Dalai Lama on material progress

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama teaches, “Living in society, we should share the sufferings of our fellow citizens and practice compassion and tolerance not only towards our loved ones but also towards our enemies. This is the test of our moral strength.”

But somewhere along the spiritual path, I got the idea that material progress was a hindrance to my transformation. The Embodiment of Compassion explained, “I have heard a great deal of complaint against material progress from Westerners. And yet, paradoxically, it has been the very pride of the Western world. I see nothing wrong with material progress per se, provided people are always given precedence. It is my firm belief that in order to solve human problems in all their dimensions we must combine and harmonise economic development with spiritual growth.”

Actually, to ease the suffering of others, to feed the hungry, to heal the sick, it makes sense to have money to share.

“However, we must know its limitations,” His Holiness said about the worldly life. Although materialistic knowledge in the form of science and technology has contributed enormously to human welfare, it is not capable of creating lasting happiness.

As a simple monk, born Tenzin Gyatso in the remote highlands of Tibet, his people had no technology to distract them. No pollution obliterated the clear view of the stars then; and the air was healthful for all to breathe. Now, in the name of material progress, the Chinese government has robbed Tibet of all its natural resources and continues to forbid the worship of His Holiness.

He noted, “In America, for example, where technological development is perhaps more advanced than in any other country, there is still a great deal of mental suffering. This is because materialistic knowledge can only provide a type of happiness that is dependent upon physical conditions. It cannot provide happiness that springs from inner development independent of external factors.”

We don’t have to be saints in order to feel happy, no matter what our physical conditions are like. By controlling the mind we can maintain equanimity under some seemingly intolerable circumstances.

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