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Lions Roar : July 2017
We readily think of the Dalai Lama as a religious leader, a philosopher, an ethicist, or a charismatic world figure. But his role as a visionary, outlining a path to a better future, may be harder to grasp. Yet as I’ve zeroed in on this part of his persona, I’ve come to see that life has prepared him to be a unique voice for a better tomorrow. A bit to my surprise, I learned the Dalai Lama is a daily lis- tener to the BBC’s shortwave newscast, a habit that dates back to before he left Tibet in 1959. Even now, when he is at his home in the ridge-top village of McLeod Ganj in the hilly Dha- ramsala district of India’s Himachal Pradesh province, he tunes in each morning at 5:30 a.m. He supplements this window on the world’s affairs with a hands-on grasp that flows naturally from his global travels. He spends months each year wandering the planet, meeting people of all kinds: heads of state and world-class scientists, spiritual leaders and financiers, slum dwellers and social activists. Our concerns are his, whoever we are. Wherever he goes, the Dalai Lama forms an instant, warm bond with whomever he encounters, seeing everyone as “all the same.” I remember a reception for Hollywood stars some years back in LA. An A-list of names lined up one at a time, these stars suddenly turned into fans, smiling broadly and eager for the chance to greet him. I’ve seen the same joy of being with the Dalai Lama in heads of state and street kids in Oakland. He exudes a sense of well-being that everyone around him seems to catch. There may be no one else alive who garners the spontaneous admiration that people worldwide show for the Dalai Lama. Perhaps apart from Pope Francis, I can think of no public figure who matches his natural feel for the deep ethical issues, to whom people worldwide listen with a spontaneous respect, and who brings the power of his presence to all he does. From his vast web of contacts with people of all social levels, ideologies, and origins, he sees the We , the human family, facing a shared set of challenges that transcend boundaries, such as the ever-widening gap between the wealthy and the impoverished and the steady erosion of the planet’s life support systems. The BBC newscasts the Dalai Lama listens to bring daily dispatches from far corners enumerating an all-too-familiar list of human cruelty, injustice, and despair. He sees a single root cause at play: a lack of compassion. His remedy begins within each of us, with whatever means we can find to quell our own destructive emotions and adopt a compassionate moral rudder—one that cares as much or more about others as about ourselves. Lacking these inner fundamentals, we remain susceptible to the pulls of anger and revenge, envy, and resentment—the inner forces that drive the eternal sad repeat of humanity’s lesser nature. But with this internal shift we can act more compas- sionately and more effectively—a mind that is calm, clear, and kind can best embark on the grander mission he calls us to. The Dalai Lama’s vision for our world sees us each take action in our own way in five specific arenas: • Social Justice: Countering the forces that keep corruption, collusion, and social injustice in place and replacing them with transparency, fairness, and accountability throughout the public sphere. This may mean forceful action, and an eth- ical upgrade in political, business, and religious life. • Economics: The widening gap between rich and poor requires a more equitable distribution of resources and rethinking the basis for a fulfilled and satisfying life—and finding more cre- ative ways that business can do good, not just well. • Service: Helping those in need, while also empowering them to help themselves. The mandate to help means not just handouts, but also providing the means for the poor, the ill, and those in dire need to improve their condition with dig- nity and confidence. • Environment: Healing the planet’s wounds and making vis- ible the links between our material world, our habits, and the systems that support life. Surfacing these hidden links requires a deep understanding of the micro- and macro-level consequences of daily human activities, ranging from con- struction to commerce. • World Peace: Replacing conflict, war, and intergroup hostil- ity with dialogue and connection. This long-term approach to keeping the peace would one day see conflicts resolved through talk, not violence. It goes hand in hand with an end to seeing other groups as the enemy—in the realization that “they” are really “we.” • Education: Schooling the heart, so children grow up with the social and emotional tools to heal the world’s wounds. Such an education would cultivate inner tools for self-mastery, empathic concern, and living in tune with human values. In his role on the world stage, the Dalai Lama is beholden to no party or economic interest. He has no deadline looming. This lets him ponder the weightiest problems, think into the far future, and focus on the issues that matter to us all. The wider the breadth of caring, the longer the timeline, and the freer from obligation to any particular interest, the more visionary a leader can be. This sets the Dalai Lama apart as a world leader. He is a leader who tackles the challenges faced by LION’S ROAR | JULY 2017 48