Despite authorities’ inability thus far to discover a motive in Stephen Paddock’s brutal murder of 59 people in Las Vegas last weekend, the Dalai Lama recently commented on why the attack occurred.
He argued that education focuses on materialistic values and sensory pleasures in the external world, and as a result, people pay less attention to their “inner world, to peace of mind and to morality.”
“One result is that we face problems largely of our own making,” he said. “Because of a lack of compassion wars break out and we witness unthinkable killing.”
He declined to distinguish between governments and individuals, citing the tendency toward violence both are displaying:
“We pursue trade in weapons whose sole purpose is to harm and kill. Look at what happened in Las Vegas yesterday where nearly 60 people were killed and more than 500 were hurt.”
The Dalai Lama added that “in other places poor sanitation and a shortage of food mean children are dying of starvation.”
He suggested this is ultimately caused by negative emotions like anger and hatred:
“Anger and hatred, seeing our brother and sister human beings in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them,’ limit our outlook and lead to the bullying, exploitation and killing we learn about in the news.”
He also spoke out shortly after the gruesome massacre in Paris in 2015, suggesting “thoughts and prayers” alone will not solve humanity’s problems.
“We cannot solve this problem only through prayers,” he said at the time. “I am a Buddhist and I believe in praying. But humans have created this problem, and now we are asking God to solve it. It is illogical. God would say, solve it yourself because you created it in the first place.”
He cited the excessive violence of the 20th century, expressing concern it was spilling over into the 21st. “The twentieth century was a violent one, and more than 200 million people died due to wars and other conflicts. We now see a spillover of the previous century’s bloodshed in this century.”
“If we emphasize more on nonviolence and harmony, we can herald a new beginning,” he also said, cautioning against failing to work toward this ideal:
“Unless we make serious attempts to achieve peace, we will continue to see a replay of the mayhem humanity experienced in the 20th century.”
In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, polarized factions in the United States are predictably insisting the answers lie in more gun control measures or more guns, but the Dalai Lama believes the actual way to stop needless killing is more fundamental — and rooted in basic human behavior:
“We are social animals, who live in communities, who depend on each other to survive. Therefore, we need to respond to each other with love and compassion. Scientists have found evidence, revealed by young infants, that basic human nature is compassionate.
“However, our natural instinctive compassion tends to be biased towards those close to us. Since we’re all interdependent, we all benefit if our neighbours are peaceful, whether they are a neighbouring family or a neighbouring country. Therefore, we need to extend our compassion to the whole of humanity.”