I have recently been following Heather Younger at Employee Fanatix and ordered her book The Art of Caring Leadership, a must-read for Servant-Leaders. In her
“My religion is Kindness.”
– Dalai Lama XIV
Servant Leaders understand that kindness is the way for an authentic leader. In Goleman’s book, A Force For Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World, chapter three, The Kindness Revolution, the Dalai Lama tells a story, in a room filled with eight thousand people at Emory University in Atlanta, of a gentleman by the name of Richard Moore who was blinded by a rubber bullet fired by a British soldier during the trouble in Northern Ireland.
Remarkably, Moore got over his self-pity and forgave the soldier. Moore was in the audience that night and much to the dismay of the State Department security, the Dalai Lama walked off the stage into the crowd and greeted Moore in the Tibetan gesture of mutual respect. “Love, love, love,” says the Dalai Lama, “I call him my hero! You know, your sight can be taken away, but not your vision.”
Richard Moore went on to finish his university education and he founded the Children in Crossfire, an organization that seeks to better the lives of children in countries such as Tanzania, Ethiopia, and the Gambia- those children who have been caught up in the war. What is amazing about this is that the Dalai Lama’s (a person that millions of people idealize) message is compassion and forgiveness, and he sees Moore as a personal hero. Fascinating!
In another story of compassion, Goleman told of when the Dalai Lama was told he had won the Nobel Peace Prize. When asked by the reporters, “How does it feel to win the Nobel Prize?” the Dalai Lama responded, “I am happy…..for those who wanted me to win the prize.” And when he learned about the money that came with the prize, the Dalai Lama immediately thought of whom he would give it.
The Dalai Lama isn’t asking us to be kinder because he says so. He is calling us to a deeper awareness and consciousness arguing that our emotional world affects the people around us and leads to a more compassionate outlook. The moment you think of others, your mind widens, says the Dalai Lama.
Here’s a summary of the chapter.
A European preacher once told the Dalai Lama that compassion can only come through faith and God’s blessing. Well, the Dalai Lama questioned that as he had heard that animals like dolphins and elephants can show compassion. Even dogs and cats can be compassionate-, and that’s not through faith. The Dalai Lama challenges the assumptions that he is solely a religious figure. He understands human suffering from his deep spiritual reflections, but as a world leader, he envisions the larger world perspective.
Finding compassion as a common theme in the world’s religion, the Dalai Lama seeks to engage a common agreement amongst all of us- those who have faith and those who do not- that are a set of human ethical values that promote qualities like compassions, forgiveness, self-discipline, and contentment.
The Case for Compassion
Compassion has been studied scientifically, and research by the National Institute of Mental Health indicated that children before the age of 2 show compassion. Children are universally attuned to another child’s distress and most often will try to comfort them.
The Dalai Lama says that children, “Already know the map of emotions” especially when their parents are compassionate. One factor seems to be when parents direct a toddler’s attention to empathy when they say, “Look how sad you made her feel” to a misbehaving child, rather than, “You were naughty when you hit her.” The Dalai Lama believes- and science proves- that innate ethical compassion is a biological feature of our species.
Wise selfish means that we see our own well-being in everyone else’s well-being. The Dalai Lama says that self-focus has become so excessive that we become oblivious to other’s needs. Self-focus does three things:
- Narrows our vision
- Limits broad thinking and consciousness, and
- Affects our immune system, leaving us open to a variety of dis-eases.
Indeed, compassion reduces fear, boosts confidence, and opens us to our inner strength.
Goleman told of a story where he and his wife has some unexpected downtime with the Dalai Lama, and when he wife asked what he had been doing, the Dalai Lama replied, “shopping.” Taken aback, as the Dalai Lama never shops, she asked, “What for?” The Dalai Lana replied, “A toy for my cat.” Someone had given the Dalai Lama a tiny, wobbly stray kitten and the Dalai Lama knew it would have died if left on the street, so he took it in. His heart warms at the thought of the love the little kitten has for him.
A Sense of Oneness
The Dalai Lama treats everyone with respect. Goleman told of how the Dalai Lama was waiting backstage for the mayor of San Francisco as he was delayed to offer an official welcome to the city. Although there was a handful of dignitaries waiting nearby, the Dalai Lama made a beeline to one of the stagehands to chat it up.
On another occasion, the Dalai Lama was visiting Mikhail Gorbachev, and he paused and went over to shake hands with the guard at the door. The guard later told that in the 25 years he had been standing there, that any dignitary had so much as noticed him-yet- the Dalai Lama shook his hand. The Dalai Lama treats everyone with respect, “whether high officials or beggars – no difference, no distinctions.”
The Dalai Lama challenges us to model a person-to-person caring with the understanding that we are all the same. Underneath ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, and the like.
The Dalai Lama says, “If I were to say, I’m his Holiness, the Dali Lama” imitating a pompous, puff-up person, “Then I am in a prison. The sense of being special is a form of self-deception. Whenever I talk to a few people or thousands, I consider them and myself the same- same emotions, same body. Then we feel a closeness.”
Understanding our shared humanity leads to compassion for everyone.
People all over the world admire the Dalai Lama for how he embodies qualities like humility, resilience, and compassion. But, Goleman wondered who inspires the Dalai Lama? The first person he names is Shantideva, an eighth-century Indian sage whose book, A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way if Life he respects for its compete program of ethical discipline and mental training designed to achieve unstinting compassion.
The Dalai Lama advises that anyone can practice compassion – even for our enemies – but it’s no easy feat. We should try to each day be compassionate, have the right motivations and approach it with common sense and good reasoning (no religion required). But, for those who hold religious faith, reason can deepen convictions. And now science provides us with a universal path to embrace compassion.
Next week: Partnering With Science
To the Kindness Revolution,
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