Brisbane, Queensland - Speaking on the difference between love and compassion, His Holiness the Dalai Lama Wednesday said "a basic sense of love which tends to be mixed with mixed attachment, that depends on how others respond to you. However, through thinking and training it's possible to develop compassion that can be extended to everyone.
The conference at Luna Park, held on June 10, 2015, was attended by an audience of 1700. The moderator, well-known Australian radio presenter Richard Fidler, opened the conference by questioning His Holiness about how he kept maintained a calm, peaceful mind.
"I use my intelligence and common sense," was the reply. "And while life as a refugee has had its sad moments, it's also provided opportunities to meet other people and learn from their different experiences."
Fidler asked if he just accepted things he couldn't change to which His Holiness quoted an 8th century Indian philosopher who said, "If you're faced with a problem, examine it. If it can be solved there's no need to worry about it and if it can't be solved, worry will be of no use."
"Very realistic isn't it?" he exclaimed. "This is good advice that I try to follow. For example, when my beloved Senior Tutor, my main teacher, passed away, I was shocked and sad, but there was nothing to be done. He was the rock I leant upon. But then I realized that what I needed to do was to work to fulfill his wishes."
When asked the difference between love and compassion he spoke of a basic sense of love that tends to be mixed with attachment, and which depends on how others respond to you. It's limited; it can't be extended to others. However, it's like a seed, because on the basis of that, through thinking and training it's possible to develop a sense of compassion that can be extended to everyone.
Fidler wanted to know if anything had ever infuriated His Holiness who responded by narrating two accounts on which he was unable to suppress his anger. The first, he said, was during an interview with a New York columnist whose persistent questions about his legacy led him to lose his temper.His Holiness confided that when he met the same journalist again a year later, they both looked at each other and laughed. The second occasion, he recounted, took place while in India where he had been invited to teach a group of Indian Buddhists.The friend who had organized the meeting told him that on a previous occasion these people had found his talk difficult to understand. He asked if this time it could be easier. Again His Holiness said he lost his temper because he felt that if he were only to teach about what they already knew there wouldn't be much point in teaching at all. Turning to Fidler he chuckled and said:
"So, if you don't mind me saying so, if you ask me foolish questions, maybe I'll lose my temper with you!"
Noting that as a young man he'd grown up in a confined situation and had later been exposed to the wider world as he began to travel, Fidler asked if anything had surprised him. He answered:
"Not much, because the previous Dalai Lama had left a collection of picture books and magazines that I looked through. So I was already familiar with New York, London, Berlin and Paris from their pages. And in addition to that we'd had these two Austrians in Tibet who'd escaped from wartime internment in British India. One of them, Aufschnaiter was engaged in hydro-electric and irrigation projects for the government, the other, a younger Austrian named Heinrich Harrer came to look after various machines at my residence. He used to talk to me about Western culture and the way of life in Europe, so I wasn't surprised when I went there.
"However, there was one thing. When I first went to the USA in 1979 I made several friends and met their wives and children. The next time I came, I was surprised to find some of them had new wives and when I came again, some of them even had third wives. I was also surprised to meet people with important, prestigious jobs, who, because of stress and worry, were unhappy. It showed me that material rewards, good reputation and a high salary were no guarantee of inner peace and happiness.
"On the other hand, I met a Catholic monk at Montserrat near Barcelona who had lived as a hermit in the mountains for five years living on little more than tea and bread. I asked him what he'd been practicing and he told me he'd been meditating on love. When he said that his eyes sparkled and his face glowed with joy. With almost no physical comfort he was completely happy. There are practitioners like this in India too who meditate naked high in the mountains. During the last Maha Khumba Mela, a great Hindu spiritual gathering that takes place once in 12 years, I'd hoped to go and meet some of them and hear about their experiences. However, due to bad weather I was unable to travel."
HIs Holiness finally commented that modern education is propagating a materialistic way of life.We should ask ourselves if it is really an adequate basis for a happy society. In British Columbia, however, guidance about the importance of warm-heartedness has been introduced in all schools."
Richard Fidler then invited four additional panelists to join him and His Holiness on the stage. The first to speak, Barbara Fredrickson, explained her team's work examining the physical effects of different kinds of happiness. She distinguished between hedonic well-being, which stems from the pleasure you get from a satisfying yet superficial experience like eating delicious food, and eudaemonic well-being, which comes from thinking that your life has a purpose and that you're making a contribution to society. They found that hedonic well-being was associated with increased expression of genes involved in inflammation, while the way genes expressed themselves in association with eudaemonic well-being was the opposite - a much healthier response. The conclusion was that doing good, having meaning and purpose is associated with better health.
His Holiness remarked that he had also heard of findings that show that constant fear, anger and hatred have the effect of eroding our immune system. He suggested that a useful area of investigation would be the distinction between sensory consciousness and mental consciousness. He pointed out that pleasant sensory experience has little effect on mental unrest, but that if we have calm minds we can cope with physical pain and discomfort.
Professor Paul Gilbert, who pioneered research about compassion and was one of the first to initiate Compassion Focused Therapy, suggested that we are at our most flourishing when we experience and feel we are cared about, wanted and valued, and when we care for, help and value others. His Holiness agreed and recommended that modern education pay more attention to such understanding of the mind and emotions.
Dr Sue Knight, a chief evaluator of the Primary Ethics trial in NSW schools and creator of the Primary Ethics curriculum that currently involves 29,000 children, suggested that it is through the development of well-reasoned and ethically-grounded thinking that education fulfills its individual and social goals. The Primary Ethics program is concerned with teaching children how to think rather than what to think.
His Holiness agreed with this and added that on our planet today, many problems and much suffering we face is essentially contrived by us. Wars transpire in the name of religion. He said that it's contradictory that we all want to live a happy life and still continue to create trouble for ourselves. Falling in line with the suggestions broached by the panelists, His Holiness stressed on the need for an education mindful of secular ethics that is respectful of all religious traditions.
Charlie Scudamore, a visionary educator and Vice Principal of Geelong Grammar School said that he represented every teacher who wanted to help children change their lives, and make the world a better place. In the face of an increasing drive for assessment, encouraging flourishing is what education should really be about. Quoting Marty Seligman, pioneer of positive psychology, he said "We can experience three kinds of happiness - pleasure and gratification; the embodiment of strengths and virtues and meaning and purpose."
HIs Holiness concluded the session by expressing his gratitude to the panelists, "I feel really encouraged to have met and listened to you all. I'm convinced that through education it is possible to change the world for the better. I don't expect to live to see the result in the next 20 years or so, but this is very good, wonderful, thank you."
His Holiness is set to hold a teaching on Nagarjuna's 'Precious Garland' in Brisbane tomorrow, and attend multi-faith prayers in St Stephen's Cathedral.