Are results more important than ethics

Dalai Lama: The Dalai Lama's appeal to the world

Dalai Lama: The Dalai Lama's appeal to the world. Benevento (Wals near Salzburg) 2015. 3rd edition. 56 pages. ISBN 978-3-7109-0000-6. 4.99 EUR.

With Franz Alt "Ethics is more important than religion".
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Background, topic and structure

On July 6, 2015, the Dalai Lama 80 years old, and on this occasion this little book appeared in all world languages ​​at the same time. It contains the 15-page appeal of the Dalai Lama for a secular ethic and peace and a 46-page interview with the journalist Franz Alt with the Dalai Lama to this appeal.

It closes with information on the history and dates of the Dalai Lama and with information about the author Franz Alt.

To roll call

Because religions are often misused to enforce economic and political interests, a new ethic beyond all religions is required. The begins with this statement Dalai Lama his appeal and continues: “More essential than religion is our elementary human spirituality. That is a tendency for love, kindness and affection that is inherent in us humans - regardless of which religion we belong ”(p.9). He compares the difference between ethics and religion to the difference between water and tea: tea may be tastier than water; the main component of tea is water: "We can live without tea, but not without water" (p. 10). The idea of ​​the Dalai Lama of ethics does not refer to a set of ideas of values ​​and norms, but to “new states of mind” of kindness, compassion and care that can be achieved through regular practice: “I practice this four hours a day. Meditation is more important than ritualized prayer ”(p. 11).

For him, the new states of mind also include non-violence, the “intelligent love of enemies”: “Through intensive meditation we will find that enemies can become our best friends” (p. 12). It's okay Dalai Lama to a deeper level of thinking, which he calls mindfulness: "Through meditation and reflection we can learn, for example, that patience is the most important antidote to anger, satisfaction works against greed, courage against fear, understanding against doubt" (p. 12 ). Politically he demands sincere dialogue and disarmament: "Disarmament is compassion practiced" (p.14). Despite all the suffering inflicted on Tibetans, he believes “that most human conflicts can be resolved through sincere dialogue. This strategy of nonviolence and reverence for life is Tibet's gift to the world ”(p. 14).

To the interview

The interview from Franz Alt with the Dalai Lama picks up the thoughts of the appeal. It becomes clear that the Dalai Lama writes his appeal not against religions in general, but with a view to the abuse of religions and the growing number of non-religious people: "Of course all religions can make an important contribution to the secular ethos he strives for" (p. 16). It refers to its imprint through secular India, where all faiths “cultivate the old Indian principle of nonviolence, Ahimsa, with which Gandhi was also so successful” (p. 18).

The Dalai Lama sees humanity as a single family and says we need to learn "that this includes atheists and the increasing number of agnostics" (p. 20). A lot of research still needs to be done for the secular ethics to be developed, especially in modern brain research. Therefore, Western researchers are conducting neuroscientific studies with Tibetans to examine the biological effects of meditative practice. The result is that meditation is good for health, satisfaction and well-being (p. 26 f). Training the mind and developing the heart can lead to the experience of happiness: "Ethics is the science of happiness [...] We can learn that happiness is the result of inner maturation" (p. 36).

Politically, the Dalai Lama on the disaster that the von George W. Bush Iraq war started in 2003 and he calls for consistent disarmament (p. 38). With a view to Tibet, he sees signs of hope in “that many Chinese support our political cause” (p. 40). At the same time he sees that a lot of patience is required: “True patience requires great inner strength. There are three aspects of patience: patience with those who cause us suffering, accepting suffering, and accepting reality. This patience leads to a process of change and development ”(p. 41).


The little book exposes the strengths and limits of the message of the Dalai Lama clearly: The Dalai Lama convinces in his personally lived humorous and deeply patient, respectful nonviolent attitude. His statements about the political consequences, however, remain vague: It is not enough to rely on disarmament and patience alone. The necessary nonviolent resistance, as advocated by Gandhi, to which he expressly refers, should be spelled out in a more differentiated manner.

The position of the remains ambivalent Dalai Lama Regarding religions: On the one hand, he sees them as resources for ethical behavior, on the other hand, he criticizes their abuse for political and economic interests. The book title "Ethics Is More Important Than Religion" can be misleading. In the West, “ethics” is understood to be more of a mental structure of values, attitudes and attitudes, while the Dalai Lama with the concept of ethics, a practical exercise of attitudes and attitudes connects as well as regular daily meditation with the goal of a non-violent attitude towards people, animals and all of creation. The concept of transreligious mindfulness and spirituality conveys the concern of the Dalai Lama probably more accurate than that of ethics.

The interview with Franz Alt could have discussed and clarified these ambiguities and ambivalences, but unfortunately it hardly goes over (sometimes annoying verbatim) repetitions of what the appeal of the Dalai Lama says out. Not only is there a lack of explanation and reflection of what the Dalai Lama by the term "ethics" means. It is also unfortunate that the aspect of practicing mindfulness and persistent, patient meditation that is the really central message of the Dalai Lama to the world is not discussed further in the interview.


Despite the criticism mentioned, it is worth reading the appeal of the Dalai Lama, which contains an important message for the world with the call to a lived ethic of mindfulness and spirituality practiced daily through meditation and reflection. The interview contains little further explanation; only the situation in Tibet is dealt with in more detail.

Review by
Prof. Dr. Josef Freise
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Suggested citation
Josef Freise. Review from 02.01.2016 on: Dalai Lama: The appeal of the Dalai Lama to the world. Benevento (Wals near Salzburg) 2015. 3rd edition. ISBN 978-3-7109-0000-6. In: socialnet reviews, ISSN 2190-9245,, date of access May 21, 2021.

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