Whorled View

December 1, 2008

The Dalai Lama: At odds with marriage & family

I read somethings today that the Dalai Lama said that really highlighted what a clueless mindset comes from living like a hermit-king.  I’m not quite sure why the Dalai Lama is regarded as a great sage of wisdom but I wonder if another reason the media worships him (while disparaging the original pacifist, Jesus Christ) is because of his anti-marriage and anti-family message.

The only people I know who honestly think [celibacy] is “better” than marriage because marriage involves sex, are embittered losers who have a purely self-gratifying interpretation of human sexuality.

Similarly, only self-absorbed people who are clueless about human intimacy would think that “[attachment] towards your children, towards your partner,” is “one of the obstacle or hindrance of peace of mind”.

The Dalai Lama said both of these things though … and nonetheless it seems he gets more respect and reverence today than any other religious leader dead or alive.

Now, I’ll admit when you have kids that seem to be doing everything you’ve taught them not to do, including screaming and crying over practically nothing while in your face is anything but peaceful, but “peaceful surroundings” is entirely different than “peace of mind”.

For example, the times I had the least peace of mind were times when I was most detached from commitments and relationships around me like when I was nearly 30, still single, and trying to figure out where I fit in the world.  What’s more, I’ve never felt more peace of mind than when in a committed interdependent relationship with whom I could share everything, despite the fact that I was overwhelmed with far more commitments than I’d ever had.  Peaceful surroundings is not peace of mind.

At first glance, this wouldn’t seem like an issue worth tackling: the fact that the Dalai Lama says marriages and family attachments prevent peace of mind, as I’m happy to leave people to believe anything so long as it leads them to do good (Matt 7:16), but I’m convinced this idea forwarded by the Dalai Lama is one of the most destructive ideas ever.

The mere idea that the family unit is bad, or at least the idea that it has some harmful effects for society, especially with regard to peace is ludicrous and should be loudly repudiated.

What’s even more disturbing to me is that this idea seems to be one of the fastest growing doctrines of men today.  It’s growing quickly and becoming wildly popular to deride the traditional family unit and family oriented policies.

Calling family commitments the enemy to peace of mind and contributing elements to murder and suicide (both assertions of the Dalai Lama) is remarkably clueless.  It’s akin to calling religion the root of all the atrocities of mankind.

You’ve heard that, we all have, that religion is bad because terrorists kill in the name of God, or that the “Holy Wars” were done in the name of Christianity.  The argument is so absurd as to mock reason, and yet seemingly intelligent people make it, completely disregarding the fact that murder and violence is almost unanimously condemned in all mainstream religions, and that hypocrisy is a reflection on the soul of the hypocrite, not the religion which is corrupted in the process, and that people will justify the same atrocities by any vehicle they can find be it a tradition, political philosophy, or just plain old prejudice.

Now we see those same kinds of irrational arguments being promoted by the media to disparage traditional families and traditional marriage, with the Dalai Lama as thier prophet.



  1. So, I’m thinking of the conversation Lot had with God before S & G were distroyed. Although I’m hoping Jesus is coming sooner as opposed to later, if God is looking for a few good believers I hope he doesn’t look for them in the press. He may only see the whacked out people of the world. God help us.

    Comment by Archie — December 1, 2008 @ 2:41 am

  2. It is true, that much of what the media portrays is out of context and harms its intended message. But the Dalai Lama does not mince words. What he said is actually a correct statement, but if taken out of context – and this also means, taken within the context of our ordinary use of the words – could seem preposterous.

    Let me state first that I am in a happy, long-term relationship and also a committed Buddhist practitioner. I do however understand what the Dalai Lama is saying. It is “attachment” to these things that causes us to lose our peace of mind – and not having these things.

    The word “attachment” refers to us relying upon these things as ultimate sources of happiness, and being upset when they do not live up to our expectations of them (with attachment there is always the expectation of bringing happiness – this is what the term means). We can all admit that on a basic level our relationships do bring us much pain and suffering. We think this is love, but the pain comes from the attachment (in the Buddhist sense of the word). We must rely upon developing our own peaceful mind and not upon the externals. This does not mean that we cannot have things, relationships, etc.

    I do know another great Buddhist teacher who said “it is relationships that will propel us to enlightenment”. This is because in a relationship we cannot hide from our own inner demons and weaknesses. Being in a relationship “pushes our buttons” and we can change, feel the pain, or get out and ignore our deeper problems.

    But back to my first paragraph, the Dalai Lama does not mince words. You are hearing the words of a global celebrity who operates with a massive PR machine behind him. He is a politician who uses his religion to mask his actions. One must wonder why – at this moment in time – must he bring these teachings to the world? His words are calculated, and if I had to guess, were put out there to directly counter some view that is known of him. He says as he would have us believe he does and with the world media simply publishing his words – it would appear this way. Mark my words though – this man rarely does what he says. The words come from the teachings of Buddha and not from the Dalai Lama. His actions come from an unelected and never contested political leader.

    So keep the family unit. Just don’t depend upon it for your happiness. Train your mind and you will enjoy your family much more – without expectation. And, in future, read between the lines. Politicians say what they want us to believe, and for a particular reason. We all know this – but like you say – sometimes forget in the face of a media worship.


    Comment by Lee White — December 1, 2008 @ 3:48 am

  3. Dear Lee –

    While I perceive the particular doctrine of detachment enumerated here by the Dalai Lama as being very problematic, I admit there is much to be gained by studying eastern religions, and most of them have in common the truth that happiness comes from within … a truth which is not so explicitly stated in western religions (instead we have to turn to modern-day psychology to get those facts). Western religions state that happiness is found by loosing ones self in the service of others – which also can be problematic if done improperly.

    I am a firm believer that every faith or religion should have some kind of dynamic that allows it’s believers to receive doctrines more suited to their personal life and more suited to time in which they live. Historically this was done through the words of prophets (revelation that is as weighty as scripture), as is still done today in my religion. In that way my religion (Mormonism) provides modern-day divine information to mankind much the same way Buddhism claims to do: in our case a living prophet speaks the word of God (he being the representative of God), whereas the Dalai Lama’s followers believe his utterances are like the words of God (he being the Ascended Master come here to teach mankind). Given such divine authority, I can then only agree with you that he did not “mince words” (as you say) so he meant celibacy when he said celibacy, and attachment (not neediness or dependency) when he said attachment.

    It seems you as a Buddhist have found a way to resolve this problematic traditional Buddhist doctrine by interpreting “attachment” as meaning “neediness” or “dependency”, and I respect you and your personal interpretation. It’s very unfortunate his assertions contained none of the sensible rationale you provided.

    Comment by lullabyman — December 1, 2008 @ 1:18 pm

  4. Wow. I also have a hard time perceiving the wisdom in the Lama’s words. However, I think Lee does a great job of interpreting and reconciling it. I agree with the principle, our ultimate attachment should be to the Savior. Although the words seem too reactionary and misguided to stand on their own as meaningful doctrines.

    However, as a side note, I recalled this interesting quote by Russell M. Nelson that came as part of an “weekly LDS quote” type email that Emily forwarded me. I remember being struck and somewhat confused by it, although I felt like I got the general gist of it. In light of this discussion, though, maybe it makes more sense to me now.

    “As we go through life, even through very rough waters, a father’s
    instinctive impulse to cling tightly to his wife or to his children may not
    be the best way to accomplish his objective. Instead, if he will lovingly
    cling to the Savior and the iron rod of the gospel, his family will want to
    cling to him and to the Savior.

    “This lesson is surely not limited
    to fathers. Regardless of gender, marital status, or age, individuals can
    choose to link themselves directly to the Savior, hold fast to the rod of
    His truth, and lead by the light of that truth. By so doing, they become
    examples of righteousness to whom others will want to

    (Elder Russell M. Nelson, “Set in Order Thy House,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 69)

    Comment by Joe — December 3, 2008 @ 9:20 pm

  5. I figured out long ago that he’s not the great sage everyone seems to think he is. Your blog proves it. For some reason he really is revered by teens and young philosophers. He does have an impressive life story, has inspired many to choose a better way, has made some good political observations, but I think his young and restless listeners and the media are really attracted to him because of his cool title.

    Comment by Linda — December 16, 2008 @ 10:00 pm

  6. Dear Friends,

    I would like to share my opinion. I do not ask that you agree with me.

    I do believe that true love can bring immense happiness. I believe that if you are fortunate enough to love someone without asking for anything in return, it is one of the greatest sources of happiness possible. In marriage, I believe that trust, respect, kindness, and compatibility are important for the happiness of both individuals.

    May you all be happy

    Comment by BB — May 27, 2010 @ 11:08 pm

  7. It is painfully obvious that you have no idea what you’re talking about and I am embarrassed for you right now. Read a book DUUUUDE.

    Comment by Anonymous — August 14, 2011 @ 8:32 pm

  8. Leaving all the social obligations ..no worry no responsibility ..go to a jungle ..be gays do not marry finish of the world goooood

    Comment by bahjat Salman — July 20, 2013 @ 9:01 pm

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