5 Life Lessons from the Dalai Lama: Live 2013 Sydney Event
Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the 2013 talk by his holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama in Sydney. Me and 10,000 other eager listeners gathered into one large arena, eager to take home a nugget of wisdom from the World’s most famous and profound global spiritual leader.
I’d like to add here that in my opinion the Dalai Lama is probably one of the most light-hearted and fun human beings I’ve ever encompassed. He doesn’t take himself too seriously and it’s this refreshing charm and humbleness that I believe have inspired many to follow his lead. At one point during the Q&As session his holiness even mentioned his dislike for too many formalities and seriousness. I have to say I agree with him!
So today I’ll recap on the most poignant points from the Dalai Lama’s 2 hour speech and interview.
The power of compassion
His holiness started out talking about the benefits of adopting a compassionate mindset. He referenced research that has proven compassion slows down the heart rate and assists the physical health of individuals. Conversely he was quick to point out that emotions such as fear, stress, anger and hatred are literally ‘eating away our immune systems.’ In-fact I recently wrote an article that goes into more detail about the research behind compassion if you’re interested in learning more about the science behind this behavior.
I wholeheartedly agree with his holiness when he said that he believes that compassion is our natural state. We are born as compassionate beings because this is what we learn from our first experiences of motherly love. If you think about it, when babies are brought into the world all they are shown is compassion. It’s only as they grow older that things like fear and anger start to creep in.
Making a difference
During the Q&As session, his holiness was asked:
“How can one person make a difference?”
This was one of the most poignant moments of the experience for me. The Dalai Lama’s response was this (I’m paraphrasing here):
“Global change must come from individuals – not large organisations like the United Nations. We have an opportunity and a responsibility to make a small contribution to a better and more compassionate world. Firstly the individual must start with their own inner peace, then extend this to the family, then to the community.”
The Dalai Lama then said one of the most profound things I’ve ever heard. Something that I know I’ll always remember. He said this:
“World peace must come from inner peace.”
Wow. This was an epiphany for me. It’s funny how as human beings we can get caught up in the enormity of something as outlandish as ‘World Peace’ – and in doing so we miss the whole point. Humanity spends so much time focusing on fixing external problems, when all we need to do is look inside for the answers.
Imagine if every single person on the planet set themselves a goal to achieve their own inner peace. Imagine if that was their only goal, nothing else? World peace can only become a reality when each individual on the planet has their own sense of inner peace. And in my opinion, this is why personal growth is so important. If we don’t stop to get to know who we really are on the inside, how can we ever be at peace?
Socrates once said:
“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
And I believe what he meant by this was that it’s so, so, important to stop and take time to examine whether the life you’re really living is what you want? And whether you’re being the person you really want to be?
If every person on the planet achieved inner peace, then the World would have no choice but to be at peace.
Why am I here?
One of the Qs sent in by a young 8 year old boy was:
“Why am I here?”
Wow. I thought when I heard that one. How will his holiness tackle such a loaded question in just a few minutes? But as usual he had the perfect response – and not the response anyone was expecting. With a wry chuckle, the Dalai Lama’s response was this:
“Don’t bother with these questions – simply try to be a happy person!”
In my opinion – this just sums up one of the major problems with the human race. We over-think things and miss what’s truly important. We get fixated on really big, complex questions like “Why am I here?” when really the answer is very, very simple: Just be happy! Imagine if instead of over-analysing questions that are just too difficult to answer, each and everyone of us just placed out attention on being happy. Imagine how different the world would be!
How to avoid feelings of regret
Another great question was:
“What are the most important things I can do now to ensure I do not experience death filled with fear or regret?”
Here was his holiness’s response:
“Firstly lead your life more meaningfully and with more purpose. That means not creating problems or harming other people. So according to that nature – help other people and if possible serve them so you can be a nice person in the community. If you carry your life by being too self centered, and take advantage of others then you become a lonely person and nobody will like you. Then when your last day comes, if you remain a good human being then everybody will be very sad and you will be a great loss. But if you lead your life too negatively, harming others and cheating others then when your last day comes everybody will say ‘good news, very good, wonderful!’ So you must lead your life meaningfully then at the end of your life you will be happy.”
What I love about the Dalai Lama is his simple approach to questions that we over-complicate in our minds. What he’s essentially saying is – be a good human being and you will not regret your life. Hi holiness did then point out that it’s important to accept death as a part of life and not to avoid it. It’s an acceptance of death that can allow us to overcome our fears.
The Dalai Lama then wrapped up this question by saying:
“The most important thing is to lead your life minimally. In my own case now nearly 80 years old, if death comes tonight I think hopefully not out of ignorance, I feel no regret. I use my life as some service to others and I myself also have trained so that at the time of death I can keep my mind peaceful and more compassionate.”
This topic of ‘no regrets’ reminded me of a piece I wrote on Bronnie Ware, an Australian palliative nurse who has collated the most common regrets her patients had in the last few weeks of their lives. You can read her incredible story here: How to Live a Life With No Regrets.
How to forgive
There was this very interesting question around forgiveness:
“How do we find it in our hearts to forgive someone who abuses human beings or animals?”
The Dalai Lama addressed a really common misperception when it comes to forgiveness – and something that I hope will help everyone reading this post get past any difficulties when attempting to forgive others. The two major points that I took out of his response were:
1. Forgiveness does not mean accepting the wrong doing of the other person
2. Retaining feelings of anger, hatred and stress do more harm to yourself than the act of forgiving.
These points are really very profound. We do not literally have to say ‘Sorry’ to forgive someone – and the very act of forgiving them does not mean we have to agree with their behavior in any way. As the Dalai Lama said:
“The real meaning of forgiveness is to mentally not develop feelings of anger and hatred due to the wrong action of others.”
So forgiveness simply means we are not willing to harm our own physical and mental selves by harboring damaging feelings of hatred and anger. In which case, if for no other reason, choose to forgive, to save your own state of health.
This point reminds of a really great quote about anger:
“Anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
It really is no benefit to anyone to retain such negative feelings – so the sooner we start to forgive, the better our own health will be!
His holiness also went on to talk about how if you develop negative feelings then this leads to a chain reaction of more negative behaviors that will self perpetuate and lead you to unhappiness.
There really were many more points form the talk that I could talk about in this post, but I feel that these were the main areas that stood out for me. I feel so very grateful to have even been in the same room as someone who has had such a positive impact on the world and I hope you too, took something valuable out of these life lessons.
Simple Life Strategy: 5 Life Lessons from the Dalai Lama | Sydney 2013 Event
1. Be compassionate. Remember that compassion is good for your health and stress, fear and anger will literally eat up your immune system. Choose compassion over negative feelings.
2. Find your own inner peace. As his holiness said: “Global change must come from individuals and world peace must come from inner peace”. Realise that you can make a difference by starting with yourself.
3. Be happy. Instead of grappling with complex Questions like “Why am I here?” simply focus on being happy and the rest will fall into place.
4. Be a good human being. Avoid feelings of regret when you reach the end of your life by being a good human being. Sounds obvious – but you’d be surprised how easy it can be to get caught up in other unimportant things.
5. Practice forgiveness. Know that forgiveness does not mean accepting the other person’s wrongdoing – it is simply a way of respecting your own physical health enough to not allow negative feelings to cause you harm.
I’d like to say an huge thanks to the organisers at Dalai Lama Australia for bringing his holiness to Sydney this year. You can watch the entire Dalai Lama speech from 16th June 2013 on Youtube.
Make a difference now! Please help to share the Dalai Lama’s message by sharing this article with one person you know today. Remember that global change starts with the individual.
More Simple Life Strategies:
- Wisdom from the Dalai Lama | Inspiring Quotes
- How Neuroplasticity can Improve Your Intelligence
- How to Be Fearless
Image source: Still taken from Youtube video via Dalai Lama Australia.