Each Friday, we share three topical longreads in our Weekend Reader newsletter. This week, we celebrate His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s 83rd birthday. Sign up here to receive the Weekend Reader in your inbox.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet and one of the most beloved and recognized leaders of our time, turns 83 today.
His Holiness is the fourteenth person to be recognized as a Dalai Lama, believed to be a manifestation of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. The self-proclaimed “simple monk” has dedicated his life to that spirit of compassion, and in turn has made a worldwide impact with his service as a statesman, spiritual teacher, and theologian. In this Weekend Reader — on his birthday — we celebrate His Holiness and look at his life as inspiration for our own.
Below, His Holiness describes how Buddhist teachings help us live a life of compassion, Buddhist teacher Roshi Joan Halifax shares a personal account of her time spent with him, and Lion’s Roar Editor-in-Chief Melvin McLeod sits down with the leader for an inspiring discussion on happiness and human goodness.
Happy Birthday, Dalai Lama!
—Lilly Greenblatt, assistant editor, LionsRoar.com
Roshi Joan Halifax reflects on personal moments with him that exemplified his compassion and wisdom.
I went back to my seat in the conference and watched His Holiness shift his mental state, as quickly as stepping through an open doorway. His nimbleness of mind and heart was a good example of how the taste of suffering induces empathy, followed by compassion in someone who has trained the mind and heart to use suffering as a medicine to open to greater love and care.
His Holiness is a powerful example for all of us today, as we face our imperiled world. His great and tender heart and his boundless wisdom open him to the truth of suffering and freedom from suffering.
This teaching by the Dalai Lama explains how the Buddhist teachings of mindfulness and compassion lead inevitably to feelings of self-confidence and kindness.
Whether people are beautiful or plain, friendly or cruel, ultimately they are human beings, just like oneself. Like oneself, they want happiness and do not want suffering. Furthermore, their right to overcome suffering and to be happy is equal to one’s own. Now, when you recognize that all beings are equal in both their desire for happiness and their right to obtain it, you automatically feel empathy and closeness for them. Through accustoming your mind to this sense of universal altruism, you develop a feeling of responsibility for others; you wish to help them actively overcome their problems. This wish is not selective; it applies equally to all beings. As long as they experience pleasure and pain just as you do, there is no logical basis to discriminate between them
In this exclusive conversation with Lion’s Roar’s Melvin McLeod, the Dalai Lama talks about human goodness, why the self doesn’t (and does) exist, and how caring for others is the ultimate source of your own happiness.
Melvin McLeod: What is your basic definition of the Buddhist path?
The Dalai Lama: I express the Buddhist way of practice as utilizing human intelligence to the maximum, and in that way transforming our destructive emotions. Like other religions, Buddhism stresses the importance of faith, but faith must be combined with wisdom. Similarly, love and compassion also must combine with wisdom.
In Buddhism, and particularly in the Nalanda tradition I come from, intelligence or reasoning is very important. The Buddha was a great philosopher and thinker, and also a scientist. He told his followers that they should not accept his teachings out of faith, but rather through thorough investigation and experiment. So in the Buddhist tradition, investigation, reasoning, and evidence are the key factors. That in turn brings faith.