The Dalai Lama is both a spiritual leader is both and temporal leader of Tibet. He was exiled by the Chinese who invaded his Takster homeland, northeast of Tibet in 1959. In the heels of violence that broke, he fled to India after he could not prevent the violence. It is from Dharansala city that he has been leading the people of Tibet for more than forty-two years where he has formed an alternative government.
In an effort to claim liberty for his people from the Chinese government, he crafted a constitution whose principals were based on Buddhism and the human rights declaration of the United Nations. In his quest to liberate his people, he has always opposed the use of violence but always advocating for peace formed through mutual respect and tolerance. Since then, he has traveled across the world meeting various religious leaders as he preaches compassion to humankind.
In regard to this, philosophers have regarded Dalai Lama as a pluralist for his teachings are based on unifying all religions despite their differences in beliefs. His stand on religion conforms to that of John Hick, who stated that people can have a different religion but a common destination. Analyzing Dalai Lama’s teachings, it is evident that his philosophy of tolerance and compassion is borrowed from John Hick’s pluralism theory. For just like Hick, Dalai Lama does not clearly explain or focus on the origin of religion. Analyzing his philosophy, it is accurate to say that the Dalai Lama’s philosophy of tolerance and compassion is borrowed from John Hick pluralist hypothesis to propagate Buddhism as both hold a tolerant view and position towards other religions.
In his theory, John Hick explains that the religious conflict is merely based on sheer interpretations as to how they see the world (Eddy 68). In his words, Dalai Lama also states that ‘the world itself is ambiguous.’ John Hick was motivated to explain the differences and conflict in religion through the approach of absolutism. This approach explains that someone’s religious system is true as opposed to the other’s religion. He goes ahead to borrow the concept to say that religion is as formation of individuals experience on a certain tradition.’
Therefore, Dalai Lama’s acceptance and tolerance to other religions arises from Buddhist’s point of view and the traditions of his community. According to the traditions of the Mahayana, a Buddhists is he who has an aim of liberating others but not himself. Critically, it can be said that the calls for compassion by Dalai Lama is instigated by his religion of Buddhism.
John Hick’s explains that everyone’s religion is also defined by his geographical location (Irlenborn 273). That is if one is born in a Muslim environment then he has a high chance of becoming a Muslim as influenced by his environment and that we inherently become religious. He states that ‘people are different - they have been born in different places, have been born into different families, and have been raised in different waysso they are naturally going to like and develop different expressions of religious faith, belief and practice too (Hick, 280).
It is this thesis that prompted him to develop his theory on religion. As a Christian, John Hick always wondered about the fate of his friends of different religions regarding what it would become of them if they did not get salvation. He confirmed that his friends practiced religions depending on where they come from. This confirms the state of Dalai Lama as his religion of Buddhism concurs with his biological place and how he grew up. At the age of two, for a year and a half, he was held in a monastery where he was taught spiritual and religious leadership.
Nevertheless, Dalai Lama acknowledges defending and outwitting each other’s religion is a recipe for religious conflict. ' To revert such Philosophies, like John Hick Dalai Lama suggest that different religious people should identify the purpose of their religion and understand that people respond to various religious techniques differently. This confirms that Dalai Lama is using Hick’s theory to enhance his gospel of compassion through the use of doctrines. This theme of tolerance and compassion is a craft by him to cool down the religious conflict by making people focus on the doctrines of morals, love, peace tolerance, etc. other than their supreme being. He perceives these values to be end results of religion as a way of harmonizing or unifying all religions.
He even personifies religion and advises the Buddhist against converting other religious people to their religion as such effort is invaluable to oneself.
This idea is not far from John Hick’s principle of applying the historical method in regard to explaining the levels in which different religions disagree. He identifies historical facts, trans-historical and different Real perspectives as the reason for such conflicts. He reiterates that there is always hardly evidence that do support one historical claim of each religion other than the tradition that makes the same claim.
However, it is important to note that Dalai Lama’s philosophy of compassion is merely ethical based on the traditions of his religion other than just a candid step towards unifying the world. This can be said of him as a man who uses the ideals of his religion to advance himself and his religion. He uses the theory of pluralism to popularize his Buddhism. In relation to his teachings, he insists on mental strength. This strength according to Buddhism is derived from compassion as a result of meditation. He thinks that to alleviate people's suffering; he needs to promote compassion. Therefore, he uses such an elusive strategy hoping that the Chinese government will evacuate Tibet. Such an advocacy for non-violence is prompted by Karma’s idea that if one acts well, they will be followed by goods while the reverse is true if one acts badly. It is also hypocritical for Dalai Lama to preach compassion based on the doctrines of Buddhism yet he claims to tolerate all religion. If one does not practice the teachings without there is no way of producing good results. Therefore, a religious belief that does practice compassion is equal to promoting Buddhism.
Even when such arguments arise, we can confirm that Dalai Lama is not an atheist but a religious leader. Just like John Hick’s assertion that religious religion is inheritable, it confirms that religion has influenced his philosophies. However, it can be said that his intentions of unifying religion is not an ‘ill’ motive as he is advocating happiness for everyone through religion.
He explains love, compassion, forgiveness, etc. as spiritual qualities that give one the purpose of life. He manifests this with his understanding that love can be the unifying factor of all religions. This philosophy leaves no one attached to anything tangible as everything is just an ideology created in the mind.
In his interview with Oprah Winfrey, when asked if humanity can change if we all understand our purpose, he says that it is prudent to focus on our similarities as individuals so that we all understand others need happiness as we all do. He goes further to say that focusing on our indifferences only divides us as it causes conflict. This argument is not farfetched. It reinforces John Hick’s argument on the principle of exclusiveness that has always been applied by the Christian faithful. That is; the Christians belief that the only way through salvation is through Jesus Christ, without him your fate of salvation is sealed.
It is, therefore, confirmed that Dalai Lama’s quest for compassion is driven not only by the fate of his Tibetan people but also his Buddhism faith. However, we have to acknowledge the critical role that religions play in enhancing peace and therefore tolerance to each other’s religion is inevitable.
Irlenborn, Bernd. "John Hick’s Pluralism." Philosophy and Theology 23.2 (2011): 267-280.
Eddy, Paul Rhodes. John Hick's Pluralist Philosophy of World Religions. Ashgate, 2002.
Hick, John. "The epistemological challenge of religious pluralism." Faith and Philosophy 14.3 (1997): 277-286.