Monday, July 6 marked the 80th birthday of the Dalai Lama. People everywhere have been taking time to make special notice of His Holiness; in fact, the Global Compassion Summit in Southern California, which started Sunday and runs through July 7th, was created specifically in honor of his birthday.
Here, our editor-in-chief Melvin McLeod’s shares his own reflection on the Dalai Lama’s life and work after recently interviewing him; you’ll find that interview, along with this editorial, inside our new, special commemorative magazine, The Dalai Lama.
Celebrating the Dalai Lama
His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama is one of the most fascinating and admired figures of our time. We are honored to offer this special publication to celebrate his eightieth birthday.
The Dalai Lama is the world’s leading advocate of kindness, compassion, and nonviolence in all our relationships—personal, social, and political. He inspires us to discover the best in ourselves, others, and society.
Like King, Gandhi, and Mandela, the Dalai Lama is that rare global leader whose social and political message is informed by deep and subtle spirituality. Well-reasoned, realistic, and profoundly transformative, it is hard-won truth emerging from suffering—his own, his people’s, and the world’s.
The Dalai Lama’s role as a moral guide for humanity is woven throughout this special publication, and is addressed specifically by Daniel Goleman and Senator Diane Feinstein. His core message of love and compassion is expressed in many different ways.
He is the leader of an oppressed people subjugated by a global superpower. Yet he is unwavering in his advocacy of nonviolence in the face of injustice, and expresses his compassion for the oppressors, too. The world owes it to the Tibet—and to itself—to prove that nonviolence works.
He is of course the world’s best-known Buddhist teacher. He offers clear and accessible teachings on the Buddhist practices of wisdom, compassion, and meditation, while upholding the intellectually rigorous traditions of the Gelugpa school of which he is a member.
He is an open-minded scientist of the mind, bringing together the best of modern science with the inner science of contemplative practice. As renowned neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson writes in this publication, the Dalai Lama believes this partnership of the spiritual and scientific creates powerful tools that help us become more caring and responsible people. He places particular emphasis on educating children about how to cultivate empathy and other positive emotions.
But it is the Dalai Lama’s view of religion itself that I find most extraordinary—and potentially transformative for humanity. He is deeply respectful of all religions, yet acutely aware of the dangers of religious division. With his open and curious mind, he finds his sources not in faith but in logic, science, and observing what people want and need. He transcends his identity as the world’s best-known Buddhist leader and preaches a new, universal religion of kindness. Ultimately, his religion is human nature itself.
When I interviewed His Holiness for this publication we talked of many things, but it was a profoundly simple teaching that I came away with, one that I have been contemplating ever since.
The Dalai Lama spoke of all the superficial differences by which we judge each other, which he sees as the source of society’s problems. But when he looks at people, he sees not how we differ but what we share: our longing for happiness, our need for love and affection, our inherent compassion and goodwill. He sees that in our hearts we are all the same, and we are basically good.
When we can see others in this way, beyond the relative differences, we will see, as he does, that we are all brothers and sisters. I believe it is this lesson, simple and world-changing, that makes the Dalai Lama a teacher for humanity. Let us take it into our hearts.
—Melvin McLeod, Editor-in-Chief