His Holiness the Dalai Lama in conversation with GV Prasad on July 7, 2021. Photo:Ven Tenzin Jamphel

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Dharamshala, India – His Holiness the Dalai Lama engaged in a dialogue on Compassion in Healthcare with members of Dr Reddy's Laboratory on July 7, 2021. "Peace of mind is a key factor in having a healthy body," he said in an address to healthcare professionals via videoconference from his home in Dharamshala.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama was invited to answer a range of questions, including how to show compassion under stress as a medical professional and achieving global solidarity in times of uncertainty. The dialogue was a part of the 'Abhaya Talks' series organized by Dr Reddy's Foundation for Health Education.

Mr GV Prasad, Co-Chair and Managing Director welcomed His Holiness and requested him to share his thoughts on compassion and coping with pressure through the pandemic.

The spiritual leader had celebrated his birthday the day before and took the opportunity to thank everyone for their warm wishes. "India is my home, and when I came here in 1959, I found it very pleasant and peaceful, with a wonderful religious harmony. I have been practising meditation for at least a few hours a day, a practice which is rooted in Indian culture through Nalanda Tradition," he said, emphasizing the impact of Indian philosophy in his life.

He further emphasized the importance of investigation and having a rational mind balanced with kindness and compassion. "We always use reasoning, even in the Buddha's teaching. If we notice contradictions in his teaching, we have the right to reject his own words. The Buddha has made it clear that all his followers should not accept his teachings out of faith, but rather conduct a thorough investigation," he asserted. He talked about how, despite the differences in religious philosophy, all religions have one message; and that is Karuna (compassion).

He expressed his views on Indian education and his firm belief that modern education introduced by the Western world must be combined with ancient Indian knowledge, including Ahimsa (non-violence) and Karuna, as well as meditation, Samatha and Vipassana. "Peace of mind is the key-factor for having a healthy body. Since I have peace of mind, I get 9 hours of sound sleep," he said, with a playful smile.

When asked how healthcare professionals can show compassion to patients, especially in times of stress, His Holiness explained how far an act of kindness can go for a patient. "Doctors and nurses should see their work as sacred, like a spiritual service. Sometimes I meet a doctor who doesn't smile or show emotion, and I think he might be carrying some experiments in my body," he said, with a chuckle. "When I see a doctor with a smile, showing human feelings, I feel full confidence in their service," he added.

His Holiness also offered advice on how health care workers must treat patients who may not survive. "If a dying patient is surrounded by compassionate doctors and nurses, then they will feel happy and at peace. Our life begins with the affection and compassion of a mother and must end in the atmosphere of Karuna. Karuna is the beginning and the end of life; and between this beginning and end, our work and profession must also proceed through Karuna," he explained.

He was then asked to share his words of wisdom on controlling negative emotions and what one can do to reduce their impact in one's life. "Attachment and anger are a part of our lives. They are part of the emotions of sentient beings, including birds and animals. However, humans have a unique quality through which rational analysis and thought can take place. As humans, we should examine how much damage the emotions of anger and hatred can cause, and its antidote lies in Karuna and Ahimsa".

Dr. Nageshwar Reddy then put forward a question asking His Holiness the Dalai Lama how one can bring about unity of different faiths and beliefs through a universal message.

"Different religions and faiths must respect each other and sometimes learn from each other. India is a perfect example of people of different faiths living together in harmony. This is not a political issue, but a traditional practice. India should set an example for other countries. Even in Buddhism, the philosophical areas may be different, but ultimately we are all followers of Buddha," replied the Spiritual Leader.

"Our compassion should be realistic compassion. Humans must use their intellect to analyze what is right and whether an action is really helpful to a person. From a broader perspective, we should see how our actions affect ourselves and others," he explained, answering the question on how to overcome the fear of not having enough love and material things and know how to be able to give love and compassion.

His words shed light on the importance of global solidarity in times of shared vulnerability in the world. "There are 7 billion people on the planet, and each of us depends on others for our lives. In times like these, the concept of "my country" and "my group" is outdated and narrow-minded. We need to see all human beings as members of one family," he said, urging the audience to use their reason to promote the development of humanity as a whole.

When asked how healthcare professionals handle mistake, he asserted that through discussion and collaboration, practitioners can gain insight into how to treat a particular patient. "A person may make mistakes even with the most sincere intentions. In such cases, discussion is very important," he advised.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama concluded his advice on dealing with adversity and death in the medical field by stating that doctors must be proud of their service."Doctors and nurses must remember that their work is practically helping and serving lives- not through prayers or lip service, but through action. To the families of healthcare professionals who have lost their loved ones in service, you should feel immense pride and admiration for them. Go ahead and tell the world about their contribution to humanity."