Cultivate compassion, Dalai Lama urges, and use technology to benefit humanity

Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama called for people to train their minds to cultivate compassion and cautioned that digital technology should be used only to benefit humanity, at a two-day gathering in northern India that ended Thursday.

About 180 people attended the two-day Mind & Life Conversation on Interdependence, Ethics and Social Networks in the audience hall at the Dalai Lama’s residence in Dharamsala, a hillside city in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh that is home to the Tibetan government-in-exile.

About 100 attendees were Western scientists and scholars and members of the Mind & Life Institute, an organization whose mission is to inform and advance the emerging field of contemplative science and its application to real-world challenges.  

Among the other attendees were Tibetan monks and nuns who have participated in science programs at Emory University, students of science from the Tibetan Medical & Astro-Science Institute, the Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, and lamas and abbots from the centers of learning at monasteries in South India.

Training the mind in cultivating compassion involves developing thoughts of even-mindedness, or equanimity, the Dalai Lama said.  

“We’ve held a lot of Mind & Life dialogues, and I feel they’ve been very important,” he said on the first day of the event on Oct. 12, according to a report on the Dalai Lama’s official website. “In the world at large, a great deal of attention has been paid to physical things, but much less to the mind. And yet, when we talk about happiness and suffering, they are inner, mental experiences. If we have no peace of mind, we won’t be happy.”

“Many of the conflicts we see in the world are about physical things, material resources and power,” the Dalai Lama went on to say. “Therefore, we need to look at what went on in the past and learn from it so that we can construct a future based on peace, happiness and togetherness.”

“The root of peace of mind is compassion,” he said. “As soon as most of us are born, our mothers take care of us and give us our first lessons in compassion. Without this we would not survive. This is how our life begins. As children we grow up in an atmosphere of compassion.”

The Tibetan spiritual leader also said that technology should be used to benefit humanity.

“Generally speaking, whether or not technology can be thought of as good or bad depends on how it is used,” he said on the second day of the gathering, according to a report on his official website. “We human beings should not be slaves to technology or machines. We should be in charge.”

When humans are too materialistic, they regard human values as being of secondary importance, he said.

“We must remember that we are human beings and we need to apply human values, whatever we do,” the Dalai Lama said. “Principally, we need to be motivated by warmheartedness. Technology is supposed to serve human needs; therefore, it needs to be guided by human values.” It also needs to help protect the environment, he said.

The Mind & Life Institute was founded more than three decades ago by Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th and current Dalai Lama, Chilean scientist and philosopher Francisco Varela, and American lawyer and social entrepreneur R. Adam Engel. 

While science relies on empiricism, technology, observation, and analysis, the three believed that well-refined contemplative practices and introspective methods could be used as equal instruments of investigation.     

Translated by Tenzin Dickyi for RFA Tibetan. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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