Lunch with the Dalai Lama

One of the many perks of attending grad school has been taking part in once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to expand my horizons… isn’t that one of the greatest goals of continued education? Well, it is my goal.

Growing up, this poster hung in my basement:

I remember staring at it thinking, “Is that what it is really all about?” Even at a young age, I had my doubts. Sure, it would be nice to have all that, but will that make me happy?

On April 26th, Loyola University of Chicago partnered with the Tibet Center of Chicago to bring His Holiness, The XIV Dalai Lama, to Chicago and honor him for exemplifying Loyola’s ideals and traditions through the awarding of an honorary degree. Over lunch, he was awarded this honor and gave a speech on interfaith collaboration.

It was during this speech that I thought again about this poster. Sure, “more stuff” can be a justification for education, I guess that looks best on a motivational poster. I think the Dalai Lama would agree that there are much grander goals to be achieved through higher education, and life in general.

Below are some of the most poignant pieces of wisdom he shared with us that day, along with some of my own thoughts (I have included Loyola’s recording of the talk below, which starts around the 16:50 minute mark – watch some of it, he is a very adorable man)

1. Happiness comes from Affection.

Happiness primarily comes from yourself. The emotions you feel and express to others is ultimately a form of control you exercise everyday. We all have issues in our lives, challenges we face, obstacles we must navigate past during our relatively short lives – the one thing we can control through it all is our attitude and how we treat others around us. This ultimately means that happiness is a choice you make day in and day out.

We all want a happy life. Everyone has the right to achieve that happy life. The ultimate source of happiness is not money, a big house or fancy car or just the collection of mere great knowledge (just think of all the miserable millionaires you read about), but rather the ultimate source of joyfulness comes from within. Self-confidence leads to true happiness and this is fed by affection.

Photo from

All life starts and flows from affection. At the end of your life, at your death-bed, you will not have money in your pockets, fame won’t matter, power can’t stop you from dying. At that time, surrounded by your best friends, only those around you, those who you love and love you in return, will matter.

The concern you have for others’ well being, this affection you have for people around you, is the ultimate source of self-confidence, psychological health and positive emotions. Irrespective of your religious beliefs, inner peace comes from genuine affection and love for others.

2. God’s Message

It is necessary to know that religions have different views and philosophies that result in the same goal. One religion in the world will never be, but this is not a problem, rather, have respect for all religions, believers and non-believers. Under God’s law everyone is equal. Under man’s law, the gaps appears huge. God’s message in all religions is love.

Atheism is not anti-God, the word itself comes from Greek ἄθεος (atheos) meaning “absence of God”. Those who say “ethics must be based on religious faith” should remember secularism is not necessarily negative, it was established on respect. In India, and the United States, the countries had multiple faiths, so secularism was established to respect all religions, believers and non-believers instead of putting preference on one religion over another. You can have secular ethics and have a good and moral society.

Some religions have a creator, like Judaism and Catholicism, some do not, such as in Buddhism, which primarily teaches to reduce the self. All self-centered tendencies are removed from the equation in all of these religions, despite the apparent differences between them. All the worlds’ religions have the same aim but different approaches. All teach humility, love and kindness. A person who sincerely follows Islam tradition (1:01:41 in on video), loves Allah and loves His creations. He should not create bloodshed, someone who does so is no longer an Islam practitioner. Jihad really means to combat your own negative nature and raw emotions. To practice Islam, like the other religions, is to love and have affection for others. To understand these things you can develop respect for all religions without any contradictions.

To me, this means that we should not judge people based on their theologies, but only from their behavior. It really doesn’t matter what YOU believe, or I believe, there are people with beautiful theologies but despicable behavior and beautiful people with weird theologies. Not everything you or I think is totally rational (as much as we would like to think we’re totally rational beings), I mean, can you name one religion that is 100% rational!? Even Atheism seems a little weird when it is said “all of this existence came from nothing.”

Buddhism, the Dalai Lama’s faith, asks many questions. Skepticism brings question, which brings investigation, which brings answers. Without skepticism, no questions, no answers. The Buddhist approach is very much in line with the scientific way. This does not lead to contradictions, only truth.

We must make an effort to understand each other, especially those with beliefs which appear different from our own. Not doing so is what causes all the problems. Practice love for each other through education, which leads to tolerance and understanding people with different backgrounds. Logically, we must accept that there are different religious institutions and promote unity among them.

3. Spreading Genuine Peace

To spread peace means simply to create inner peace within yourself first, then share it with others. Peace is not achieved through prayer, only through action and effort. We all must educate others on genuine peace, it must come through inner peace. Peace is not just the absence of violence.

Billboard run by the Foundation for a Better Life.

4. The Greatest Challenge Facing All of Us

When asked the question: “What is the greatest challenge, as a spiritual leader, you face in your own life?”

He answered: “My own negative emotions”.

Even the greatest men and women on this planet have to fight away anger, jealousy, and selfishness. Only through our ability to control these feelings can the world truly become a better place.


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