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Dalai Lama, the spiritual and political leader of the people of Tibet, is a Buddhist monk. Since Tibet was occupied by China in 1959, the Dalai Lama, together with over 100 000 countrymen, has lived in exile in India, leading a non-violent liberation struggle. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. (More on: http://www.dalailama.com and http://www.tibet.com)

HUMAN RIGHTS AND PEACE

Dalai Lama

The widespread concern about violation of human rights is very encouraging. Not only does it offer the prospect of relief to many suffering individuals, but it is also an indication of humanity’s progress and development. Concern for human rights violations and the effort to protect human rights represents a great service to people of both the present and future generations. With the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, fifty years ago, people everywhere have come to realize the great importance and value of human rights.
I am not an expert in the field of human rights. However, for a Buddhist monk, like myself, the rights of every human being are very precious and important. When they are respected we have a situation of peace. According to Buddhist belief, every human being has a mind whose fundamental nature is essentially pure and unpolluted by mental distortions. We refer to that nature as the seed of enlightenment. From that point of view every being can eventually achieve perfection. And also because the nature of the mind is pure, we believe that all negative aspects can ultimately be removed from it. When our mental attitude is positive, the negative actions of body and speech automatically cease.
Because every human being has such potential, all are equal. Everyone has the right to be happy and to overcome suffering. The Buddha himself said that in his order neither race nor social class is important. What is important is the actual practice of living your life in an ethical way. As Buddhist practitioners, we try to improve our day to day conduct first of all. Only on the basis of that can we begin to develop the practices of mental training and wisdom. In my daily practice as a Buddhist monk I have to observe many rules, but the fundamental theme of them all is a deep concern and respect for the rights of others. The principal vows observed by fully-ordained monks and nuns include not taking the life of other beings, not stealing their possessions and so on. These rules are explicitly concerned with a deep respect for the rights of others. This is why I often describe the essence of Buddhism as being something like this: If you can, help other human beings; if you cannot, at least refrain from harming them. This reveals a deep respect for others, for life itself, and concern for others’ welfare.
Although it is important to respect others’ natural rights, we tend to lead our lives in the opposite way. This is because we lack love and compassion. Therefore, even in relation to the question of human rights violations and concern for human rights, the key point is the practice of compassion, love and forgiveness. Very often, when people hear about love and compassion, they have a sense that these are related to religious practice. It is not necessarily so. Instead, it is very important to recognise that compassion and love are fundamental to relations between human beings.
At the beginning of our lives and again when we become old we appreciate others’ help and affection. Unfortunately, between these two periods of our lives, when we are strong and able and can look after ourselves, we neglect the value of affection and compassion. As our very life begins and ends with a need for affection, would it not be better to practice compassion and love towards others when we are strong and capable?
We gather genuine friends only when we express sincere human feeling, when we express respect for others and concern for their rights. There is no need to read some difficult philosophical meaning into it. In our daily lives,