Compassion Without Borders

dalai lama


On the occasion of his first public visit to San Diego, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, the spiritual leader of Tibet, visited the University of San Diego, the University of California, San Diego and San Diego State University. The joint symposium was titled “Compassion Without Borders: Science, Peace and Ethics.”

Among his many honors, the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent struggle for the liberation of Tibet; fittingly, the theme of his talk at USD was “Cultivating Peace and Justice.”

President Mary E. Lyons, PhD, presented the University of San Diego Medal of Peace to the Dalai Lama on the stage of the Jenny Craig Pavilion, in recognition of his scholarship and lifelong contributions to international peacebuilding. “As a spiritual leader, one who strives for and continues to live a life dedicated to peace, you are truly a living witness to the greatest aspirations of our university,” she said.

Following are excerpts from his remarks at USD to an extremely appreciative crowd of students, staff, faculty and community members.

On himself as a person: “I am just another human being. We are the same. These kind words and medals are recognition for my small contribution for serving humanity. So, thank you very much.”

On the value of compassion: “I really am impressed how often, in different places and countries, how quite often I’m hearing about compassion, peace and non-violence. And many places, including this university, are really making actual efforts to implement the value of compassion … “Compassion is a noble sort of emotion. If you remain cautious, because the facts say you should distrust a person, because they really want to harm you, to hate you, to create trauma for you, you can keep a genuine sense of concern for their well-being. They are also human beings, just like you. Keep a genuine sense of compassion, a sense of concern over their well-being. That you can do … “One Tibetan monk I know very well was arrested by the Chinese authorities in 1959 for the next 18 years. In the early ’80s, after things were more liberal, these people were released and had the opportunity to come to India. He told me that during his 18 years in Chinese prison, he faced some dangers. I thought danger for his life, maybe, so I asked what kind of danger. His answer was, ‘Danger of losing compassion toward the Chinese.’ A trained person has that kind of attitude. It’s really important to keep compassion towards your perpetrator. Losing compassion is a very serious danger.”

On non-violence and violence: “Genuine peace must come through inner peace, from a sincere sense of concern for others’ well-being. On the other hand, if the motivation is to cheat, to exploit, to take advantage while using nice words, even though it looks like non-violence if the motivation is to harm, it is essentially violence. So the ultimate demarcation of violence and non-violence is entirely based on motivation … “There’s a Tibetan saying … the Tibetan word for temper rhymes with knuckles, so the saying is, ‘When you lose your temper, just bite your knuckles.’ So at least, there’s some pain that distracts your anger. I like that … “Many of my friends — scientists and educators — are really concerned about youth and the younger generation, about the violence and unhealthy things they see happening. And having a very luxurious life or coming from a richer family still doesn’t make them happy. So what’s wrong? Physical comfort doesn’t mean mental comfort. The mental satisfaction that comes from money is only temporary. In the long run, mental comfort must develop within the mind itself … “The 20th century eventually became the century of blood, the century of fear, the century of violence. Those unhappy events were actually the symptom of past negligence, of past mistakes.”

On inner peace and happiness: “Through education, through awareness, I think we can develop a deeper understanding about the system of our inner world. Through that way, we can develop genuine inner peace, and once that inner peace develops, justice automatically comes … “Since immense technological and material development have failed to bring real happiness to humanity, now the time has come to find different ways. Education and institutions are the key factor to further investigation. Eventually we have to find some kind of curriculum about these inner values, from kindergarten to the university level. Experiment with one school, with limited students, for five years. What is the result? If it’s positive, expand to another 10 schools, then another 100 schools. Then things become really convincing and we can adopt on a larger scale, even, finally, the federal level, and the global level … “In order to build a happy 21st century — a century full of peace, based on inner peace and compassion — our ultimate goal is through education, through awareness, through everybody taking care of one’s self. A healthy mind brings a healthy body and a healthy family. I think that’s the way to build, to change, to transform our world.”

On respect for religious traditions: “I’m a Buddhist, therefore, I should not develop an attachment towards Buddhism. Because once I develop an attachment, I become narrow minded, and then I can’t see other things objectively. It’s important to have faith toward one’s own religion, and respect for all religions. All of the major traditions have served humanity for the last thousand years, and millions of people still get the benefit of immense inspiration, of these sources of hope … “I’m a staunch Buddhist, however, I sincerely, seriously respect all other religious traditions. Whenever I have the opportunity, I make a pilgrimage to different holy sites. I started this practice in India in 1975, and whenever I have the opportunity, I go to religious places. Millions of Christian practitioners all over the world are truly dedicated serving to others, it’s a tremendous sort of dedication and it comes from their faith. So there are plenty of reasons for respect.”

On the importance of hope: “I think that a hopeful mental state can have an immense benefit. When you’ve completely lost hope, it’s very bad for your health. Fear is the destroyer of a calm mind. Anger and hatred are the destroyer of peace of mind. And that kind of enemy is within yourself … “In spite of some sad events in the world, I think humanity is becoming more civilized, more mature. This is my view. There are those who say humanity is basically bad and that the human future is doomed, and I basically disagree. We are just beginning this 21st century. Things are changing. Yes, the economic crisis is bad, but it is good to remind yourself not to take things for granted. Even bad events can be transformed.”

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