The principle of universal responsibility is a real gift of the present Dalai Lama. All the challenges we face can be met and countered if we can as individuals develop and practise a sense of universal responsibility—a feeling of responsibility for everyone. Of course, a person who aspires to liberation for himself or herself alone will also feel some sense of responsibility, but it will not be a universal one. Universal responsibility implies feeling a connectedness with the entire universe, with all sentient beings, and with all the living beings on this earth, and a concern and a responsibility for them all. For example, if I commit an unwholesome action of some kind, its effects will not be limited to the immediate subject or object. It will have a universal implication. This is a phenomenon that scientists also recognize today. A pin dropped here in France has repercussions a long way away ; even light years from here, it can have some kind of effect. This is a reality. As was explained by the Buddha, the actions of every single individual have a relationship with, and effect on, the entire universe, whether it be directly or indirectly. It is an understanding of this universal interconnectedness that underlies what is meant by lhaksam. This is what gives universal responsibility the elevated quality it has, and keeps it from ever being ordinary in its outlook. And it is only the development of this sense of universal responsibility that can allow us to tackle our major challenges, and many others as well.
I personally believe that this unique way of expressing the meaning of lhaksam, as universal responsibility, is really one of the present Dalai Lama’s great contributions to the world. And it is up to us to continue this gift for the benefit of people in times to come.
Professor Samdhong Rinpoche
(a speech at Lerab Ling, 23 July 2006, France)