THE DALAI LAMA AND CATHOLIC TEACHINGS, by Michael J. Henry
I enjoy reading. Lately the topics I have chosen for my reading pleasure are random and largely decided by the books I find at the local Free Libraries in my neighbourhood. Recently, I happened upon a copy of “Ancient Wisdom, Modern World – Ethics for a New Millennium” by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I could not help but think before I read it, what wisdom could a non-Catholic provide me, a Catholic lawyer.
As a Catholic, we look to the Bishops, in communion with the Pope, who are the teaching authority of the Church. They provide guidance on matters of Faith as passed down through the centuries in the Traditions of the Church. The Dalai Lama cannot be considered a source of Catechism, nor does he claim to be one. However, the Dalai Lama does offer great wisdom and insight through his powerful living example of the human virtues that he promotes.
In today’s fast-paced world, finding peace and harmony between one’s spiritual beliefs and professional life can be challenging. Catholic lawyers, seeking guidance on merging their legal practice with their faith, sometimes look beyond their faith to teachings of others, such as the Dalai Lama, for assistance. While a Catholic should remember that one’s source for teaching is the Church, the Dalai Lama can offer some valuable insights.
The Dalai Lama teaches compassion as a foundational principle in his philosophy. He is the temporal and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. He is not the leader of Buddhism. According to Tibetan Buddhist tradition, he is presently the successor of the line of teachers that have held this title since 1391, each believing to be the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama. The present Dalai Lama is the 14th person to hold this title.
He was born in 1935, and shortly after the death of his predecessor, he was recognized in 1937 as the next Dalai Lama. Since 1959, after China annexed Tibet, he has lived in exile in India. The Dalai Lama has achieved worldwide acclaim for his non-violent approach to Tibet’s struggle for liberation from China. He has won the Nobel Prize for this endeavour.
The Dalai Lama believes that there are universal principles that transcend mortal beings. These truths have stood for generations and, when practiced, give individuals the tools to live happy, fulfilled and meaningful lives. Ethics follow universal principles rather than religious beliefs. One is to practice compassion and refrain from causing pain. While suffering is something to avoid, it is inevitable and also necessary, as it awakens empathy and connects one to others. It forms a basis for true love.
Both Catholicism and the Dalai Lama’s teachings emphasize the importance of justice and integrity. Respect for others and for their rights and dignity are paramount. Conducting oneself with restraint and a sense of responsibility to others also leads to fulfillment. Cultivating a positive mindset, developing your self-worth despite all going on around you, can lead to happiness. You don’t need possessions or titles. Humbleness and simplicity of life lead to tranquility. These virtues are not the antithesis of being a successful lawyer. In fact, by embracing these values, Catholic lawyers can find harmony between their religious beliefs and their professional endeavours, and obtain fulfillment in the profession and happiness in their daily lives.