‘Everything is not based on faith but also on analysis and reason. We have to listen to scientists’

by Asif Ali
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Decisions made by politicians today, with reference to climate change and energy, will affect youth in 10-15 years’ time. Should youngsters be part of the policy making process to secure their future? 

It is important that the younger generation does not follow the present (adult) generation and their way of thinking. The youth need to remember that they are part of a community of seven billion people on the planet; what matters is oneness. I feel that the education we are giving to our children today is not adequate. India needs to include ancient Indian wisdom while teaching modern systems. The person who embraced both systems was Gandhiji – he followed ancient Indian traditions like ahimsa as well as modern thought. We need to give serious thought to including secular concepts like ahimsa, non-violence, and karuna, compassion, in the education system. This way, the younger generation will get more material to think about and enrich their minds and gain wisdom, instead of blindly following textbooks.

Should young people help form policy?

Now this is difficult for me to say but I do want to share my own commitment and thinking: First, as a human being, I am one of seven billion human beings, so I need to think of entire humanity. Second, I am a Buddhist monk, so when I see violence of any kind I feel it is very unfortunate. There are different kinds of philosophical thinking; some say there is a god; others say there is no god but all religions and faiths carry the message of love, forgiveness and tolerance. In India, almost all major world religious traditions live together generally harmoniously with mutual respect, not only in modern India but also 1,000 years ago. So my commitment is promotion of this harmony.

My main concern is preservation of ecology and preservation of Tibetan knowledge, which is essentially the Nalanda tradition that emphasises analysis, logic and reason, and we have kept that tradition for over 1,000 years.

In the past few decades I have had serious discussions with modern scientists because our thinking is not fixed but is based on investigation. In the Nalanda tradition, teachers investigated the brain, particles and subatomic particles, the mind and gave detailed explanations. You see, everything is not based on faith but also on analysis and reason.

The Buddha himself said to followers, do not listen to or follow my teaching out of faith, but after thorough investigation and experiment. So that’s my commitment. All this knowledge comes from India so usually I joke that how traditionally you Indians are our guru and Tibetans are chela. But now chela knows more than guru! India has the opportunity to combine modern knowledge and ancient Indian knowledge about mind. India can make significant contribution to world peace through inner peace.

Whatever awareness you have of environmental issues today is through scientists and not through meditation. Would you advise us to listen more to scientists?

Meditation and prayer are not enough. We have to listen to scientists and take correct action as recommended by them. Spiritual gurus should advise their followers to have faith not only in god and religion but also in what scientists have to say. Some religions like Christianity, Islam and Judaism that believe in one god say just faith in god is sufficient. Buddhist Nalanda tradition right from beginning emphasises investigation. Indian tradition has non-theistic religions. Buddha was not a creator, he was a teacher. It is all about learning through sharing. Yes, you can meditate; it helps you remain calm. Buddhism and Jainism have no creator.

The Buddha himself, soon after his enlightenment, gave his first dharma teaching in Sarnath, then, in Rajgir he taught more complicated topics. Third teaching, because the second one was complicated, he made it simpler. This shows his own way of following a different variety of philosophy to be taught according to (receptivity of) people. This is the Nalanda tradition – have different views, different philosophies, discuss and debate. The Ultimate Truth is most probably One – but till then, several truths are there.

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