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His Holiness the Dalai Lama with the delegates of AEI at the former’s residence in McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala, India on 4 November 2015. Photo: TDN

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Dharamshala — The spiritual leader of Tibet His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama hosted representatives and guests from American Enterprise Institute, a think tank based in Washington D.C., for a two day symposium beginning on Wednesday, November 4.

A delegation of 38 from AEI met His Holiness at his residence to begin the first panel of the symposium entitled, Abundance without Attachment.

In his introduction, Arthur Brooks stated the purpose of this symposium was to talk about purpose in their work, about enterprise and poverty, and how to lift people up. Remembering the four factors that His Holiness claims constitute a happy life; enlightenment, spirituality, worldly satisfaction and wealth, he expressed that while his initial reaction to the last factor of wealth was surprise, he quoted the proud boast of a friend he'd met during his work in the Dharavi slum in Mumbai which made him understand:

"I built something; I earned my living and I served other people," a phrase Brooks came to understand was the meaning of His Holiness's term wealth.

Brooks introduced the members of the first panel, Jay Panda, an Indian Member of Parliament representing Odisha; Paresh Shah, a Gujarati living in LA who is an executive and yogi; and Robert Doar, now an AEI fellow, who was commissioner of New York's Human Resources Administration. He asked them to consider 'What is a meaningful life in the midst of poverty?'

When Brooks turned to His Holiness for his thoughts on the topic, His Holiness said, "We are all living beings with feelings of pleasure and pain. All beings love their own life, but different sizes of brains mean we have different levels of intelligence. We human beings are the most intelligent and it is by using this intelligence that we can change the world for the better."

Addressing the main point of poverty, His Holiness stressed the need to bridge the gap between rich and poor, poignantly stating," I often think of billionaires and the poor. The truth is that the physical size of the stomach is the same. And we have only ten fingers. You can acquire 20 or 30 rings, but you have only 10 fingers. So the reality is that poor and rich people are the same."

"In India, cities are getting bigger and bigger, but rural areas are staying the same, they are lacking development. What the rich can do is to respectfully provide facilities and education. But the poor have to work hard and develop self-confidence. Wallowing in anger and resentment wins nothing."

Suggesting a solution to the root of unhappiness for both the rich and poor, His Holiness said, "I often point out that existing modern education is not adequate to shape happy individuals living in happy families in a happy nation," His Holiness said, "because there is too much focus on materialism. In the West people are affluent, but are beginning to realize that having inner peace is more important. Because no one religious tradition can have universal appeal, we need to adopt a secular ethics, a sense of respect for all spiritual traditions and even for the views of those who follow none."

After a morning of lively discussion the session broke for lunch, rejoining the following day for a fresh panel.

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