose inner calmness. Therefore, I usually say that although a certain kind of selfishness is basically right—as I mentioned earlier, self and the happiness of that self are our original right, and we have every right to overcome suffering—but selfishness that leads to no hesitation to harm another, to exploit another, that kind of selfishness is blind. Therefore, I sometimes jokingly describe it this way: if we are going to be selfish, we should be wisely selfish rather than foolishly selfish.

I feel that the moment you adopt a sense of caring for others, that brings inner strength. Inner strength brings us inner tranquility, more self- confidence. Through these attitudes, even though your surroundings may not be friendly or may not be positive, still you can sustain peace of mind. That much, according to my own little experience, I can tell you.

Expecting tranquility or peace of mind through money or through power is wrong. The ultimate potential to create peace of mind, a happy person, a successful and happy future, depends to a large extent on inner qualities. Of course, external facilities, such as money, are useful, we need them, but they are not the ultimate source or condition of inner peace.

Through inner disarmament we can develop a healthy mental attitude, which also is very beneficial for physical health. With peace of mind,, a calm mind, your body elements become more balanced. Constant worry, constant fear, agitation of mind, are very bad for health. Therefore, peace of mind not only brings tranquility in our mind but also has good effects on our body.

With inner disarmament, now we need external disarmament. As I mentioned earlier, according to today's reality, there no longer is room for war, for destruction. From a compassionate viewpoint, destruction, killing others, and discriminating even against one's enemy are counterproductive. Today's enemy, if you treat them well, may become a good friend even the next day.

Also, bigger issues like overpopulation, environmental problems, and so forth are now beyond national boundaries. These are not questions of my nation's survival but of the survival of humanity. These bigger issues are our common responsibility to tackle. Compared to these problems, small, small things within ourselves are minor. Once all the bigger issues are solved, then there will be time to discuss—even, if necessary, to quarrel—among ourselves concerning these small, small things.

External disarmament is very, very important. Already, there is some movement. My dream is that one day the whole world will be demilitarized, but we cannot achieve this overnight. Also, we cannot achieve it without a proper, systematic plan; however, it is important to make the target clear. Even though it may take one hundred years, or fifty years, that doesn't matter. Establish a clear idea or clear target; then try to achieve it step by step. As a first step, we have already started with the elimination of antipersonnel mines and biological weapons. Also, we are already reducing nuclear weapons; eventually, there should be a total ban on nuclear weapons. This is now foreseeable; the idea of its possibility is approaching. These are great, hopeful signs.

Thus inner disarmament and external disarmament are needed. Then, as I mentioned earlier, problems always remain, we need some kind of humanistic way to solve problems: compromise. Sometimes I say that the twentieth century, which is my generation's century, more or less has been the century of bloodshed. Although a lot of achievements have taken place, in certain respects this period remains a century of bloodshed or a century of violence. But we humans—through difficult, painful experience—are, generally speaking, becoming more mature such that now we are talking about peace, about non-violence. These are becoming political forces, or political ideas. This is a very good sign.

The twenty-first century should be a century of dialogue. We, the present generation, have to picture the goal clearly and make preparation for a happier, friendly, and peaceful next century so that when my generation is ready to say good-bye, we can hand over a more hopeful world to the next fresh, broad-minded generation; then they will look after themselves. This is my feeling. Judging from various developments, it seems that in spite of some unhappy or painful conflicts here and there, the situation, in general, is getting better and better due to more awareness. Also, human thinking is becoming more open.

As a conclusion: it is very, very important to remain with hope and determination. If we lose hope and remain with pessimism, that is the greatest failure. In spite of difficulties, ah! remain with optimism—ah! these things change, can be overcome. Determination and hope are key factors for a brighter future. That much I wanted to share with you. If you agree, then try to think more on these topics, investigate them, and eventually implement them. If you feel these are too idealistic, not practical, then forget them! No problem.

Thank you.


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