Why is the west so fascinated by the Dalai Lama?

I don’t get why he attracts crowds. The religion he leads isn’t very big and it isn’t compatible with the Christian standards of the West. I find it dangerous when people of weak faith and who weren’t reared in Christianity open themselves too much to the Dalai Lama because then they start promiting things like reincarnation. I’ve seen it happen so many times, people dabble in other foods in the buffets of religion, and they ignore the great, rich, fulfilling food already in front of them (how do you like my metaphor?). They end up abandoning the truths of their religion for the sake of, well, paganism.

John Safran did an interesting segment on how people perceive the Pope versus the Dalai Lama. You can see it here youtube.com/watch?v=kstH-8jwa80

Safran quotes teachings and has people guess if it comes from the Dalai Lama or the Pope. People always guessed incorrectly that the statement came from the Pope. Why? Because the Pope has the reputation of being a dinosaur and the Dalai Lama is considered hip. Hollywood would be more sympathetic to Dalai Lama than they would be to Benedict XVI, and often the media portrayals against the Holy Father are just downright dishonest (think of all the allegations of him being a Nazi). It’s Pope No, Dalai Lama Yes.

The Dalai Lama is visiting where I am right now and he’s getting a lot of good media attention and is attracting crowds, but really, would the people going to cheer him on even agree with what he teaches? I don’t think so. And it’s like this everywhere.

So it begs the question: why is the West so fascinated by the Dalai Lama? The only guess I can make is that some celebrities supported him, it got good media attention, so he won a lot of sympathy. But is that a good guess? Will the very short list of B and C actors really shoot Dalai Lama to celebrity status?

Well, of course their Holinesses are at one on most moral issues. But if it is any comfort to you, a number of us unbelievers find it hard to maintain our usual cheerfulness and optimism when even hardened atheists go all gooey at the very mention of the Dalai Lama.

Probably because Buddhism does not require to believe in anything you disagree with. It is seen as spiritual rather than a religion with rituals. Finally the west wants to embrace it because of the way it is presented as peaceful and loving and “deep”.

Yeah I wondered about that, I’ve seen people who profess atheism yet for some reason wish to believe that the Dalai Lama speaks truth. I don’t comprehend the logic there either.

Because Westerners have always loved beliefs that are strange and exotic, and people representing such. This is an old pattern in the Western world. At the time of our LORD, Judaism was similarly popular in the Roman empire.(which is why the Church found so many Jewish converts).

The idea of a faith leader who is purportedly the reincarnation of a long-ago master strokes the Western longing for long-term meanings and ideals.

Add to that the celebrity appeal and the (justifiable) sympathy for the Tibetans and their cause, and you have a recipe for a ton of emotional goo. IMNAAHO.


That’s a good explanation.

The Dalai Lama is against abortion; I wonder if pro-abortion protesters ever try to contront him the way they do the Pope.

What you say is true, but I think that there is more to this attraction.I think that there is an attractive goodness in the Dalai Lama.Sure ,he represents a philosophical religion ;as against The Holy Father, who represents a belief system based on revelation.The Dalai Lama has partial truths that he reveals to our decadent western society ;but The Catholic Church holds the fullness of truth.Still,why not just embrace all the good natural qualities that eminate from the Dalai Lama, in what he says and the manner in which he acts?

The superior general, who took over Bl.Mother Teresa of Calcutta gives great witness to her Hindu parents on all those natural values of goodness that they taught her.She writes that as a teenager ,these Hindu “common” or universal virtues, were the means that God used to attract her to The Missionery Sisters and for her to embrace the fullness of God’s Love as revealed in our catholic faith.

Whilst I would jump at the chance of meeting Pope Benedict;I would still feel a certain humility in meeting a man of peace and good will in the person of the Dalai Lama.I always love listenning to these great persons, whenever I have a chance to see them on our television screens.The challenge on us catholics is to “outdo” the Dalai Lama in presenting our position on The Way,The Truth and The Life,which is The Risen and Merciful Jesus into the modern world.
I do not see him as a threat in any way,shape or form.

I think it’s partly the attraction of “eternal principles” something that the West has been steadily rejecting since the time of the Enlightenment if not the Reformation. The Dali Lama represents that longing – he’s continuity of a faith with very real beliefs that is remaining faithful to itself and it’s view of the world, despite some very strong opposition. I think everyone hungers for that, and since it’s much more politically correct to be in with the Lama than the Pope, especially in liberal circles, more liberals tend to follow the Lama.

I see some of the same things in the West’s fascination with Islam. Islam has many of the same moral teachings as Christians do, though in a much more severe form. We teach people not to commit adultary, or that women should submit to their husbands, and its “misogyny” muslims teach the same thing, and in some cases bring the death penalty for violations, but they’re following a beautiful culture. We teach there is only one God, and it’s narrow. They teach the same thing, and don’t allow other scriptures into their lands. It’s the same kind of thing – a belief in the eternal and that the eternal has spoken through his book, thus we can know – yet Islam is not treated the same.

People want the things Christianity has, but for political/social reasons, the religion that is part of our culture is not the acceptable place to look for those things.

That’s an interesting observation. To me though, it looks as if there is a complete aversion to Islam rather than a fascination. Even before September 11, the little that Westerners knew about Islam, they would mock and avoid.

A) Because Buddhism (a very watered down version of it, anyway) is “in.”

B) For the same reason many (not saying everyone is motivated by this) buy a lot of imported or vintage furniture or clothes, or watch nothing but foreign films: it makes them feel “cultured.”

C) Buddhism hasn’t garnered near the stigma that Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, has. On that note, I often wonder why you never hear anyone criticizing mandatory celibacy in Buddhist monasteries? :shrug:

I’m with you. It’s pretty hilarious how much of his philosophy is consonant with Catholic moral teachings, right up to the rejection of homosexual acts, yet how much more “compassionate” he is portrayed in our society. I suspect the fact that he is less of an absolutist has something to do with it all, too. “I think it’s wrong, but it’s okay if you don’t,” is much easier to swallow than “It’s just wrong. Period.” And especially that nasty, barbaric, archaic word: “repent.” Ick. :wink:

Nor do you ever hear of the Dalai Lama stepping on women’s rights because he is against abortion.

Exactly. Btw, I expanded on my previous post a little and offered another possible reason, and I’ve just thought of another: he’s become a heroic figure as well for his struggle against China. One man pitted against a monolithic totalitarian regime. It’s the stuff movies are made of, and our country’s love affair with him is about as superficial as Hollywood itself. Fitting, I’d say.

C) Buddhism hasn’t garnered near the stigma that Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, has. On that note, I often wonder why you never hear anyone criticizing mandatory celibacy in Buddhist monasteries?

Because Buddhist monks aren’t out in the public eye, as a counterexemple to the vaunted “sexual revolution.”


Well, it depends. Certainly in the more Christian parts of America it’s OK to not like Islam, but in more secularized regions of the country or in Europe, any criticism of Islam is probably gong to get you called an Islamophobe. I’ve been active in defending Israel – I think they have a right to the land, and a right to self defense, but that position is mocked a lot.

In the same fora, both Christians and Muslims proselytize their faith. Athiests tend to swarm and derail the Christian threads, while a Muslim thread with much the same content gets less trolling. As far as being religious in public, again it’s much less of a struggle for a Muslim to be public about Islam (wearing special clothing, keeping prayer times, or getting a Holy Day off work) or to get special treatment (one example is a note sent about telling non-Muslims not to bring treats during Ramadan lest you tempt a Muslim, which would not be considered for a Christian observing a no-meat friday during lent). It’s more of a political thing, but it’s there for anyone to see, especially in big businesses and big cities.

Do you find that there is more tolerance for Islam after September 11th? It seems to me that the jokes against Muslims in the media fell into poor taste afterward, because there was an effort to stress that the US isn’t at war with Islam but rather just a small faction of radicals who do not represent the whole body.

I can think of TV shows before September 11th that did mock Islam, which at that time was extremely alien to Americans. Afterward, jokes seemed to be better-natured.

Then again there were cases where people began to be violent toward Islam. Perhaps it was just the media that was sympathetic, but at the grass-roots level it created hatred. The Copts where I live faced discrimination because people presumed they were Muslim, as sadly absurd as that is.

How are things from your end? Did September 11 actually help to improve and educate people?

Please read this.

I’ve read of cases where Muslim Americans, or those mistakenly thought to be Muslim Americans, came under violent attack for their religious background–nothing in Canada, which is where I live, though. I would posit that hatred toward people of the Islamic faith is simmering in some parts of Western society and we just haven’t seen this reality burst fully out into the open yet. The terrorist attack in Norway last summer comes to mind.

The Copts where I live faced discrimination because people presumed they were Muslim, as sadly absurd as that is.

The irony of such incidents is tragic: from time to time Muslims of the al-Qa’ida mindset viciously attack Copts in their own homeland, and Egyptian Christian immigrants to the U.S. could never have expected to meet such a fate in their new adopted country.

All the culprits had to do was to look at the wrists of their victims–they would’ve seen a Christian symbol, the cross, tattooed there. These people would probably have been so ignorant of the Middle East-North Africa region that Arab and Arabized Christians would be a notion absolutely incomprehensible to them, though.

I think you’re generalisation needs a complete re-assessment. I’m Roman Catholic and I think he needs all the attention he can get he is after all in exile with his people fleeing persecution from the Chinese.
Perhaps you should read some of his books. Maybe our religions are not compatible but he has stated Buddhism is not compatible with the west due to the life styles, capitalism and materialism we live by. He is a remarkable man. He teaches love, compassion and respect for others. If the Dalai Lama went in to Obscurity who would be the voice of Tibet or Burma. Why do you think it dangerous? Perhaps you should not judge so easily, maybe you should become a missionary and preach to the Dalai Lama? Or maybe change your perception of a really nice and pious man.

The DL seems to be a very good and wise man, and anybody like that should be listened to. So, if he says something I’ll pay attention, but he doesn’t fascinate me. I would say the same of the Pope… and actually, I’ll pay more attention to the Pope, because he’s a Christian like me, even if he is from a different faith tradition.

I didn’t get the impression that the OP was attacking the Dalai Lama himself. I, personally, think he’s an incredible man. However, I also think alot of people hop on his bandwagon for the wrong reasons. I don’t think, as the OP implied, his pop-culture status is specifically dangerous to our society, but I do believe it is symptomatic of the desperate-search-for-a-new-god-ism of our post-Christian culture. He is undoubtedly an incredibly brave and principled human being, and his country deserves our full support, but it cannot be denied that in this secular society, people have turned to deifying public figures, especially celebrities, but on occasion more truly accomplished individuals. It is idolatry and it is unhealthy. That’s how I see it, anyway.

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