I had already heard this message from Eckhart Tolle in his written work and when I saw him in person the previous week, but the credibility of the notion seems even stronger coming from a Nobel Laureate in a flowing red robe whose title is “His Holiness”.
The Dalai Lama was in Charlottesville, VA, last week to talk about his book Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World. I haven’t read it yet (as I have stressed before, I’m still new to the party and am clawing my way up the learning curve). Amazon describes it as, “An unprecedented event: a beloved world religious leader proposes a way to lead an ethical, happy, and spiritual life beyond religion and offers a program of mental training for cultivating key human values.” I’m ordering it today, so stay tuned.
In the panel discussion I had the opportunity to attend, the Dalai Lama and several professors from the University of Virginia’s medical and nursing schools discussed compassionate care in the practice of 21st century medicine. His Holiness was deeply impressed with the work the university is doing to incorporate mindfulness and compassionate care principles into the curricula for doctors and nurses in training.
Here are just a few of the memorable statements the Dalai Lama made during that conversation, some of them through his translator:
“The essence of healing is compassion. Compassion is not a religious feature, it is a human feature. It is essential for human survival.” (This is a quote from one of the Dalai Lama’s books, cited by one of the panel members.)
“My number one commitment is promoting human compassion and affection.”
“A self-centered attitude is the most destructive. The world is filled with unnecessary problems. Animals have limited destructive acts. This ‘wonderful brain’ and its destructive emotions lead to immense problems. The root cause of all these problems is lack of empathy for others. Corruption, injustice, cheating, hypocrisy — these are rampant in religion too. In that case, the people are not only cheating other human beings, but also God.”
“Honesty, truthfulness, a sense of others’ well-being — these are what we must strive for. We must develop a sense of concern for others’ well being. We need to do this in our day-to-day life, not because we are focused on getting to heaven or reaching ‘Buddha-hood’, but because we are human.”
“There is no room for jealousy, frustration, stress, anger. What really creates inner peace? Confidence leads to a calmer mind, which leads to improved health for you and your family, and a healthy society.”
“Even religion can create more problems. Use common sense, drawn from common, personal experience. It’s not about religion.”
“Constant fear is eating our system. The importance of warm-heartedness is key to all. It’s essential to educate people (especially children) about this.”
The panel discussion ended, and everyone stood to receive the blessings of the Dalai Lama, whereby he blesses a white prayer shawl and drapes it around the neck of the person in front of him.
Instead of starting with the panel members, he walked to the edge of the stage where the two sign language translators stood in the shadows. When they saw him approaching, their eyes widened. One of them was fighting back tears, clearly emotional from being recognized, perhaps for the first time ever in the course of her quiet work on the margin. The Dalai Lama took her face in his hands and cooed at her, making her tears run faster. The gesture summed up everything about him, particularly the power of compassion.
I am happy to share my more detailed notes from the panel discussion. Just let me know in the comments or through my contact page if you’d like a copy, and I’ll send them along.