Minneapolis, MN, USA – On 23rd June 2017, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama visited the William F Austin Building on the Starkey Campus in the morning in order to participate in a panel discussion on 'Compassion'. His Holiness was welcomed by Bill and Tani Austin, and introduced to Forest Whitaker, who was the moderator of the panel discussion.
The event began with Tani Austin introducing the panel to the audience, which consisted of around 250 politicians, businessmen/women, and the Starkey employees. Actor Forest Whitaker, as well as working to empower children in places of conflict, is an advocate of sustainable development and a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. Undeniably, His Holiness did not need an introduction; instead Tani Austin read a summary of His life.
The moderator, Forest Whitaker commenced the discussion by expression his acknowledgement and gratefulness for the presence of His Holiness and asked the panel to define compassion.
Without uncertainty, the first response was by His Holiness, who stated, "Compassion is concern for others – sincere concern for others." Furthermore, His Holiness tried to explain this by making a point; when others show us affection and offer their help, it makes us happy and in the same sense, if we offer our affection or help, others too will feel joy and be happy. The more compassionate our mind is, the more transparent, honest, and truthful our lives are. Compassion plays an important role in enhancing our inner strength, reducing our fears, and encourages friends to assemble around us. He says, as social animals, we need friends, and the main source of attraction for friends is trust. Such trust is said to grow when we show actual care and concern for the well being of not only ourselves, but others as well.
"Compassion enhances our self-confidence allowing our marvellous human intelligence to function properly, because fundamentally our mind remains calm. If instead we are angry our analysis will be biased, we won't see the different aspects of reality. When the mind is calm we can take a holistic view which is more realistic."
"My friend, psychiatrist and cognitive therapist, Aaron Beck, who has worked with people troubled by anger, told me that when we're angry we see the person we're angry with in a totally negative light. However, 90% of this is just mental projection. On the other hand, compassion, as I've said, enables us to see things in an unbiased and realistic way."
Bill Austin claimed that according to him, compassion is about respecting live, which includes protecting, defending, and upholding life.
According to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, 'giving' can be categorized in four ways: firstly, giving freedom from fear, which indicates saving a life; secondly, giving material gifts; thirdly, giving love, instruction or education; lastly, giving the kind of education people need to support themselves. Furthermore, His Holiness clarifies that the first kind of giving is not only about giving but also about the protection and defending the lives of others. The second type of giving could also include providing facilities, while the third involved genuine and altruistic intentions and motivations in giving, which means giving without a view of a reward for one's self. The last type of giving can be considered to correspond to physical health and mental health, in a way that people are aware of the transformation of their emotions.
"To lead, it's important to have people's trust. You need compassion, but also a far-sighted vision to be able to realistically pursue your goal," was the response of the Dalai Lama when asked about the makings of an honest, strong leader. Agreeing with this, Bill Austin added that he reckons that the important thing is to lead by example.
In order to express the remarkable need for inner strength, His Holiness laid the foundational distinction between our mental experience and our physical experience. He advised that understanding the functioning of the mind and emotions would offer a great deal of improvement in education. Taking examples from ancient Indian knowledge, he provided the validation for this and also brought to our attention the difference between appearance and reality, a profoundly relevant question in today's day and age. Being compassionate is the one thing we may need, but being realistic is another.
Bill Austin recommended waking up every morning knowing not only that you can make a difference, but also that you have a responsibility to make a difference.
Members of the audience were allowed to ask questions, one of which was related to the anger and the polarization in the political world and how to end this separation. His Holiness responded with prudence stating that since he is only a visitor, a longer stay would be better to investigate into the realities of that question. However, He laid immense importance to the fact that 'for many years he has told his American friends that it's not the power of the US's nuclear weapons that impresses him, but its fundamental principles of democracy, freedom and equality. These are what remain important and what we have to respect.'
When asked on how to improve things, He stated that improvement is required in the way the coming generations are educated. The morning's proceedings were wound up byBrandon Sawalich, who thanked the members of the panel for their thoughts—His Holiness especially.