September 13, 2012 - This past Monday, people who have the Dalai Lama as a Facebook friend found this little gem in their newsfeed:
"All the world's major religions, with their emphasis on love, compassion, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness can and do promote inner values. But the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I am increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether."
The Dalai Lama's advice sounds startling familiar — one that echos the sentiment put forth by outspoken atheist Sam Harris who argues that science can answer moral questions. The Dalai Lama is no stranger to scientific discourse, and has developed a great fascination with neuroscience in particular. It's very possible, therefore, that his thinking has aligned with Harris.
It's important to remember that Tibetan Buddhists, while rejecting belief in God and the soul, still cling to various metaphysical beliefs, including karma, infinite rebirths, and reincarnation. But interestingly, the Dalai Lama once had this to say on the subject:
"My confidence in venturing into science lies in my basic belief that as in science so in Buddhism, understanding the nature of reality is pursued by means of critical investigation: if scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims."
Other Buddhists, however, such as Stephen Batchelor, argue that Buddhism should be stripped of all its metaphysical baggage and simplified down to its basic philosophical and existential tenets — a suggestion that has given rise to secular Buddhism.