True love demands wise judgments, action

Father John A. Kiley

Dalai Lama is the name given to the Buddhist leaders of Tibet who are part of the newest school of Tibetan Buddhism. The name roughly translates into “big ocean.” The 14th and current Dalai Lama is considered to be the incarnation of compassion. The Dalai Lama has been a symbol of unity for Tibetans since he fittingly represents Buddhist values and traditions. The international function of the Dalai Lama is to be an ecumenical figure, appealing to disparate religious and regional groups, a task readily assumed by the present fourteenth Dalai Lama. He has worked to overcome sectarian and other divisions in the exiled Tibetan community and has become a symbol of Tibetan nationalism for Tibetans both in Tibet and in exile. The Western world generally respects the Dalai Lama as a world leader committed to promoting forgiveness, self-discipline, tolerance, compassion and contentment. The Dalai Lama’s observations on life are appreciated by many throughout the world.

Some of the Dalai Lama’s sayings are clever as well as insightful: “An eye for an eye and pretty soon the whole world is blind.” Some of his observations are surprisingly practical: ““If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun.” On the other hand he observes: “Through violence, you may solve one problem, but you sow the seeds for another.” The Dalai Lama’s views on religion are expectedly Buddhist and in many ways depart radically from the incarnational nature of Christianity: “This is my simple religion. No need for temples. No need for complicated philosophy. Your own mind, your own heart is the temple. Your philosophy is simple kindness.” Similarly: “The purpose of all the major religious traditions is not to construct big temples on the outside, but to create temples of goodness and compassion inside, in our hearts.” And again: “Love and compassion are the true religions to me. But to develop this, we do not need to believe in any religion.” Still again: “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” Christians might well sympathize with the Dalai Lama’s tender approach to the human predicament but life without a personal God to worship, a personal Savior on whom to rely, and a personal Spirit to quicken a believing community is a far departure from the Catholic framework that buoys up Western Christianity.

Certainly the Dalai Lama does utter advice that Christians may readily take to heart: “In our struggle for freedom, truth is the only weapon we possess.” St. Thomas Aquinas might have written this. Again his holiness advises, “A good friend who points out mistakes and imperfections and rebukes evil is to be respected as if he reveals the secret of some hidden treasure.” This observation could have come from St. Teresa of Avila or St. Theresa of Lisieux or even St. Teresa of Calcutta. But one quote attributed to the Dalai Lama to which great exception should be taken by Christians as well as by all people of common sense is this adage: “Love is the absence of judgment.” Now it is true that no less a religious leader than our own Holy Father Francis has lent credence to the notion that judging the conduct of others is the modern world’s greatest infraction. “Who am I to judge” are the Pope’s celebrated words during an off-handed interview, inevitably quoted without the qualifying “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will” proceeding them. And after all, Jesus himself said,” “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.”

There is a vast difference between being judgmental, that is, quick to judge others, and being judicious, that is, wisely recognizing in others (and in ourselves) the errors of their ways. Love is not the absence of judgment; love rather is achieving a truthful judgment about a person, a situation, a development, and then taking proper action on one’s assessment. Admonishing the sinner is, after all, one of the spiritual works of mercy but attempting this work of mercy today would be quickly dismissed as bias, bigotry, or even bullying.

A generation ago the movie “Love Story” suggested that “Love is never having to say you’re sorry.” But love is precisely having to say you’re sorry when an apology is required. True love demands wise judgments and action on those judgments. “He who has a chance to do good and does not do it commits sin,” writes St. James. “Those who lead the many to justice will shine like the stars of heaven,” observes the Psalmist. And most of all, Jesus himself pointedly teaches, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free!” Judgment is not always mean-spirited; judgment is simply the frank admission that mankind lives in an imperfect world and when an opportunity to improve that world presents itself it would be wrong to pretend otherwise. Love is not the absence of judgment; love is the wise exercise of judgment.