Oprah: Is Buddhism a path to happiness?
Dalai Lama: Certainly—though some people get the impression that Buddhism talks too much about suffering. In order to become prosperous, a person must initially work very hard, so he or she has to sacrifice a lot of leisure time. Similarly, the Buddhist is willing to sacrifice immediate comfort so that he or she can achieve lasting happiness. And in order to develop the willpower it takes to sacrifice, you must first realize that spending all your time and energy pursuing material comforts means you will eventually suffer. It's all about positive and negative consequences. It's very important to be aware that there are long-term consequences [for every action].
Oprah: Though you believe that Buddhism is a path to happiness, you've encouraged others to remain in their own faiths. True?
Dalai Lama: That's right. I always emphasize that it is much safer and better to keep one's own religious faith. The other major religions are thousands of years old and have long traditions.
Oprah: Do you believe that someone can be a Christian and still practice Buddhism?
Dalai Lama: Yes, I think so. There are techniques of Buddhism, such as meditation, that anyone can adopt. And, of course, there are Christian monks and nuns who already use Buddhist methods in order to develop their devotion, compassion, and ability to forgive.
Oprah: What function does religion serve in our lives?
Dalai Lama: It helps us to develop compassion, caring, and, I think, a sense of purpose.
Oprah: And what is our purpose here on earth?
Dalai Lama: To help one another.
Oprah: So the whole reason we are on this planet is to serve each other?
Dalai Lama: That's right.