Dalai Lama Says All Religions 'More or Less the Same'

By Jason Kane, BeliefNet Religion News Service, Nov 15, 2005

Washington, USA -- Despite surface divisions, the fundamental compassion of religion holds the key to world peace, the Dalai Lama told an audience at a celebration of his 70th birthday.

"I'm Buddhist, but I can see the value of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and so on," he said.

In broken but forceful English, the Tibetan spiritual leader told nearly 16,000 gathered in Washington's MCI Center Sunday (Nov. 13) that civilization must realize there can be more than one truth.

"In order to have genuine faith, you need to have one truth, one religion. But that does not mean you lose respect for those of other traditions," the self-described "simple Buddhist monk" said.

Religions become counter-productive to world order when they neglect the fundamental values of compassion, kindness and self-discipline that make them "more or less the same," he said.

"If a religion only creates problems, I think we have the right to append that religion," he said.

Compassion also holds the key to nuclear disarmament, more effective journalism and productive education, he said.

The Dalai Lama, whose title literally means "ocean teacher" or one whose religion is as great as the ocean, is the 14th head of state and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people in an unbroken chain dating to 1391. After China annexed Tibet in 1959, he fled to India and began traveling the world to gain support for Tibetan autonomy -- a mission he continues to this day.

While he turned 70 in July, birthday celebrations have been conducted throughout the year.

The speech came halfway into the Dalai Lama's 10-day visit to the nation's capital, which has included meetings with President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The spiritual leader urged the U.S. government to support his efforts for increased dialogue with China.