The Need for Religion in Our Present Lives
One reason for the pursuit of religion is that material progress alone will not give lasting pleasure of satisfaction. Indeed, it seems that the more we progress materially, the more we have to live under constant fear. Scientific technology has made marvelous advances, and no doubt will continue to develop. Man may reach the moon and try to exploit her resources for the advantage of human beings—the moon which some ancient believers regarded as the home of their god; and planets may also be conquered. Perhaps, in the end, this progress will reveal potential enemies outside our world. But in any case, it cannot possibly bring ultimate and permanent pleasure to human beings, for material progress always stimulates desire for even further progress, so that such pleasure as it brings is only ephemeral. But, on the other hand, when the mind enjoys pleasure and satisfaction, mere material hardships are easy to bear; and if a pleasure is derived purely from the mind itself, it will be a real and lasting pleasure.
No other pleasure can be compared with that derived from spiritual practice. This is the greatest pleasure, and it is ultimate in nature. Different religions have each shown their own way to attain it.
A second reason for the pursuit of religion is that we depend on religion even for the enjoyment of an appreciable amount of material pleasure. Pleasure and pain, in a general sense, do not arise only from external factors, but from internal factors as well. In the absence of the internal response, no amount of external stimulation can effect pleasure or pain. These internal factors are the after-effects or impressions left on our minds by past actions; as soon as they come into contact with the external factors, we experience pleasure or pain again. An undisciplined mind expresses evil thoughts by evil actions, and those actions leave evil after-effects on the mind; and as soon as external stimulation occurs, the mind suffers the consequences of its past actions. Thus, if we suffer, our miseries have their remote causes in the past. All pleasure and pain have their mental origins; and religions are required because, without them, the mind cannot be controlled.
By H. H. the Dalai Lama of Tibet