Upon seeing the title of the movie, I was immediately curious as to what questions would be asked. What questions would I ask of a man who spent his entire life searching for enlightenment? While many of the questions posed to the Dalai Lama in this film were worthwhile, one in particular stood out. This question is one many have asked before, and one that I had always struggled with. It was a question who's answer considers humanity's capacity for evil, and the leads to an understanding of the importance of preserving the human spirit.
The question asked of the Dalai Lama (paraphrased here) was simple, yet important: How does one practice the message of peaceful resistance to violence in an imperfect world? In other words, how can one NOT use violence in order to prevent another violent act?
It is a tough question with which to grapple, no doubt. It is an even more difficult one to answer concisely with any sort of logic. Even so, it was clear the Dalai Lama had considered this question before, as his answer was nearly as simple as the question. It came in two parts:
He began by stating we should always stand against violence. If and only if all other options have been exhausted, and when and only when no other way exists to prevent violence from being inflicted upon the innocent is it okay to strike to prevent such violence from occurring. I think it is safe to say that most would agree with this answer. It is straightforward and simple, though perhaps not as enlightening as one would expect from the Dalai Lama. Not to be one to disappoint, he went on to speak of the deeper meaning of violence and how and why we should always react in a peaceful manner.
In a previous Modern da Vinci post, I discussed a book entitled The Universe in a Single Atom where the Dalai Lama dabbled in the notion that we are all interconnected. He built on this notion while answering the question at hand (paraphrased): We are all connected to each other and all things in this universe. We all have aligned interests. It is because of this alignment and interconnectedness that we all lose part of ourselves when hurting others. Violence, especially war, is the ultimate killer of oneself in this world. Ultimately, violence results in no winners, but multiple losers who have destroyed more of themselves than of the victim.
Assuming you believe in this interconnectedness (watch for a discussion on this topic in a future post), it is a beautiful, creative, and understandable way to answer such a tough question. We've all felt the pain and frustration caused by others hatred, or their malicious deeds. We've all felt inclined to lash back to avenge our loss or ease our pain. But in doing so, we only hurt ourselves. In doing so, we cause others to once again feel the pain that initiated their violent actions in the first place. The result is a perpetual cycle--a cycle that people like the Dalai Lama have played a significant role in breaking.
Facing violence, the likes of which most of us have never seen, men like the Dalai Lama have tried to lead their people to feel compassion for their aggressors and to stop fighting violence with more violence. Even with the answer he provided in the aforementioned movie, it is easy to miss a subtle but important point in his peaceful actions. The Dalai Lama does not using peace to combat violence solely because he believes hurting others is wrong. He uses peace to prevent his people from hurting themselves. He uses peace to preserve his people's spirit.
With one question answered, what other questions should we ask of our spiritual leaders (or political leaders for that matter)? I find it difficult to construct one question, let alone ten. I encourage you to consider what questions you might ask if you had 45 minutes with a prominent leader. Post your questions here as comments.