His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited Santa Clara University this week to deliver a message of compassion and empathy to an audience of more than 4,000 people.
The Tibetan spiritual leader spoke at Santa Clara University’s Leavey Event Center as part of a discussion entitled “Compassion, Business, and Ethics: A Dialogue with the Dalai Lama.” The event was co-sponsored by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University and Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.
Beginning a dialogue
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, has visited the United States regularly over the past 30 years, but this was his first stop at Santa Clara University. The sold-out event drew an audience that included students, alumni, business people, and clergy, who packed the Leavey Center to listen to the spiritual leader speak about compassion and the interconnectedness of all humanity—particularly as it applies to Silicon Valley.
Noting that all people wish to be happy and suffer less, His Holiness said that the key to happiness lies in how we treat others. “If you think of others, you will maximize your own happiness,” he said. “If you think selfishly, shortsightedly, you will suffer.”
A buzz of anticipation preceded the discussion, which opened when six Tibetan monks took to the stage to perform a distinctive chant. Following opening remarks from SCU President Michael Engh, S.J., and James Doty from Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, students from Palo Alto’s Living Wisdom School sang for His Holiness. Afterward, the 78-year-old peace advocate came forward to shake their hands.
In a moment that elicited loud cheers from the crowd, Engh presented His Holiness the Dalai Lama with a Santa Clara University visor. The Tibetan spiritual leader is known for frequently wearing a visor under the bright lights of a stage.
Also part of the conversation was Lloyd Dean, CEO of San Francisco-based Dignity Health. Dean leads one of the country’s largest health care systems and is a reformer in the field. In his comments, Dean spoke about how compassion and creating personal connections between health professionals and patients is essential.
"Compassion isn't just a business strategy, it's at the core of what Dignity Health is," Dean said.
The Dalai Lama gets down to business
Sharing the stage with the co-founder of Adobe, a former chair of the board of Intel, and a leading researching in the field of compassion in business, the Dalai Lama listened, and was pleased with what he heard during an afternoon panel discussion.
Each panel member shared experiences that underscored the value of compassion and ethics in business. Charles Geschke, the co-founder of Adobe, described Adobe’s hiring process as weighing the importance of both technical and personal skills in order to build high-functioning teams. Jane Shaw, the retired board chair for Intel, told a story of how Intel negotiated contracts with suppliers of rare-earth metals in order to avoid conflicts in the developing world and keep Intel dollars out of the pockets of warlords.
Monica Worline, a research fellow at University of Michigan’s CompassionLab, shared research that showed how employees can become pressured to act unethically and without compassion when held to strict rules or put under stress.
His Holiness congratulated the pair of executives on their corporate behavior, and again stressed the theme of educating employees and business leaders on how important compassion is to life—education focused on developing compassionate and altruistic behavior being a topic that His Holiness returned to again and again throughout the day at SCU.
Specific to the afternoon panel discussion, the Dalai Lama discussed both competition and women in business. He stressed that competition can be compassionate when it strives to advance a field as a whole. He cautioned against competition that aimed to hold back peers in order to advance a singular company’s interest. His Holiness also supported his belief that women would be crucial business leaders in the next century as science has shown distinct differences in levels of compassion between genders.
Watch the event here: http://www.scu.edu/ethics-center/events/dalailama/video/