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  Disarmament, Peace, and Compassion by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

 We have recently seen how found freedoms, widely celebrated though they are, have given rise to fresh economic difficulties and unleashed long buried ethnic and religious tensions, that contain the seeds for a new cycle of conflicts. In the context of our newly emerging global community, all forms of violence, especially war, have become totally unacceptable as means of settling disputes. Therefore, it is appropriate to think and to discuss ways of averting further havoc and maintaining the momentum of peaceful and positive change.

  Although war has always been part of human history, in ancient times there were winners and losers. If a nuclear exchange were to occur now, there would be no winners at all. Realizing this danger, steps are being taken to eliminate nuclear weapons. This is a welcome sign. Nonetheless, in a volatile world, the risk remains as long as even a handful of these weapons continue to exist.

  The greatest single danger facing all living beings on this planet is the threat of nuclear destruction. Besides this, other problems, whose effects are more gradual, are secondary. At a time of concern for increasing democratic freedoms and human rights it is contradictory to continue to pursue policies that take little account of every living beings right to live. In the event of nuclear war no one will win, because no one will survive. The key to changing such policies is to increase awareness of the issue.

The 50-th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki reminds us of the horrifying nature of nuclear destruction. It is instant, total and irreversible. Like our neglect and abuse of the natural environment, it has the potential to affect the lives, not only of many defenseless people living now in various parts of the world, but also those of future generations. With this reality in mind, I have envisioned that the entire Tibetan plateau should become a free refuge where humanity and nature can live in peace and in harmonious balance. However, China which occupies Tibet with the presence of a large military force has been unwilling to respond constructively. China is reported to have stationed approximately ninety nuclear warheads and to have dumped an unknown quantity of radioactive waste in Tibet. This not only endangers human and animal lives but also adversely affects the fragile environment of the Tibetan plateau. The key elements of my proposal for Tibet as a Zone of Peace includes the demilitarization and prohibition of the manufacture, testing and stockpiling of nuclear weapons and other armaments on the Tibetan plateau. When I visited Costa Rica in 1989, I saw how a country can develop successfully without an army, to become a stable democracy committed to peace and the protection of the natural environment. This confirmed my belief that my vision of Tibet in the future is a realistic plan, not merely a dream.

  Faced with the challenge of establishing genuine world peace and preserving the bountiful earth, what can we do? Beautiful words are no longer enough. We should instead embark on the difficult task of building an attitude of love and compassion within ourselves. Compassion is, by nature, peaceful and gentle, but it is also very powerful. Some may dismiss it as impractical and unrealistic, but I believe its practice is the true source of success.

  It is a sign of true inner strength. To achieve it we do not need to become religious, nor do we need any ideology. All that is necessary is for us to develop our basic human qualities.

  I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy. From the moment of birth, every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering. Neither social conditioning nor education nor ideology affect this. From the very core of our being, we simply desire contentment. Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness. Hence we should devote our most serious efforts to bring about mental peace.

  From my own limited experience I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease and opens our inner door. It helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the principal source of success in life. Since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. Instead, we should consider our origins and nature to discover what we require. At the time of our birth, we have neither religion nor ideology nor culture. We acquire or learn about these later in our lives. But I believe that no one is born free from the need for love. No material object, however beautiful or valuable, can make us feel loved, because our deeper identity and true character lie in the subjective nature of the mind.

  Whether people are beautiful and friendly or unattractive and disruptive, ultimately they are human beings. When you recognize, that all human beings are equal and like yourself in both their desire for happiness and their right to obtain it, you automatically feel empathy and closeness for them. Through accustoming your mind to this sense of universal altruism, you develop a feeling of responsibility for others: the wish to help them actively to overcome their problems. True compassion is not just an emotional response but a firm commitment founded on reason. Therefore, a truly compassionate attitude toward others does not change even if they behave negatively.

  Ultimately, humanity is one and this small planet is our only home. If we are truly to help one another and protect this home of ours, each of us needs to experience a sense of universal altruism. It is only this feeling that can remove the self-centered motives that cause people to deceive and misuse one another. If you have a sincere and open heart, you naturally feel confident, and there is no need to be fearful of others. Our world is growing smaller, politically and economically more interdependent, and the world's people are becoming increasingly like one community. Yet, we are also being drawn together by the very serious problems we face: overpopulation, dwindling natural resources, and an environmental crisis. In the circumstances we have an obligation to promote a new vision of society, one in which war has no place in resolving disputes among states, communities or religions, but in which nonviolence is the pre-eminent value in all human relations.

   On the human level, nobody actually wants war, because it brings unspeakable suffering. Everyone wants peace. But we need a genuine peace. A more genuine peace is founded on mutual trust and the realization that as brothers and sisters we must all live together without trying to destroy each other. Even if one nation or community dislikes another, they have no alternative but to live together. And under the circumstances it is much better to live together happily.
The necessary foundation for world peace and the ultimate goal of any new international order is the elimination of violence at every level. For this reason the practice of nonviolence surely suits us all. It simply requires determination, for by its very nature, nonviolent action requires patience. While the practice of nonviolence is still something of an experiment on this planet, if it is successful it will open the way to a far more peaceful world in the next century.
War and large military establishments are the greatest sources of violence in our world. Whether their purpose is defensive or offensive, these vast powerful organizations exist solely to kill human beings. War is neither glamorous nor attractive. Like a fire in the human community, ti consumes living beings and its very nature is one of tragedy and suffering. Military establishments are destructive not only in times of war. By their very design, they are the single greatest violators of human rights. Once an army has become a powerful force, there is every risk that it will destroy the happiness of its own county. As long as there are powerful armies there will always be the danger of dictatorship.

   Throughout history, mankind has pursued peace one way or another.Witnessing the mass slaughter that has occurred in our century has given us the stimulus and opportunity to control war. To do so, it is clear we must disarm. And that can only occur within the context of new political and economic relationships.

Our ultimate goal should be the demilitarization of the entire planet. If it were properly planned and people were educated to understand its advantages, I believe it would be quite possible. Although we may talk of achieving a global demilitarization, to begin with some kind of inner disarmament is necessary. The key to genuine world peace is inner peace and the foundation of that is a sense of understanding and respect for each other as human beings, based on compassion and love.

   To achieve global demilitarization our first step should be the total dismantling of all nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. The second step should be the elimination of all offensive arms. And the third step should be the abolition of all national defensive forces. To protect and safeguard humanity from future aggression we can create an international force to which all member states would contribute.

   Such reforms would result in a stable international environment. In addition, the immense financial dividend reaped from the cessation of arms production would provide a tremendous windfall for global development. Nations today spend trillions of dollars annually on their military budgets. How many hospital beds, schools and homes could this money fund?

The awesome proportion of scarce resources squandered on military development not only prevents the elimination of poverty, illiteracy and disease, but also requires the sacrifice of our scientistsprecious human intelligence. Why should their brilliance be wasted in this way when it could be used for positive global development?

  Our planet is blessed with vast natural treasures. If we use them wisely, beginning with the elimination of militarism and war, every human being will be able to live a healthy, prosperous existence.

  Naturally, global peace cannot occur all at once. All of us, every member of the world community, has a moral responsibility to help avert the immense suffering which results from war and civil strife. We must find a peaceful, nonviolent way for the forces of freedom, truth and democracy to develop successfully as peoples emerge from oppression.

  Nevertheless, no one can afford to assume that some one else will solve our problems, Every individual has a responsibility to help guide our human family in the right direction. Good wishes are not sufficient; we must assume responsibility. Since periods of great change such as the present one come so rarely in human history, it is up to each of us to use our time well to help create a happier, more peaceful world.