Dharamshala – At the invitation of Indian billionaire philanthropist Azim Premji, this weekend His Holiness the Dalai Lama lectured on themes of empathy and kindness at the fourth meeting of the Indian Philanthropy Initiative.
From the beginning of the event, his remarks and answers to audience questions highlighted egalitarian ideals: "I always start my talks by greeting my brothers and sisters. Basically, we are all the same human beings." He continued, "We're born the same way and whether we are religious leaders, kings and queens, or beggars and AIDS patients we all go the same way."
The Tibetan spiritual leader reflected the philanthropic motives of the meeting in his statements, observing, "When there is a lack of concern for others, corruption and exploitation flourish." He highlighted education as an area in which the wealthy could create opportunities to help those who are economically disadvantaged. Along this same message to the wealthy, His Holiness distinguished between healthy competition – aimed at succeeding alongside competitors for the general good – and unhealthy competition – targeted at defeating others to attain only individual success.
Attendees recognized the Dalai Lama's comments aligned with the motives of Mr Premji, who was the first Indian to sign up for the Giving Pledge. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett unveiled the campaign in 2010, and its website describes the Pledge as "a commitment by the world's wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy." Under its umbrella, billionaires vow to donate over 50% of their wealth to charity.
Mr Premji accrued his fortune during the rise of information technology in India. He returned home from Stanford University to take charge of a cooking oil business after his father passed away. Sensing the value of the emerging technology industry, the young entrepreneur transitioned the business away from household products and into software. His Holiness the Dalai Lama self-deprecatingly remarked of Mr Premji, "He is already taking such practical steps through his educational foundations, while I only talk."
Besides discussing means of improving the world for others, the spiritual guide also provided insight into more internal means of improvement. He noted, "If you live your life honestly and truthfully, you'll be open and transparent which leads to trust. And trust leads to friendship. This is something important to note, that the basis of friendship is trust not money. Warm-heartedness is essential if we are to live happy lives."
The Dalai Lama closed his remarks by bringing the two ideas – that of outward giving and inward reflection – together. He concluded, "When you help others, do so out of respect. Don't look down on them. Serve humanity with compassionate intent."