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Dalai Lama warns of being distorted by ignorance

The Dalai Lama brought his message of compassion, empathy and oneness to Madison on Sunday afternoon, mixing it with levity and tales of sibling rivalry with his brother, all while sitting crosslegged in his chair and wearing a red Wisconsin baseball cap.

A human being’s “basic nature is pure,” and “everyone experiences positive and negative emotions,” but there is the possibility of the mind being distorted by ignorance, he told the crowd of about 1,100 people in the Overture Center’s Capitol Theater.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, was in town to participate in an hourlong “dialogue” with UW-Madison neuroscientist Richard Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, which is set to open in the fall in the Waisman Center on campus.

The Dalai Lama’s visit, his eighth to Madison and planned more than a year in advance, was meant to coincide with the grand opening of the center. Davidson is establishing the center to scientifically determine what a healthy mind is, how it develops, and to investigate interventions to cultivate healthy minds in children and adults.

The discussion was moderated by former New York Times science writer, author and psychologist Daniel Goleman.

When Goleman asked the spiritual leader what will be important for Davidson’s center, he joked that if they paid him a high salary he would stay here to answer that question.

Gov. Jim Doyle welcomed the Dalai Lama to Madison and Madison Youth Choirs performed before high-backed chairs were brought out for the discussion. Two children in the choir presented the Dalai Lama with the cap, which he immediately put on and wore throughout the event.

Davidson said the relationship between happiness and physical health has been well established, what he wants to know is how it came to be.

“We have learned so much from you about compassion and its study over the years,” Davidson told the Dalai Lama, whom he first met in 1992. He said it’s important for a person’s well-being to focus on the welfare of others and decrease their focus on themselves, adding that a focus on others is at the heart of compassion.

Davidson described a study where college students were given $50 to spend on themselves and come back and report how happy it made them. Another group was given $50 to spend on gifts for other people, and those subjects were happier at the end of the day.

The Dalai Lama also said that people get a benefit from taking care of other people. “That’s a fact,” he said.

When he meets with people, he treats a president or queen the same as a beggar, he said.

“They are all the same. They want a happy life.”

[via Madison.com]

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