Global Ethics and Good Governance
Dr. Abdurrahman Wahid
I think good governance should be based on global ethics. And the global ethics will be based on several items concerning the values believed to be in people’s interest. So, in this respect we, as Muslims, should go by what’s given by the Islamic canonical law. It said that the policies and actions taken by a leader on behalf of the people he or she leads should be related directly to the interests of the people under him or her. It is clear that, in Islam, the public interest, the interest of mankind or person-kind is paramount.
But I note with sadness that Muslims sometimes or often times forget what is said by the holy book, the Koran, namely “There should be a group among you that brings goodness to people and upholds righteousness.” I think it is bringing goodness, which is very important. This belief totally negates what we call the central interest acting on behalf of the public interest in general.
I think that if Global Ethics are based on this precept, that of the interests of the people, then the interests of the rulers will be second in line. In a sense then, global ethics as I see it, should be based on that, on that proposition to do goodness. Goodness can come in very, very different varieties. According to the law books of the past, taking dangerous things from the streets or the roads, in order that the passers by will not step on it, or public health and so forth are all examples. So the important thing is to base our deeds and our actions on the belief that they will be beneficial for people. I think in this interest then, the global ethics will be a lively one and based on that, good governance will come.
In this aspect, I think of Islam as a religion of the law. The most important thing is to uphold the sovereignty of the law. Despite the fact that the prophet always gave injunctions to follow the letter of the law, sovereignty of the law is something alien in the Islamic world, and we have to establish that from now on. The laws themselves should be accompanied by equal treatment of all citizens, regardless of their origins, of cultural, language or ethical differences, so that the differences between the Muslims and others shall be bridged by those considerations of the plurality of human beings.
I think that, in the name of Islam, we can search for points derived from those fields; and based on that, the Muslims will be able to establish Global Ethics. And from that we can develop Good Governance based on viable values and injunctions. Then we will be blessed by Islam; otherwise, no blessing. Thank you very much.
We Buddhists, whenever we do something meritorious, we say ‘merit making’, we have a benediction, not a prayer, but a wish, and the wish goes like this: “May the rain fall in season so that the crops develop. May the people be prosperous, and may the ruler, the Raja, be righteous.” Long years ago the word Raja meant a king, but today, when we say Raja, we mean everybody right up to the last person, down the administrative line, who has something to do with governance of a country, governance of a district, village or whatever organization. The ruler must be righteous.
The Buddha was himself the son of a ruler. He left his household life at the age of 29, and accordingly he had some idea of how a republic was run, because his father was a leader of a republican regime, where the people made decisions in common. And this is what Buddhism reflects on very often whenever the question of governance comes in.
There are ten qualities of a ruler listed in many Buddhist works. The first quality is giving. A ruler had to be generous and giving. So he had to establish various charities, because this was in an age where the ruler had all in his hands to give to others.
The second quality is morality. The ruler had himself to be virtuous and observe the basic principles. We have a resolution or a suggestion that was passed at the Cape Town Parliament of World Religions where the Global Ethics were described as having four elements, namely avoiding killing, steeling, lying and sexual impropriety. If you added to those four one more, namely that of not abusing liquor and drugs, that would be the basic principals of good values and morality as taught by the Buddha. And a king was supposed to be a paradigm of such good qualities.
The third quality is generosity. A king also had to be one who sacrifices, the one who is so liberal as to give his time and energy to the people so that he is not someone who is selfish.
The fourth quality is honesty.
A very important quality that is always emphasized in Buddhism, is “do not be rough,” whether in words or whether in action, because words can be as violent as action. And so gentleness is the fifth quality.
The sixth quality is self-control. The ruler should not be somebody who is taken away by anger or by any kind of emotion, but can control himself.
The seventh quality is to have a pleasant temperament, and in fact it is called non-anger. The king is not supposed to loose his temper at the shortest notice.
The eight is non-violence, Ahimsa, to which reference has been made already yesterday.
The ninth is forgiveness or forbearance. It was emphasized that a king has to be magnanimous. And the tenth was a very interesting one. It was non-opposition. Don’t be confrontational, be accommodating.
So, this is the ideal of a ruler in whatever capacity, and that is therefore the ideal of good governance in the Buddhist ethical system. Furthermore, a king was also advised to avoid three things. First, avoid falsehood. Don’t lie to your people. That is very important. Second, avoid getting angry; and third, avoid derisive laughter, do not laugh derisively. A king may never make use of irony or sarcasm.
Perhaps these are qualities that the Buddha found absolutely necessary to keep the nation happy or any part of the nation happy. But on one occasion, the Buddha went into great detail and gave a seven-point program for good governance. To me, these seven points are very important, because they color everything. What I try to do every time I have an opportunity to talk about the concept of government, was to give those in Buddha’s own words and also interpret them as they would be applicable to this century and in different parts of the world. Very interestingly, this seven-step program for good government, which the Buddha calls “the program for development”, is worded in the negative as “a program to avoid deterioration”.
The first is to meet frequently in harmony, to discuss in harmony and disperse in harmony. In today’s terms it simply means to participate fully in public life and affairs, to observe the democratic principals of consultation, and to preserve harmony in spite of differences.
The second is not to introduce revolutionary laws. Do not break the established law, and abide by the old time norm. And what that means in today’s terms is to make a balance between the traditional and the modern, to make changes slowly and cautiously, not drastically.
The third is to honor, revere, esteem and worship the elders, and deem them worthy of listening to. That is to recognize the value and relevance of class, generation and wisdom.
The fourth is to safeguard the women from foes, abduction and harassment. That is to recognize the importance of women and their need for protection.
The fifth is to honor, esteem and worship both inner and outer shrines. That is to protect the cultural and spiritual heritage.
The sixth is not neglecting the customary offerings, so that customary, spiritual and other practices of the nation continue. That is, to safeguard the practices of religion.
The seventh is very important in today’s context of discussing good governance. It is to ensure that saints have access to advanced territory, and having entered, dwell there pleasantly. And that is to be open to all religions and spiritual influences in a spirit of tolerance; and to open the door to all religions in your territory.
This, to the Buddha, was the program by which a country could govern itself and look after all aspects of office, culture and spirituality. The women, the senior citizens, everybody has been brought into this, so good governance certainly has to cover all of this.
But Buddha was not out to have some kind of social legislation. He was preaching a way of salvation. But still it was from time to time necessary for him to react to certain situations. For example, in the course of a discussion that he had with a very learned person of the time, he talked about the question of crime. He said that if the king thinks it is very simple to control crime, because all you have to do is to get hold of the rascals, kill them, put them in prison, and crime will be solved, he is very mistaken. The more you do that, the more crime will come, because there will be people who will take the place of the rascals. And there will be their children, relatives, who will want to avenge them. And therefore, this cycle, the chain reaction to suppressing crime with violence, will only continue. So the Brahmin asked the Buddha what he suggests instead. He said: “If there are people who are doing agriculture, give them the planting material. Subsidize that cultural work. If there are people who need capital to develop their industries, develop their various activities, provide them the capital. Subsidize their activities. And as regards government servants, pay them good salaries.” So he used to make these kind of comments.
We not only go to the teachings of Buddha to find out what the Buddhist attitude toward good government is, but we go down the history. And we find there was one ruler nearly two hundred years after the Buddha that tried to practice Buddha’s way of life. And that is Emperor Ashoka, who ruled one of the greatest, largest empires that the Indian subcontinent had ever seen. And for the major part of his thirty-seven year rule, he did it on the principals of virtue, on the principals of Dharma, and without the use of military force.
He knew that war could be avoided. But at the same time, he knew that war couldn’t be abolished. And he advised his children, and his children’s children and their children, saying: “May your conquests be conquests by righteousness. But, if you ever have to meet a situation of a war with weapons, please remember two things. Let your punishment be very light, and may you exercise forbearance and forgiveness.”
Having said that, he wanted the people to have a kind of universal ethic in which you first and foremost obey your elders, obey your parents, pay respect to the elders, treat all life as sacred. He was a vegetarian himself, and one of his inscriptions says, “In my kitchens, thousands of animals were killed daily. But from today, after this, there will only be two peacocks and one deer killed in the kitchen.” And later he said, “even that, I have stopped.” He was a man who thought that people must be impartial in their administration of law. He told his judges to be impartial, and later went on to say that if you are too tired, you might not be able to be fair in your judgments. So, even there, be fair to the people to the extent that you listen to cases only when you can give them the fullest attention.
Speaking to an audience like this on interfaith, the most important thing that I can refer to are the twelve edicts of Ashoka, in which he says: “I treat all religions alike, and I wish to see that happen throughout the kingdom.” Do not criticize another’s religion out of place, and even if you have to criticize in place, be very cautious in the language that you use. Be moderate in language. Inter-religious relations depend on the restraint of language. The restraint of language is the foundation of tolerance, foundation of interfaith understanding, interfaith cooperation and interfaith collaboration.
Then Ashoka goes further and says: “If you think you are glorifying your religion by attacking or talking disparagingly of another’s religion, no, you are not glorifying your religion. On the contrary, you are putting your own religion down.” And his advice is to learn about each other’s religions, and to come together often. The coming together of various religions is commendable. And these are the kind of lessons that we are receiving through our cannon, the Buddha’s own words, through the example of Ashoka, as well as through the example of many other kings.
I want to give just one reference to the Buddha’s attitude towards war for example. His own relatives were about to have a big quarrel, their battle lines were ready and they were about to start the war. Suddenly, the Buddha walked in and sat right in-between them. And the leaders of both sides went to him and said: “We have some urgent business to settle, will you please leave us.” And the Buddha said, “No, I came here to ask you a question. What is more valuable, a drop of water which you cannot divide and therefore are going to fight over (the quarrel was about the water rights), or a drop of human blood?”
Of course we all have a built in cruise control system. We have a way of reacting to a situation like that, because our inner consciousness has the answer. We can have ethics, rules, regulations coming from outside, but our own inner cruise control tells us what is correct. So, the answer was that a drop of human blood was many times more precious that a drop of water.
We have two examples, one coming from Sri Lanka and the other from Thailand, where two rulers avoided war in a most interesting manner. When they were confronted with an enemy – in one case, an invader from south India and in the other, invaders from Burma – the ruler on the other side, a king in the case of Sri Lanka, and a crown prince in the case of Thailand, told the other person: “Why should our solders die for us? Let the two of us fight, and whoever wins this combat can be the ruler”. And that’s how they did it, saving many lives.
And one more story about war from the history of Sri Lanka, where a king was destroying an old traditional Buddhist monastery, because he was supporting some other aspect of Buddhism that came from India at that time. His chief minister himself had decided to wage war against him because of this. So again, they were ready for the battle, which would have started the following morning. But then, the minister found that the dinner that was served to him that very night was a curry which was both his favorite and the king’s favorite. In spite of the danger to his own body, he walked through the enemy lines, carrying his dinner to share with the king. And they sat down and talked all night, and in the morning, the war was not necessary. How many of these examples can we put into effect? How much inspiration can we derive out of this? It is a question of how much we build into our educational system, or power systems, our public education.
I am restricted to these because I have only limited time, but our books are full of examples, and the more that we share them, the more we talk about them, the more we will find that there are ways and means of avoiding violence. And good governance is governance where anger, greed, ignorance, violence, none of these has any place. Thank you very much.
In the name of God, the clement, the compassionate. I am the youngest here at this table, so my speech will be much wanting in wisdom. Besides, in the hope of bringing a constructive, creative dialogue, if I may say so, I’d rather discuss controversial subjects than subjects emphasizing convergence, not only between Islam and Buddhism, but regarding the whole of humankind. I think that all religions, all philosophies may include, or actually include nearly all the elements of convergence mentioned in the previous speeches. But in this Buddhist-Muslim dialogue, there are both religious and political stakes, some of which I would like to discuss.
For Muslims, including myself, pluralism of religions is not a notion which comes easily. For a couple of decades, we have been living in a new global geopolitical environment. I think that we cannot speak of dialogue or collaboration between Islam and Buddhism without keeping in mind this present economical, political, cultural evolution that we generally call “globalization”.
What is the meaning of religious dialogue in our times of globalization? We cannot discuss that question only within the context of tradition and heritage, because new things are happening now which are not favorable to dialogue, and in the long run, not favorable to humankind. Behind the word globalization, behind this world of modernism, of communication, of science, we find the reality of Occidentalism. Most of the world does not participate in economic evolution, it is imposed upon it. Just take a glance at inequalities in economic, cultural, informational exchanges, and it becomes immediately clear that decisions in matters of economy, culture, technology and science are made in the Western world, the United States or Europe.
We must realize that the need to discuss about globalization, about the ethics of thereof and even about good governance, is an imposition of typically occidental issues on the rest of the world. Nevertheless, leaders of the “Southern world” are asked to address these issues and to participate in their resolution. So here we have something that seems to be global, but is in truth merely occidental.
Of course, I don’t mean to dismiss entirely the contribution of the Western world to the global debate, but I must insist that most of globalization is actually Occidentalism. Economic globalization is nothing more than occidental economics extended on a global scale. This notion has been expressed by Stephen Wallenstein, a renown American economist. If we accidentally or voluntarily ignore this situation, the future consequences of which may be enormous, our debate about interfaith dialogue will miss the point.
What meaning has a discussion about dialogue between Islam and Buddhism at a time when the GATS is being discussed? The GATS is an accord which will define the future lines of the WTO politics, and will very likely help bringing a worldwide privatization of public services. What is the meaning of a debate about interfaith dialogue when economic and judicial programs leading toward “global merchandizing” are being implemented? Global merchandising stems from the belief that economic laws, because they are valid in the economic realm, are to be applied in other domains as well: culture, education, spirituality and environment.
Dr. Ananda Guruge mentioned the problem of water distribution in his previous speech. We know that water is the next frontier. It is no longer a public global resource, it is already merchandise secured by a number of commercial entities. I am not trying here to escape the subject of our conference, the dialogue between Islam and Buddhism, but I believe that it is necessary to insist on those realities of our present world. I believe also that we must read cautiously those commandments written in vague words in our religious texts asking us to do “good things.” Even if I definitely don’t reject them, I assume my faith, but we must be cautious. It is a fact that the Qur`an exhorts the believers to do good things and keep away from evil. But I think of a French proverb which is not a rebuttal, but rather an interpretation of this commandment: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The endeavor to do the good things may sometimes make matters worse.
I will cite an example. In the seventies, in Bangladesh, one of the most important Muslim countries in this part of Asia, UNICEF and the World Bank were concerned about the many health problems stemming from the local habit to drink water from rivers. So UNICEF and the World Bank decided to do the right thing and dig wells in Bangladesh. In about thirty years, 4 millions well were dug, disregarding a local tradition that well water is “the devil’s water”, not fit for human consumption. But this belief, at odds with rational thinking of UNICEF and the World Bank was dismissed as archaic and superstitious. Actually, the epidemiological studies to assess the sanitary quality of well water, an essential part of the process, had been skipped.
In 1993, it was discovered that Bangladeshi underground was rich in arsenic, one of the most potent toxics known in the world, and WHO is now reporting a catastrophic situation: 75 millions of people might be intoxicated in what is called the “Arsenic well scandal.” On the WB and WHO sites you can check out how an endeavor to do good may end in catastrophe. The effects of contamination may take thirty years to express themselves. It all began in the early seventies, and in the last three, four years, cases of death by contamination have begun to turn on in local hospitals. Some months before, the World Bank, the instigator and main actor of the well project, issued a message stating: “We will help Bangladesh to solve its problem.” Does that story fits under the title of “Global Ethics and Good Governance”? I don’t know and I personally distrust projects which totally ignore anthropological background and cultural reality.
Besides, we are now discussing interfaith dialogue in relation to global ethics and good governance, and at the same time globalization is changing the very meaning of sovereignty. This morning, we discussed the qualities required of a good leader and a good governance, but has this discussion a meaning now, when sovereignty is no longer detained solely by countries, governments? We could have the best leader and still not be sure that the cultural, economical, social policies of the country will be in accordance with principles of goodwill, harmony and compassion.
Sovereignty in the countries of the Southern world is jeopardized. I even believe that discussion of good governance helps destroy sovereignty in those regions of the world. Implementing so called international programs, which in truth are essentially occidental, is a techinque to present the social substance of those countries as a part of what may be called the “transnational civil society”, a theoretical entity, sum of the societies of our world. But there is no such thing as a “transnational society”. There is a civilian, lay occidental society on one side, and then there are different societies in the Southern world where the decolonization process is yet not fully completed. So what is at stake in these programs differs depending on the country, Northern or Southern.
A discussion about global ethics cannot ignore the fact that North – South relations still define politics, economics and culture. We cannot always assign the responsibility of problems plaguing these countries – 80% of the global population – to bad leadership, corruption, to the lack of the beautiful qualities we mentioned above in their leaders. This inequality in North/South relations is frequently ignored. I’m not saying that this is the only reason for the problems of Southern countries, but it cannot be ignored. Ignoring it leads to a neocolonialist attitude. This refuses to recognize the tremendous influence that the inequality between North and South, center and periphery, has on shaping the Southern world crisis.
In the case of dialogue between Islam and Buddhism, it is very important that we don’t only use beautiful, generous, pious words; that we don’t only say that Islam and Buddhism promote respect of other religions. I’d rather learn, for instance, if Islam has a specific message to Buddhism. I don’t believe in a general interfaith dialogue. Each dialogue is defined by the reality of those religions dialoguing and by the present situation.
I am an Algerian and will stay one; I am part of the Arab world. When I mention to friends a possible dialogue between Islam and Buddhism, they ask me: what relation does that bear with our present situation? So my position may differ from those co-religionists from countries where Buddhism, Dharma, is very present. There are no Buddhists in Arab countries; hence few people there have interest in this dialogue. Actually, even my own concern in this matter is essentially to make sure that the historical-cultural frontier between Islam and Buddhism will not become a future frontier between fighting zones. That’s what concerns me. I don’t want to see a reenactment of the warfare between orthodox Christianity and Islam as it is being waged from the Balkans into central Asia. So there is a geo-political issue connected with that dialogue, which concerns not only the Muslim world, but the whole planet.
I think it is important to revitalize the non-alignment movement. I hope this Buddhist-Muslim dialogue will be a good example of modern non-alignment, different from the 50’s – 70’s movement, because it will be metaphysical. Nasser, Neru, Sukharto fought for economical and political freedom. I hope we will go further. The 50’s, 60’s were times of decolonization; hence the emphasis on economics and politics. It was linked to a strife for independence, and so this non-alignment, this “Afro-Asiatic” belonged to the economic, the political realm. Nowadays, sovereignty is not so much linked with economics, politics or law. It has become anthropological, cultural, spiritual; hence the necessity of a metaphysical non-alignment. There is a battle for symbolic sovereignty. Without this symbolic sovereignty, leaders of the Southern world cannot resist the steamroller of globalization, which is actually craftily disguised Occidentalism. I believe that symbolic sovereignty will be a defining issue in the years to come.
Two images of man are in competition in the presently ongoing disputes, and wars stem from this competition. To end disputes and wars, we need to choose the right model for humankind. One model is capitalist, not Karl Marx’s but Max Weber’s. According to Weber, the known sociologist, exploitation is not what defines Marxism. Exploitation has always been present since Neolithic times. Disenchantment of the world is the core nature of capitalism. It is the core of the mercantilism society.
An interfaith or intercultural dialogue which is not a resistance to disenchantment cannot escape from the merchant logic, from the consumer society which has been in control of the world those last three hundred years. The capitalist man is “homo economicus”, a flat figure devoid of inner life, deprived of his “inner sanctuaries,” as someone before me aptly said. He has been reduced to the sole function of producer or consumer. In the 60’s, Marcuse already criticized that situation and coined the expression “one-dimensional man”. Homo economics, the one-dimensional man, is the embodiment of modern capitalism. It is the model that modern capitalism tries to diffuse all over the world. Maybe I must precise here that to me, globalization means the present reality of it, as it progresses along the lines defined by the WTO and GATS, bringing to us privatization of national archives, of environmental resources and of primary education. It is not the idealist vision some have of globalization.
Interfaith dialogue must propose another model for humankind. According to the Muslim tradition, it would be the total human being, the “perfect man”, the manifestation of God among humans. The total man is, if I dare say so, the face of God, and at the same time, along the Aristotelian logic, he is the face that men show to God, he is a reunion of opposites. An ideal has been harbored since centuries by all sorts of mystics: the third party must be reunited, not excluded; we must go beyond Dualism, beyond “this or that and no other choice.” The perfect man of Islam is one of those numerous versions of reunited opposites, of which “homo universalis” in European Renaissance is another example.
So, let’s reject the “one-dimensional man” and adopt “homo universalis” as a model. Nevertheless, the universality of “homo universalis” is not a geographic one. I frequently hear people say in international conferences that Southern countries must reach to the universal, but does this have a meaning?
The universal is not a spatial frontier, the last step of a progression: local to national to continental to global and so forth. Universality is in the quality. The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky, The Prophet by Khalil Gilbran attain to universality because of their quality, not because of the geographical repartition of their readers. A work read by only fifteen persons may still reach a universal dimension. So you don’t need to open your frontiers to universality. This opinion is a way to persuade countries to open themselves to the Western world.
I choose to see this Buddhist-Muslim dialogue as a purely Southern affair, because we desperately need those dialogues between Southern countries. It would not be held against the Occident, against Europe, against the United States, for according to the metaphysics and the spirituality of our religions, geographical cleavage is not valid, nor is a cleavage between religious denominations. Significant cleavages are to be found inside a religion or a country; the two opposite poles are inside us. Let me give two examples. From a cultural, anthropological, an historical point of view, there are two United States: One is the frontier spirit, a re-actualization of the fight of the Hebrews for the Holy Land, that part of America which is in control of globalization. The other part is the fight for independence. These two parts shape different countries and have different goals.
We see a similar cleavage in Islam: Afghan Buddha destroying Islam against interfaith dialoguing Islam. Christian missions in colonial lands, Asia, China or Latin America are in the same way opposed to Master Eckhart’s Christianity, likened by some to the thought of Shankara or Ibn Arabi. So significant cleavages occur inside each of our realms.
The last issue that I want to mention is the question about the intellectual, theological attitude for a productive interfaith dialogue. There are three possible attitudes: exclusion – only my religion is right and other are saved only if they convert. Worse, we have inclusion: I am in possession of the whole truth, and others, Buddhists, Shamans, Hindus, etc. have some elements of this truth, because of the great kindness of my God who bestowed some of his wisdom upon them. Actually, both attitudes are a refusal to fully accept others. The inclusion attitude is prominent in international interfaith dialogues, and leads to a “soft” consensus, reminiscent in my opinion of the Washington consensus linked to the destruction of cultural heritage and societies of Southern countries. The third choice is pluralism, which veritably accepts the other as he is, with all his differences and not only for his similitude with us. The other is accepted as, theologically speaking, a theophany of the absolute, one of the faces of the faceless principle. Thank you.
Politics necessarily entail relations with others. For example, do politics promote a dialogue between us and them? Do they emulate differences; do they imply respect, trust, innocence, humility? For example, in a terrorist offence, politics are an ethical problem. And visa versa. Ethics, in other words must be of the social engaged kind requiring collective action. So to be truly religious is not to reject society, but to work for social justice and change. Religion is at the heart of social change. And social change is a sense of religion.
In the case of my religious tradition, Buddhism, as a friend of mine has observed, “we will see change when Buddhists have gotten up off their cushions, recognizing that the collective resources of suffering in the world must be addressed by collective action”.
In my view, if politics affirmatively addressed the sources of suffering, then we might be able to talk about good governance. Good governance is thus non-violence. And non-violence is not merely ethical or political; the economic dimension must be addressed as well. We must also talk about structured violence, about the massive income disparity between the rich and the poor, especially poor non-white working class, women, famine, international debt problems, the IMF structure adjustment program, the so called ‘free trade’ which is not fair, deforestation and the like.
If I had to summarize Buddhism in one word, it would be Non-violence; Non-violence towards the self as well as non-violence towards the others. Non-violence is like the master precept in Buddhism. But other precepts are also useful in talking about global ethics and good governance. Any discussion of global ethics and good governance may begin with the common denominators shared by all religions. The Buddhist five precepts are so common that they may not even require any faith, and could therefore provide a good starting point in drafting the global ethic. The five precepts must be re-interpreted to suit the modern world, to address the predicaments of modern life.
We live in the age of extreme modernism. For instance, science and industrial technology are very much in the hands of corporations. Capitalism, state power, nuclear weapons of mass destruction, mass communication systems as well as main stream education raise some big questions. This is because main stream education only addresses the head, not the heart. No goodness whatsoever is coming through modern education.
Women, youth and the aged are just examples of what we have to address seriously. The five precepts must carefully address these features of modern life. We may begin with war, asking whether or not there is such a thing as a just war and look at how war is related to domestic violence.
We should address the impacts of globalization, the force of poverty and environmental destruction, both of which kill, international corporations that plunder natural resources and waste the natural environment. And we should address the rich who steal from the poor, greed and consumerism, and how wealth and resources must be redistributed for the sake of the bad and short lives in the world. And we should address the lies and propaganda promoted by mainstream mass media, as well as the numerous ‘isms’ that force the division, hostility and aggression.
We should address the uncritical faith in the so-called objectivity of science and technology. Is science multi-cultural may we ask? Are other forms of knowledge possible? We may need cognitive diversity. Some modes of thinking may be better to get us to the moon, while others may be more useful for sustainable development. And what about coarse medical experiments conducted at the expense of the less fortunate, whether they be Guinea pigs, monkeys, gibbons or members of the inferior races? We must talk about creating a culture of peace and promoting education for liberation. These and many more issues must be addressed with compassion, and in the spirit of non-violence. Seeds of peace must be cultivated simultaneously inside and outside our bodies. I need not point out that even Mr. Bush and Blair deserve our compassion.
Lastly, and equally important, in the form of global ethics and good governance, we must not only address and attempt to understand the new face of evil, but must also try to come up with a notion of the good, which I will leave for all of us to think about and discuss. In other words, we can not merely come up with a list of prohibitions, for the good can not arise from the evil, however, evil could be translated or transformed into good. Thank you.
Dharma Master Hsin Tao
In the course of the last century we have processed many lessons from history and developed a more mature attitude of life, and in this context the concept of a Global Ethic has emerged as a new topic for discussion. However, to engage in a meaningful discussion, we must penetrate deeply into the issue of egoism, which is at the root all problems. At the same time we must revive our confidence and faith in rebuilding a “Global Family for Peace and Love”.
The most difficult challenge in addressing all the problems mentioned by the previous speakers appears to be the paradigm shift required within ourselves. We are normally scared and paralyzed by the difficulties and challenges that we face in dealing with global problems of these proportions. Nevertheless, once we have started the process of self-reflection, we will become one part of the critical mass that will create a holistic transformation. Of course, we should then synchronize our inspirations and practical actions.
Market trends, economic control by capitalists, and the development of information technology have brought tremendous impact on the individual, community and national level. Due to a lack of proactive awareness, we often realize the seriousness of problems only after calamities occur. We should, therefore, change from being reactive to being more proactive, and reconcile advances of science and humanism, materialism and spirituality, in order to strike a balance and to bring positive transformation into our lives. What we discuss here is not merely a theory, but the practical responsibility to respond to the world with self-reflective awareness, and to build up the common ground as a basis for all religions.
Religion is the mother of all civilization; spirituality is the source of all life.
Religion inspires the innate loving-kindness within every one of us, which transcends the limitation of materialism. Spirituality brings concern and love to all beings, which will ultimately bring forth the ultimate awakening of life.
Facing a pluralistic and multidimensional world of modern technology, we can only find refuge and liberation by returning to the very homeland of religion, from where we should rethink our models for global development by using ‘concern for life’ and ‘spiritual values’ as our two main visions. There are two issues to which we should pay particular attention:
1) What are the present trends in globalization?
2) How can we realize the concepts and beliefs of a Global Ethic?
In reviewing the 1993 Manifesto for a Global Ethics, we observe that the main causes for the collapse of civilizations are the real crises of the world. It is only through self-transformation of our attitudes and values that we can stop the world from deteriorating further. At the dawn of the new millennium, our main duty is to the transform the various challenges that we face into opportunities for growth and peace, and to realize the ideas of a practical Global Ethic.
It was shortly after the announcement of the 1993 Manifesto for a Global Ethics that I came to the end of my meditative retreat and started preparations to establish a Museum of World Religions. Our vision envisages Mother Earth as our global family, and promotes tolerance, respect and love as the only way to stay in harmony with each other. The basis of interfaith dialogue is the sharing of life’s experience, and our sincere friendship here is really a miracle of my life.
I would like to share my experience of life based on four major concepts of Buddhism:
- Return to a simple and innocent way of life;
- Contemplation of selflessness, letting go of all attachment and defilements;
- Love and protection of all living beings with an attitude of loving-kindness and compassion;
- Perfection of interdependency and unity of all beings through harmonious co-existence.
Global Ethics must be based on the universal law of Cause and Effect. The “Good Governance” practices of the political and economical entities should be evaluated by using this principle. We have wasted much effort on military weapons, but are still stuck with numerous environmental and human problems. How should we reconcile the use of military competition under the excuse of national security with the holistic safety and well being of Mother Earth? This, it seems to me, is not an easy problem to be solved by simply applying a principle of common ethics. We need a comprehensive approach in dealing with this issue. We need a paradigm shift to save our Mother Earth and global family!
In short, we need more care and love in dealing with the crises of the new millennium. Peace is not a coincidence that will happen by itself but a possible reality that can definitely be realized through our powerful mind! May the power of the truth bring forth the peaceful world of Good Governance!
There is an ethical principle which transcends the four ethical directives we are concerned about, namely, do not kill; do not steal; do not lie; and do not indulge in sexual immorality. And what is that ethical principle? Do not do to others what you do not want others to do to you. Or to put it in more positive language: Do to others what you want others to do to you. This is the Golden Rule of Life.
The Golden Rule of Life is found in all the religions. In Islam, it is expressed in the following manner: “No one of you is a believer until you desire for your neighbor that which you desire for yourself.” Buddhism asks us to “Treat all creatures as you would like to be treated.” Hinduism reiterates: “This is the essence of morality: “Do not do to others which if done to you would cause you pain.” In Christianity it is said that “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” Sikhism advises us: “Do as you desire goodness for yourself as you cannot expect tasty fruits if you sow thorny trees.” Judaism puts it plainly: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor – that is the basic law, all the rest is commentary.” And in the Bahai Faith it is stated: “If your eyes be turned towards justice, choose for your neighbor that which you would choose for yourself.”
It is because the Golden Rule is such a vital principle of living that the German philosopher, Hans K