A Universal Approach to Ethics
For a considerable portion of humanity today, it is possible and indeed likely that one's neighbor, one's colleague, or one's employer will have a different mother tongue, eat different food, and follow a different religion than oneself. It is a matter of great urgency, therefore, that we find ways to cooperate with one another in a spirit of mutual acceptance and respect.
In such a world, I feel, it is vital for us to find genuinely sustainable and universal approach to ethics, inner values, and personal integrity - an approach that can transcend religious, cultural, and racial differences and appeal to people at a sustainable, universal approach is what I call the project of secular ethics.
All religions, therefore, to some extent, ground the cultivation of inner values and ethical awareness in some kind of metaphysical (that is, not empirically demonstrable) understanding of the world and of life after death. And just as the doctrine of divine judgment underlies ethical teachings in many theistic religions, so too does the doctrine of karma and future lives in non-theistic religions.
As I see it, spirituality has two dimensions. The first dimension, that of basic spiritual well-being-by which I mean inner mental and emotional strength and balance-does not depend on religion but comes from our innate human nature as beings with a natural disposition toward compassion, kindness, and caring for others. The second dimension is what may be considered religion-based spirituality, which is acquired from our upbringing and culture and is tied to particular beliefs and practices. The difference between the two is something like the difference between water and tea.
On this understanding, ethics consists less of rules to be obeyed than of principles for inner self-regulation to promote those aspects of our nature which we recognize as conducive to our own well-being and that of others.
It is by moving beyond narrow self-interest that we find meaning, purpose, and satisfaction in life.
Dalai Lama, in 'Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World'