Today, I attended the Professor’s Office Hours with his holiness the Dalai Lama. This program was part of a larger event called “The Visit,” where the Dalai Lama visited Emory University to participate in various academic and spiritual discussions around campus. I was lucky enough to win one of a thousand tickets raffled off for free to attend the Professor’s Office Hours, while tickets sold upwards of $100 or $150 for some of the various events.
In the Professor’s Office Hours, various members of the Emory community (students, faculty, and staff) posed questions for the Dalai Lama to answer. These questions ranged from questions on enlightenment and compassion to questions about the Dalai Lama’s opinions on lesbian love (no joke). While the Dalai Lama was not able to answer every question, the questions sparked some amazing dialogue on education, spirituality, optimism, enthusiasm, and compassion.
About twenty minutes into the program, I realized that the Dalai Lama was passing on far more wisdom more quickly than I could absorb in an hour and a half. So I pulled out a piece of paper and a pen, and I jotted down some notes — not everything, of course, but what resonated with me. For now, I’m only going to relay my raw notes (with some additional context, and in complete sentences, so it will be easier to understand). I plan on processing some of this information and, hopefully, posting some of my thoughts that come from this.
Also, for the record, most of this is summarized. But direct quotes have been quoted. And phrases that I found particularly important have been highlighted.
Topic of discussion: As students about to graduate, we find ourselves overwhelmed with our eminent entry into the “real world.” How do we handle the stress, the ambiguity, and the difficulty of entering this world which is in the middle of political, spiritual, and economic crisis?
“Be realistic.” Problems will arise — we must recognize that. And in recognizing problems, we must also realize that they will not solve themselves. Instead, realism will allow us to accept that a problem has arisen and then handle that problem efficiently.
“Be optimistic and enthusiastic,” because it’s the only way to get things done.
Our time on this earth as a human being is short — the Dalai Lama said something about if the history of the earth was compressed into a hundred years, our life (as in yours or mine) would barely span one one-hundredth of a second. As such, you must make something of your life — don’t focus on worrying or on stress, but on the positives, and good will come from it.
Furthermore, be steady. To be absurdly happy when something good happens but incredibly depressed when something bad happens is to cause stress and cheat ourselves of happiness. Instead, be steady and take everything in stride. Overall, you will be happier.
With the daily stress of academics, economics, and life in general, it is hard to maintain happiness and to grow spiritually as a human being. What advice do you have on finding happiness and spirituality in day-to-day life?
You depend on everyone else. In fact, every person depends on everyone else. Compassion is what allows us to all be healthy and happy — if you are compassionate, you make the lives of others better, which in turn improves the quality of your own life.
“Make eye contact and always smile.” Compassion and love allow you to go anywhere and to see anyone as a friend.
Maintain a truthful, honest, and compassionate attitude. “Sometimes, compassion is more forceful than reason.”
In today’s world, social media has dominated many human interactions. How can we encourage personal growth in such a technologically connected world?
Maintain balance between technology / social media and our need for personal growth. Personal growth happens more between face-to-face human interactions than over the internet.
On the challenges of knowledge and personal growth.
“Don’t leave knowledge in the books.” Focusing on external stimuli inhibits personal growth and the process of learning. Give yourself time to integrate knowledge into your being to truly gain the intelligence, rather than memorizing facts. “Do not misunderstand information to be knowledge.”
What is universal truth? How do we find truth, and how will we know it is truth once it is found? And, as human beings, will we ever be capable of understanding and comprehending this truth?
There is the idea of one truth and one vision, but there is also the idea of several truths and several visions. Both are important. For example, religion is true to the individual. The difference between Christianity and Buddhism is not important in itself — but to the individual, one must believe in one truth, one vision to keep his or her own faith.On the other hand, it is important to keep in mind the idea of several truths and several visions — this is reality, and it must be recognized to respect the truth and vision of others.
If you serve others, you will receive benefits. “The practice of compassion benefits all.”
Some final thoughts on today’s world.
The 21st Century belongs to our generation — we’re only 10 years in, and there are 90 years yet to go. We must prepare ourselves to take care of our world (environmentally, politically, economically, and socially), so it will be a greater, healthier, happier place.
Finally, I would like to mention a few things which struck me during the program.
The Dalai Lama is a happy, funny person. When he entered, we all stood to greet him, and when he had finished walking in, he waved his hands and said, “Sit down,” as if it were absurd that we were standing in the first place.
The Dalai Lama called himself the “hopeless professor,” for he never teaches a class and never gives homework. But honestly, I learned more from him in an hour and a half than I did from any of my classes thus far this week. Part of that is my own fault, but part of that is also because he has so much to offer. And honestly, he did give me homework — because I have a lot to think about.
The Dalai Lama is such a happy, compassionate person. He fully lives his life, and I can only strive to be so compassionate, optimistic, enthusiastic, and purposeful in my own life.