BOSTON — Ethics should be part of every person’s education and the role of teaching virtues shouldn’t be limited to religion, the Dalai Lama told a crowd in Boston on Sunday.
“Any movement starts with the individual, not from government or an organization,” the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader said. “We are now in the 21st century, so we need education in human compassion. Not talking about heaven or hell, but how to build a happier community and a happier world.”
His appearance was part of an event titled “Beyond Religion: Ethics, Values and Wellbeing” that was hosted by The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values, a nonprofit think tank at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was part of a three-day trip to Massachusetts, where the Dalai Lama will be speaking on religion, meditation, economics, peace and the environment.
About 2,500 people of varying religious and ethnic backgrounds crowded a hotel ballroom in downtown Boston on Sunday to hear the 77-year-old Buddhist monk discuss topics such as happiness, compassion and community, which he calls “secular ethics.”
“Religion, if not properly practiced, can give us hypocrisy,” he said. “A lot of people claim to be religious, but in reality they do not care, they have no conviction to these values.”
The discussion on ethics beyond religion included the Rev. Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk from Colorado, and Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Catholic monk from New York City.
“This invites people to think of a religious ethic or value in a way that is not dependent upon religion,” Keating said. “Providing the globalization that is taking place, it is something desperately needed. These are a set of principles that we can all agree upon based on being human.”
In addition to the discussion, James Taylor and Boston Symphony Orchestra cellist Owen Young performed at the event.
On Monday, the Dalai Lama will give a speech on ethics, the economy, the environment, peace, governance and diminishing resources. On Tuesday, he will teach stages of meditation and discuss Buddhism in the 21st century. Both events will take place at MIT.