His talk was both expected and surprising. Expected in that his constant message has always been one of compassion—it is so primary that we teach children in kindergarten to treat others as they want to be treated (adults somehow forget this lesson as they age); surprising in that he stressed the importance of secularism and science. Indeed, what I interpreted from his speech was that if anything good is ever going to happen in this world, it must be done through secularism. It seems to be the only way to bridge the gap between all the differing faiths and beliefs of this world. And his interest in science stems from his interest in secularism. The Dalai Lama is the founding—and largest donating—benefactor of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education located at Stanford University. The research they are doing involving neuroscience and how the brain works proves and bolsters the beliefs of Buddhism which concerns itself with the mind. The Dalai Lama stressed that there is no “Creator belief” in Buddhism, only the practice of achieving a “happy life” in the here and now, being able to have complete control over one’s mind and mindfulness. And the important research in neuroscience is both uncovering new and exciting areas as well as supporting the basic tenets of Buddhism.
His words on compassion were a pleasant surprise as well. The Dalai Lama maintains that compassion needs to be coupled with WISDOM: to act out of compassion is a good thing, but to do so in a way that depletes you is foolish. But what really interested me was the idea that, when someone is coming at with you with malice, intending to harm you, intending to deny you what you need for you to live a "happy life," it is your duty not only to protect yourself, but to stop them from harming you out of compassion for THEM. You should think of your enemies’ well-being: correcting their harmful ways can be done out of compassion, out of a concern for their OWN happiness in the long run. Compassion does not mean that you sympathize with anything anyone might be doing or thinking or feeling--it means "right-doing" in the Buddhist sense. And if they are not practicing "right-doing," you can feel compassion for them--and prevent them from doing wrong and living wrong. That was very inspiring to me, especially considering the plague of the Radical Christian Agenda that is infecting and harming our society right now.
It was so refreshing and nourishing to hear a spiritual leader extol the virtues of secularism and science, and recognize that those things are not the enemies of a sense of the spiritual in daily life. His message was such a lovely, encouraging voice of reason, and gives me hope that this country will not be taken over by the divisive, hurtful, sick Radical Christian extremists who are really akin to the Taliban. And it gives me hope for the world.