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Business, Ethics and Compassion

Religious Studies Professor David Gray discusses teachings on ethics, compassion, and business ahead of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s visit to the Mission Campus Feb. 24.

Santa Clara University Associate Professor David Gray teaches courses on Buddhism, Buddhism and Film, and Buddhism in America, as well as Tibetan and East Asian Buddhism. He recently spoke with Deborah Lohse, assistant director for SCU’s media relations, about the upcoming visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Santa Clara University on Feb. 24. Learn more about the visit and how you can watch this sold-out event by visiting

What are some key messages we can expect to hear from His Holiness the Dalai Lama?
His Holiness has tended to focus on several key Buddhist teachings in his books and the lectures he gives. One of them is compassion, which is a general Buddhist moral principle but also the idea that we’re all interconnected—that we live in an interconnected world and the things we do have an impact that goes beyond ourselves. They affect others around us. The decisions we make affect other people, affect the environment—this has been a big focus of his writings. I’m sure these will be ideas that he’ll be emphasizing when he speaks here.

What is his perspective on business?
His Holiness will argue that, on the one hand of course, businesses have the goal of making successful products, making money for shareholders, and making money for investors, but he would also argue that the same kind of moral responsibility to be compassionate—to look out for the greater good that affects all of us—applies to businesses as well. He would probably say that truly successful businesses should be attempting to create a product that is of maximum benefit for as many of us as possible, while causing the smallest amount of harm. It’s the same sort of idea that he calls the universal ethic, which he’s written about in some of his works—it applies to business as well as to individuals. I think he would argue that businesses need to have more than just the bottom line in mind; they need to also take into consideration the effects business decisions might have on communities, on the environment, and on social justice.

Continue the Q&A Here:

Event Updates:

A second invitation-only event will now be live-streamed. The campus community is invited to watch the following talks online at

10 am - 11:30 am
“Business, Ethics and Compassion: A public Dialogue” will feature His Holiness Dalai Lama, Dignity Health CEO Lloyd Dean and moderator Jim Doty, Director of Stanford’s Center for Compassion, and Altruism Research and Education.

1:30 – 3:15 p.m.
The Dalai Lama will address a panel that includes four academic and business
leaders for a discussion that will encompass religion, research, and business. The panel will consist of Charles Geschke, co-founder of Adobe Systems, Inc.; Jane Shaw, retired chairman of the board of Intel; Kirk O. Hanson, executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics; and Monica Worline, research fellow at University of Michigan’s CompassionLab.

Please note that backpacks and any purses larger than a small clutch will not be allowed in the Leavey Events Center. You may bring in personal items in a gallon size clear bag.

The SCU community is encouraged to avoid Palm Drive if possible and take advantage of the newly constructed North Campus Parking Garage on Benton Street between Alviso St. & the Alameda, the Benson Lot or the Old Alameda Lot.

For more information and answers to other Frequently Asked Questions, please visit

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