What we all need as we approach the new millennium is an enhanced
sense of universal responsibility, says the Dalai Lama in his
essay on Spirituality for a Better World (Asiaweek,
August 20-27). Self-interest lies in considering the interests
of others. To achieve true success, material progress needs
to be balanced with the sense of responsibility that comes of
education and inner development. The more we pursue profit and
material improvement, ignoring the contentment that comes of
inner growth, values will disappear from our communities.
As the new millennium approaches [states the Dalai Lama],
our world requires us to accept the oneness of humanity. In the
past, isolated communities could afford to think of themselves
as fundamentally separate. But nowadays, whatever happens in
one region eventually affects many other areas
Many of the worlds problems and conflicts arise because
we have lost sight of the humanity that binds us together as
one family. We forget that despite the diversity of race, religion
and ideology, people share a basic wish for peace and happiness.
These will not be achieved, however, by talking or thinking about
them, nor by waiting for someone else to act. We each have to
take responsibility as best we can within our own sphere of activity,
using our unique intelligence to try to understand ourselves
and our world
In my own experience I have found that the more we care for the
happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being.
Cultivating a warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts
the mind at ease. It helps remove fears or insecurities and gives
us the strength to cope with obstacles. As we are not solely
material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for
happiness on external development. The key is to develop inner
We need to embark on the difficult task of developing love and
compassion within ourselves. By nature peaceful and gentle, compassion
is also very powerful. Some may dismiss this as impractical and
unrealistic, but I believe its practice is the true source of
success - a sign of inner strength. To achieve compassion we
do not need to become religious or ideological. We need only
develop our basic human qualities
The quality of our actions depends on our motivation. From my
Buddhist viewpoint all things originate in the mind. A real sense
of appreciation of humanity, compassion and love are the key.
Once we develop a good, altruistic heart - whether in science,
agriculture or politics - the result will be more beneficial.
By focusing on wealth creation we are failing to protect what
we have, says John Gray, professor of marine biology at the University
of Oslo, Norway. Politicians pay lip service to environmental
problems at international conferences. The agreements reached
do little to slow global climate change and lead merely to endless
discussions rather than action to save the worlds biodiversity.
Writing in New Scientist, Gray stresses that looking after
what we already have - wealth protection - should be a key goal.
Increasingly I am coming to believe that protecting the environmental
riches we already have is, in economic terms, far more important
than seeking growth and creating industries. Sadly, preserving
what we have seems to be unfashionable
For governments at least it seems that finding out more about
the world we live in is worth doing only if it generates wealth.
But wealth creation has to be seen in the context of globalization
of the economy, and the globalization process pays scant regard
to the environment
. An eminent Oxford political scientist
says of environmental consequences of the globalization process:
More and more of the Earth will become less and less habitable.
Decision-makers should be trying to protect the environmental
riches that we have rather than just stressing wealth creation.
One side effect of the infotech and communications revolution
is the rapid disappearance of minority languages around the world,
since only a few majority languages are viable in a globalized,
information-based economy. Many linguists predict that at least
half of the worlds 6,000 or so languages now spoken will
be dead or dying by the year 2050. In the August-September Futurist,
Rosemarie Ostler, a linguistic specialist, explores the factors
producing language death and the dangers of losing linguistic
Languages are becoming extinct at twice the rate of endangered
mammals and four times the rate of endangered birds. If this
trend continues, the world of the future could be dominated by
a dozen or fewer languages
Language diversity is as important in its way as biological diversity
Andrew Woodfield, director of the Centre for Theories of Language
and Learning in Bristol, England, suggested in a 1995 seminar
on language conservation that people do not yet know all the
ways in which linguistic diversity is important. The fact
is, no one knows exactly what riches are hidden inside the less-studied
languages, he says.
Woodfield compares the argument for conserving unstudied endangered
plants - that they may be medically valuable - with the argument
for conserving endangered languages. "We have inductive
evidence based on past studies of well-known languages that there
will be riches, even though we do not know what they will be.
It seems paradoxical but its true. By allowing languages
to die out, the human race is destroying things it doesnt
understand, he argues
Language extinction is accelerated today for some of the same
reasons as species extinction. These include population pressures
and the spread of industrialization.
The World Future Society is exploring the implications of
the disappearance of languages around the world. These are some
of the possible effects its staff has identified:
As languages fade, the cultures that nourished them decline.
Ethnic legacies of music, history, literature, and folklore may
be lost. Social scientists - anthropologists, sociologists, etc.
- will have fewer cultures through which to study human behaviour
Speakers of the languages will gradually lose their connections
to ancestral customs because their history and rituals cannot
easily continue when the languages that contain them die. Succeeding
generations may never learn the full story of their heritage
unless extraordinary efforts are made to recruit young apprentice
From their sickbeds, people in all cultures may face diminished
prospects: The medicinal value of uncounted native plant species
may remain beyond the reach of scientists if the aboriginal people
who use plant cures pass away before communicating their knowledge.
The death of a language is an irretrievable cultural loss
for the world. However, just as certain animal as well as human
forms now extinct will return again in their own cycle, so also
certain human languages now known as dead will be in use
once more at their appointed cyclic hour. (The Ocean
of Theosophy, p. 129)
Automatic writing, or the production of written
matter without the conscious volition or direction of the writer,
has often been claimed to be a communication from the spirit
world, or astral plane, or other dimensions
or whatever. The mechanism, it is said, is essentially the same
as a traditional séance, except that the person who was
formerly known as the medium is now called a channel. Mukul Sharma
examines what New Agers have to say on the subject (Life Positive,
Mediums implicitly believed that all the communications received
were coming from discarnate spirits. New Agers, on the other
hand, say that while a lot of the material could be the product
of the writers unconscious mind, there are also a number
of examples that, they maintain, transcend the mental and literary
abilities of those who have produced them, or incorporate information
that could not have been known to them by normal means
So, if automatic writing cannot automatically be credited to
spirits, what is it? How can just holding a pencil and concentrating
produce reams of writing - some of which is not only coherent
but appears to be beyond the capabilities of the writer?
The answer lies in a little known aspect of cognitive psychology
called automatism. Automatism is defined as a
state in which the individual performs simple or complex actions
in a skilled or relatively uncoördinated manner without
having full awareness of what he or she is doing. It includes
well-developed skills such as playing a musical instrument, where
the individual can carry out highly complex movements without
detailed awareness of what is being done.
In Lucifer for December 1888, H.P.B. published The
Dirge for the Dead in Life, and remarked in an editorial
The fragments that we publish below form one of the most remarkable
instances of so-called automatic writing when the medium, without
any previous knowledge of the subject, is impelled to set down
upon the paper that which is not in the brain. The medium here
is a young lady who knows nothing about this dirge, but we know
that it is a portion of the chant which was sung over the entranced
body of the neophyte who was about to become an initiate
Spiritualists may say it is something from the spirits,
but we hold the view that it is a reminiscence from past incarnations
of the one who wrote. These recollections are not so rare as
is supposed, and while frequently they are not recognized as
such, they nevertheless account for many strange things heard
at séances with mediums and psychographic writers.
In The Harvard Mental Health Letter, Dr. Robert A.
Hahn explains what is known as the nocebo effect:
Derived from the Latin (I will harm), a nocebo
is the opposite of the placebo (I will please). While
the placebo relieves symptoms of illness by creating expectations
of improvement, a nocebo does harm by creating the opposite expectation.
The harm may be subjectively or objectively measurable, transient
or chronic. It can even be fatal - for example, surgical patients
are reported to die on the operating table because they expect
Experts concede that the placebo/nocebo phenomenon is one
of medicines thornier problems. The power of
suggestion or expectation has, however,
been revealed substantively in several psychological experiments.
In one study, says Dr. Hahn, investigators found that those who
expected a heart attack were 3.7 times more likely to die from
a coronary condition than those who did not expect one - independently
of other known risk factors.
Ultimately, researchers say, the extent and manifestation of
the nocebo effect differs from culture to culture.
That a patients psychological make-up will greatly influence
how he or she is affected by disease is well known. Extreme examples
are cases of voodoo death. In one instance, after having eaten
some fruit, a Maori woman found that it was from a tabooed place;
she was dead within 18 hours. A young African bushman was deceived
into eating wild hen, absolutely forbidden to his tribe. When
he learned the truth later, he was dead within 24 hours.
The helpful effects of placebos are not unrelated to effects
such as voodoo death. Both are instances of the subtle links
between expectation and reality.
William B. Carey, director of Behavioural Pediatrics at the
Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia, brings important research
to the public in his book Understanding Your Childs
Temperament. Unlike many approaches to parenting that view
children in relation to just one particular trait or behaviour,
the book offers a way to look at the child in his or her totality,
as a combination of nine inborn temperamental traits: activity,
regularity, initial reaction, adaptability, intensity, mood,
distractibility, sensitivity, persistence and attention span.
Temperament is an individuals unique way of reacting to
people, things, and situations - at home, at school and in social
Carey contends that a childs temperament is partly inborn
and not something caused by good or bad
parenting. Genetics only plays a partial role. Parents, he says,
can learn to work with their childs temperament to prevent
and reduce problems.
It is even more important for parents and child behaviour specialists
to learn the role that reincarnation plays in determining a childs
temperament. Children are old souls in young bodies and bring
their dispositions and characters from a prior life to this one.
But disposition and character can, now and here, be changed -
for better or for worse - by the childs own efforts, helped
by his or her parents, teachers and other understanding elders.
Charles Swindolls thoughts on Attitude (The
Saturday Evening Post, September-October 1999) have a message
for all of us:
The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude
on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is
more important than the past, than education, than money, than
circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other
people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance,
giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church,
a home. The remarkable thing is, we have a choice every day regarding
the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our
we cannot change the fact that people will act in a
certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing
we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our
attitude. I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens
to me and 90 percent how I react to it.
And so it is with you
we are in charge of our attitudes.