Thekchen Chöling, Dharamsala, India - Lieutenant Governor of Washington State, USA, Cyrus Habib, led a delegation of 21 students and community leaders this morning, to take part in a live telecast with His Holiness the Dalai Lama on cultivating compassion.
“Last year we expressed a desire to connect you and your message of compassion with our state,” Habib told His Holiness. “Your 2008 visit to Seattle led to the establishment of a compassion scholars’ program. We have launched the SEE Learning program and are looking to extend it to more schools. We want to know how to make the US and Washington State more compassionate in the 2020s.”
His Holiness responded to the people in the room, as well as to others he could see on screen gathered in Washington. “Firstly, I’d like to say that this opportunity is very useful. I am just one human being out of 7 billion. When we’re young, we enjoy our mother’s affection and the affection of our friends. We smile and are playful. However, our existing education system doesn’t do much to nurture these qualities and show us how to develop warm-heartedness, which is the key to a happy family and a happy life.
“Basic human nature is warm-hearted. When you have a more compassionate mind, everything appears to you in a more positive light. If we employ our human intelligence with warm-heartedness, it creates a happy atmosphere and fosters a happy community. My primary commitment is to promoting basic human values and warm-heartedness from a secular point of view.
“These days, so many human beings suffer as a result of violence or the great gap between rich and poor. And yet, as human beings we are all the same. We all enjoy the same rights. It can help if more people become aware of the oneness of humanity.
“I am also committed to encouraging religious harmony. Despite differences in the philosophical stance, all religions convey a message of love, tolerance, contentment and self-discipline. India, where indigenous religious traditions arose before the arrival of Christianity, Islam and so forth, is a living example of harmony and respect between religions. This has roots in India’s long-standing traditions of ‘ahimsa’—non-violence supported by ‘karuna’—compassion. India shows that religious harmony is possible.
“As a Tibetan, trusted by the 6-7 million Tibetan people, I have a moral responsibility towards them. I have retired from political engagement, which is now the concern of an elected leadership. However, I am moved to speak up for the protection of Tibet’s fragile ecology and to work to keep Tibetan culture alive. Since the 8th century, when the Tibetan king invited an eminent Indian scholar to establish Buddhism in Tibet, we have preserved the most complete presentation of the Buddha’s teachings. This Nalanda Tradition, based on logic and reasoning, takes a scientific approach to understanding the workings of the mind.”
His Holiness explained that what destroys our peace of mind is destructive emotions like anger and jealousy. These can be countered to some extent by the cultivation of positive emotions. Understanding how to maintain peace of mind was thoroughly explored in ancient India. Because this knowledge remains relevant today, His Holiness feels committed to trying to revive appreciation of ancient Indian wisdom. He looks forward to this knowledge being combined with modern education.
The Lieutenant Governor told His Holiness that several compassion scholars in the room wanted to bring their projects to his attention and seek his advice.
His Holiness several times mentioned the importance of recognising the oneness of humanity. A direct result of this is to see whoever you meet as a brother or sister. He noted that as a result of modern education’s being oriented towards materialistic goals, there is a tendency to seek satisfaction in material goods rather than in human values like compassion. He suggested that if education included guidance about how to tackle destructive emotions it would lead to more widespread peace of mind.
“Cultivating love and compassion—warm-heartedness—brings the individual peace of mind and creates a more peaceful atmosphere in the community. What’s more, compassion brings us determination and inner strength.”
Responding to a question about climate change, His Holiness was clear that we have to think of the future of the whole of humanity.
Asked about the most important factor for emotional health, besides the practice of compassion, His Holiness commended an affectionate family and being shown affection at school.
Mr Habib thanked His Holiness for kindly giving his time. He told him that the people of the state of Washington wished him good health and undertook to try to implement his advice.