I recently had the opportunity to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama speak as our keynote speaker at the Global Spa & Wellness Summit that took place in New Delhi just over a week ago. To be completely honest, I wasn’t very excited about seeing the Dalai Lama. People who know me are surprised by this given my interests in mindfulness, wellbeing and spirituality. But the reality is, I have seen videos of his talks before and read a few of his books and I knew that his message would be fairly simple. I did not expect to take much away.
In spite of my skepticism, it is true what people say about the Dalai Lama: being in his presence is quite a different experience. It is not so much what he has to say about things like mindfulness, compassion, or non-violence, although these things are all important. It is really more about how he exudes it through his own countenance and manner of interacting with his audience.
In the case of the Dalai Lama, the man is the message. Through direct eye contact, a warm smile and an easy laugh, he has a way of making everyone in the room feel like he is personally connected to them. His sense of humor, humility, authenticity, kindness and mindfulness all came beaming through. (If he was offering a course on public speaking, I would have signed up on the spot.) He also was gracious enough to linger long after his allotted time answering our questions, and yet he still left us all wanting more.
And of course his messages are fairly simple, but perhaps because I was sitting in front of him, entranced by his warm smile and his kind eyes, they hit home. And while this may be difficult to translate into a written blog post, here are some of the key pearls of wisdom that I took away:
- Humans have a “marvelous intelligence.” If you combine that with greed, hatred and anger, we are dangerous to ourselves and the planet. But if you combine it with compassion and love, there is no telling what we could accomplish together.
- “Secular Ethics” is the way of the future. Rather than looking at the differences across religions, what are the universal beliefs that tie us all together? Focusing on a universal morality of shared humanity builds empathy, which fosters trust and allows humans to cooperate rather than compete for the mutual benefit of all.
- “Hygiene of emotion” is just as important as hygiene of the body. We need to care for our thoughts and our attitudes in the same way we care for our physical health.
- “Education is important.” Mental wellbeing is not found through prayer. It is found through education based on science and common human experience. If a problem (such as anger) came from within, the solution is also within.
- “Peace of mind does not solve everything.” For example, the Dalai Lama complained of pain in his knees. But with peace of mind, you can deal with anything better and not become consumed by the nagging problems of life.
- Mindfulness is about “seeing reality better.” People think being in a positive state when bad things happen might mean you are not grounded in reality. For the Dalai Lama, having a clear mind is about seeing reality more clearly, which sometimes means noticing and appreciating the good that is happening alongside the bad.
- “Attachment and desire are two different things.” The Buddhist principle of non-attachment does not mean that we do not have things that we want (for ourselves, for loved ones, for the planet.) But we are able to want those things, and even pursue those things, without being attached to them.
- “The world is becoming more peaceful.” Increasing education and globalization means we are seeing a growing demand for non-violence and increasing cooperation across cultures.
References and recommended reading:
Dalai Lama (2012). Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World. Mariner Books.
by Jeremy McCarthy
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Thank you for this as you voiced all that I would have felt beforehand too, and your takeaways are uplifting. I suspect that if you asked the Dalai Lama about a ‘public speaking course’ he would tell you to continue to nurture your own depth and presence and allow these to come through in whatever setting or circumstance.
I am so happy for you to have heard the Dalai Lama in person. It is a platinum life moment, Your clear yet eloquent writing reflected this exceptional (understatement) man’s authentic philosophy. I paused and read your blog twice. I asked myself, “Why CAN’T we love each other and come together in a shared humanity?”. Humans always seem entrenched in religious wars. How tragic.
I loved how real he was when he talked. His humor surprised me. I remember his saying, “Do not drink!…Well…Only a little iuf it is a really big celebration!” The room cracked up.
Thanks for this reminder how to live the Good Life. Chris Peterson would have loved this blog, Jeremy. God love him in Heaven.