Santa Clara University

His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Santa Clara University

Incorporating Ethics and Compassion into Business Life: A Conversation between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Academic and Business Leaders

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February 24, 2014

Kirk Hanson: Your Holiness, if you would like to respond to any of the comments at this point, or I have specific questions from the audience, whatever you would like to do at this point.

Dalai Lama: Perhaps I may add a little bit. The compassion, there are two levels. One is a sense of concern of what others will be, simply, it's more the level of feeling or sentiment. So the other form of compassion could be more than a sentiment. There might be an element where you want to do something. So not only concerned about other, but also a sense of responsibility to do something.

Then in order to - I think at the first level, even I think element, those social elements, they're one of their partners, some kind of sort of, the expression, their empathy. But then immediately maybe they do something. But then we human beings, we have the ability to investigate what are the causes of their suffering, and the way to work on that, we have this intelligence. So now in order to do something, you should know the larger picture. And then with knowing the larger picture, then the reality, then your approach naturally would be a more realistic approach.

So here our mind should look at any event with a wider perspective. Just a single way, you can't see the whole picture. So we must look more wider. So holistic look, then that brings a sense of concern, I think biologically, then sense of responsibility to do something effectively. That's I think much of the human intelligence.

Then another thing. I nearly forgot something. Oh, again in order to investigate, in order to look at the situation objectively, our mind is important. Your mind too much involved with desire or anger, then our mind becomes biased. With a biased mind you can't see the reality objectively. So here also is an important role about compassion, a sense of others well being. That creates a calm mind, and with a calm mind, then we can investigate the reality, whether positive or negative. If there's too much of a biased attitude, then you can't see. You have too much desire, then we can see only positive things. If too much hatred, see only negative things. So these are I think the system of the human mind. Just I felt, otherwise in the Buddhist text there is an expression at the end of someone's statement you say, well said. I agree. So that was His Holiness's response to the presentation.

Really wonderful. All these things, your comments come from your own experiences. So wonderful. Many of my knowledge through thinking. So your knowledge, through practice. So your knowledge is much better than my just empty thinking.

Kirk Hanson: I do have a couple of questions that I think will draw from your not so empty head. One is that the competition - the conflict, perhaps, between competition and compassion, and that business is an institution dedicated to competition. How does the individual hold within himself or herself both the values of competition but also the values of compassion?

Dalai Lama: There are two kinds of competition. One sense of competition, you want to be top. Here you see there is some sort of element. You want the others also for the progress. So in order to do that, you show the way, you try to become top. That is some kind of sense of competition. That's a positive.

Another competition, in order to you become top actually create problems to others. In the process you are willing to create obstacles for others so that they don't reach where you are. That kind of competition is foolish. In the long run, suffer yourself. So the right kind of competition, actually pursuing others' further development. So you want to show them the proper way to develop. So good. You should not remain behind.

In fact, in Buddhist practice there's a basic practice called going for refuge, in the three jewels, the Dharma, the teaching, and the monastic community or spiritual community. And the attitude with which you relate to the spiritual community, there is a sense of competition, because you see them as your peers and you compare your experience with theirs. So there is an element of competition in that attitude. In fact, when we seek refuge in them, we're not seeking refuge by simply putting them up on the pedestal and worshipping them, but rather your attitude is you would like to become like one of them.

Kirk Hanson: Another question which reoccurs two or three times is how leaders - and you have certainly met many, if not most of the leaders of the world, are very busy persons, and certainly in Silicon Valley our business leaders are very, very busy persons. Last week you met with President Obama, who is clearly very tightly scheduled. How do individuals who are leaders in that way find room in their lives for the spiritual practices which will continue to develop compassion?

Dalai Lama: Perhaps one distinction that could be made is that of course leaders are very busy and their minds are always occupied by something that is drawing their attention. So while one is at that intellectual level, the cognitive level, completely engaged in a busy activity, at the same time there is no contradiction in that individual being able to maintain a level of composure and calmness at a deeper state of mind. So here one can say one dimension is the cognitive dimension, the other dimension is more of an effective emotional dimension. And at the level of the emotional or effective state, one can maintain a calmness, a kind of tranquil state, while cognitively being very busy and paying attention and being occupied.

So intelligent level, very busy, but emotional level, on a deeper level, relaxed. That is possible. [Laughs] But I don't know. So you should experiment, and then you know.

Kirk Hanson: There is a related question here having to do with bearing up under the suffering or the risk or the constant tension that comes with being a leader in a rapidly moving organization. And so I think there is a search among many Silicon Valley executives, as reflected in this question, for how to live a life in which you are constantly dealing with the risks that you have taken, dealing with the multiple responsibilities, dealing with the multiple people you are responsible for, and must find the kind of balance that Chuck talked about. Do you have any advice, any insights you can help them with out of either Buddhist philosophy or your own views on compassion that would help them deal with that constant existence in which they are dealing with so many things of such pressure?

Dalai Lama: When we speak about risk it relates to the question of future. And there is a Tibetan expression that future, a defining characteristic of future is its openness. Nobody can really predict what's going to happen in the future. So trying to be so exact in trying to forecast and being overwhelmed by not having met that forecast is in some sense a sort of unrealistic approach. Because the very nature of the future is open. And therefore to counter this there is another expression in Tibetan, which says, “He whose intention was good, he has no remorse.” So the point is that it's really intention where you can take greater kind of charge, insuring that your intention is right.

So out of sincere motivation, sometimes fail the object. But then you carry that sincere motivation, so no regret. No reason to regret. Again, it's a self-centered attitude carries something-then failure. I think more regret. What is your response?

Translator: Inviting other panelists to jump in.

Jane Shaw: Yeah, it's like the previous question you asked how do you find time? You know, you just have to prioritize, don't you? Some people prioritize it to stay physically fit. Some people will take time and follow a more spiritual path. We all know about mindfulness, trying to be in the moment, and getting rid of the noise and the confusion around you, so that it allows you to focus. People find their own way.

Kirk Hanson: There are two other themes here. One has to do with your embracing of a secular culture. And you have said - I'm paraphrasing - that one does not have to be religious. One can have mindfulness and compassion as a secular person. How do you see that? How does one who is a secular person achieve compassion and the same commitment to the humanity of all of those that they deal with?

Dalai Lama: In fact, the entire conversation that we are having in this panel discussion has really nothing to do with religion in general. For example, when we think about our physical health, we can approach the issue of physical health from a religious point of view, passed on by religious faith and practice. But at the same time, we can approach the same objective without bringing religion into the picture at all.

So similarly, these are taking care about our emotion. That also is the one part, with religious faith, about the next life, Heaven and all these things. Another, no simply the day-by-day well being, simply calm mind, happy mind. So we can approach these issues in a secular way.

Kirk Hanson: In a meeting about an hour and a half ago you met with a group of students from Santa Clara, and you pointed at them and you said, “You are the next generation and we turn everything over to you, and you either do it or you don't.” How do - I'll leave Monica out of this, but how do elders of Silicon Valley and elders of the compassion movement, how do we turn over this challenge of achieving compassion in society and organizations to the next generation? How do we build in that next generation the same commitment to compassion that at least some have shown in this generation?

Dalai Lama: Initially the elder people have much more experiences. So we as a witness, observed also those unhappy things due to too much self-centered attitude, and also too much short-sighted, and too much lack of holistic. … So we have these experiences. Then tell them. These are our actual experiences. So all this due to-I think ultimately-due to lack of sense of concern of the larger community's well being, short-sighted and selfish, self-centered attitude. That I think is elder people's responsibility.

Yesterday when I discussed, I mentioned elder people, we have our own beauty. There's more experiences. On the basis of more experiences, supposedly have more wider perspective, more wisdom. The younger people, their beauty is everything fresh and the future is in their own hand. So actually I think in order to build a healthy world, happy world, we both, elder people and younger people, we all have the responsibility. But I think we elder people physically relax and then telling them, sharing our experiences, then let them do. [Laughs]

Kirk Hanson: I will make the next of last question here one regarding -

Dalai Lama: You have something to say?

Monica Worline: I was going to return to the question about risk, if we could for a moment, because it was striking me as I was reflecting on our conversation that Jane told a beautiful story about a group of people banding together to take a risk, on the verge of bankruptcy because they believed in the purpose of what they were doing. And the purpose they held together as a group, higher than simply financial gain, but looking to accomplish something that they believed should be accomplished in the world. And I'm sure that Chuck has had experiences at Adobe where there were tough decisions to be made or there were risks to be taken, and a part of discerning as a leader the wise risk from the foolish risk, and leading people in such a way that they too understand their involvement in that risk. So that the leadership compassionately becomes leading as a community together, knowing that together we're stepping into risky territory, and we're doing it for a purpose and a reason with shared and collective value. And that seems to me a bit different than the understanding of the individual entrepreneurial risk-taker out there on his own, which might be a bit of a myth these days. We need other people. Our organizations and our technology are so complex. We have to find ways to make that risk held as a community and determine when its purposeful risk taking.

Dalai Lama: Right.

Kirk Hanson: Let me ask - the last question here has to do with the role of women in the world. Your Holiness is well known for his encouraging both men and women and has even said that Western women or women who are liberated can help save the world. Could you comment on how the role of women in the hope for the future of the world and also anything about how we might reach out to the women who are not as free of many of the women in Western countries are?

Dalai Lama: Firstly, this way, I'm usually telling people I think a few hundred thousand years ago, at the beginning of human society, human being, then smaller population, their life's quite simple. No concept of leadership. Everybody equal. Then population increased. The farming system started. Then the concept of mine, mine increased. My land, my house, like that. So then some mischievous actions started. So then the concept of leadership. At that time, no role of education. So in order to become leadership, the physical strength, like some animals. So then male dominance eventually comes. Then later, education starts. So education brings opportunity to both male and female. So a little bit more equal. Now the time comes we have to talk, we have to think more about compassion, sense of affection. In that field the female biologically is more sensitive about others' pain. So at a time we need a special effort to promote human compassion the female should take a more active role.

So some scientists say they tested one sort of picture somewhere, experiences, and they're watched by a female and male. Then physically the response - female, more stronger. That's a biological factor.

I think if world leaders female, perhaps less conflict. Less violence.

Jane Shaw: I agree with that. I agree with that.

Dalai Lama: Then, if that is true, I wish I should be female. [Laughs]

So I think the simple example, butcher, in most cases, male. Isn't it?

Jane Shaw: Yes.

Dalai Lama: Then in human history, most of the heroes who killed mercilessly their enemy in most cases, male. Of course, some female exceptions also are in there, really merciless. [Laughs]

So therefore now the female should take a more active leadership role promoting. I think in hospitals, nurses. In airplane, air hostesses, in most cases female. And then especially trained, big smile. But in most cases, artificial smile. [Laughs] So long in airplane, they really smile. Outside airplane, no longer any smile. [Laughs] So almost their duty to smile to others. [Laughs] Not come from here [points to heart]. [Laughs]

So this clearly shows, because the human nature, more sort of affection, and of course, the mother, female. In my own case, my mother, very, very compassionate. My father, short-tempered. In a few occasions I also get slapped. My mother, never. So generally speaking like that, so therefore, female not only should be treated equal but also have a more active role in this field.

Kirk Hanson: Thank you, thank you. May I invite our panel members to make any final comment they would like? Jane?

Jane Shaw: Well, I was thinking about the question about how to pass on to the next generation, and I think there is room for teaching. I think there's room for His Holiness to lead some of that way. Maybe there's room for - I know of no good book on the subject of compassion in business. I think there are a number of practical things that we could do.

Kirk Hanson: Thank you. That's one of the purposes of today is to give energy to what we do here in Silicon Valley going forward. Monica?

Monica Worline: Yes, I would like to close with two observations that come from our research that we wanted to convey to today's audience. The first that although we believe people have the basic impulse toward compassion, our work has taught us how difficult it is at times for people in workplaces to see that their colleagues are in distress. And so that inability to notice suffering at work causes a great deal of further suffering. And so I would encourage anyone in the audience today to adopt a question or a more observational tone as to the well being of the people around them in their workplace.

And secondly, our research has shown that it doesn't just involve a compassion giver or a compassion receiver. This social exchange model doesn't necessarily apply to compassion. People experience profound effects from being on the sidelines and witnessing compassion organizing like that I described in relation to the fire, or compassion expressed toward a colleague, or compassion from a manager toward an employee. And the fact that those witnessing effects occur mean that small expressions of compassion in our social life can have hugely profound effects.

Kirk Hanson:Good, thank you. Chuck?

Charles Geschke: We touched earlier on the fact that there is both a religious and a secular point of view with a lot of the topics we're talking about in terms of compassion and ethics and the golden rule and how you treat one another. I think from my point of view, it frankly doesn't matter that they're based on religious principles. What's important from the conversation we're having is that they're great business principles as well. And so irrespective of your background and how you got to where you are in the business world, don't think about those as things you don't want to touch because they have a cast of religion imposed on them. Deal with them because they are good business and they will come back to make your business more successful.

Kirk Hanson: Your Holiness, do you want to say anything more or shall we end the panel discussion for this afternoon?

Dalai Lama: Perhaps just one little thing. I think usually people feel compassion, love, these more or less spontaneous feelings or expressions. And also you take for granted that. Now here we need some distinction or sense of concern for others' well being. One level, biological level. That's even animals, their own youngsters, their own members of the same community. So it's a spontaneous sort of feeling and sense of concern for others' well being.

Now we need that biological factors of compassion as a seed. Then use human intelligence to further strengthen. The first level biased only towards your own relatives or those people or those factors which are nice to you. So that kind of sense of compassion is very much oriented about others' attitude. So that kind of compassion cannot extend towards your enemy, because the enemy is harmful to you.

Now another level. Use human intelligence, reasons, the human society, irrespective of individuals' attitude to you, but all people are the member of the community, of society, and further goes member of humanity. So my future depends on humanity.

So therefore each humanity instinctively wants happiness and do not want suffering. And on that basis we call human right. Human right, nobody say, “Human right only my friend, not our enemy.” No, we never say that. Every human being has the right, because everyone wants a happy life, do not want suffering. On that sort of understanding we build the genuine sense of concern of them. So irrespective whether their attitude was to you positive or negative doesn't matter. Still they are a human being, they have a right to be a happy person.

So that only a human being can do, not animals. So because we have this intelligence, so more holistic and long-term interest. So we have the ability. So in that level of compassion we need to educate, use intelligence. The first level, biological, take for granted. So I think it's important to be able to make that distinction, because sometimes we tend to confine the understanding of compassion just to the level of sentiment, which we naturally possess, and we don't appreciate there is another dimension which we can bring where we can actually strengthen it and extend it even to our enemy.

So first level is biased only to your friend's side. Second level, unbiased towards entire humanity...

So education institution, education institution like this university have very big responsibility to educate that.