Dalai Lama Speaks with Scientists about Stress

September 11th 2006

Vancouver, Canada 10 September 2006 (Tiffany Crawford / AP) -- The Dalai Lama, the jovial leader of millions of Buddhists worldwide who believes the purpose of life is to be happy, joined scientists on Saturday to discuss how stress can affect health.

The 71-year-old monk, clad in traditional robes, answered questions from three prominent scientists who work in fields related to mental health.
 
Among them was celebrity scientist Deepak Chopra, who noted that rising violence and terrorist attacks are increasing the world's yearning for peace.

The Dalai Lama replied that early stress in life from poverty or abuse leads to negative emotions such as fear, jealousy and anger which turn into violence.

Essentially, the Dalai Lama believes world peace begins with inner peace, tolerance and compassion.

He said that once people develop compassion, more meaningful dialogue can take place which will ultimately lead to a less violent world.

'In order to understand meaningful dialogue first you must understand others' interests and you must respect them as your brothers and sisters and also consider them as a part of yourself,' he said.

He said people could look to the example of a nurturing mother to understand true compassion.

At one point Chopra, who studies the mind-body connection in relation to good health and has been featured on the Oprah Winfrey show many times, asked the Dalai Lama if world peace would come about if society elevated the profession of motherhood.

The Dalai Lama chuckled, scratched his head and said, 'Yes that's good.'

'The long term is the answer to deal with violence motivated by anger and fear, so we must have compassion to create more humanity.'

He said he believed even a child who had suffered abuse could be healed by learning how to change his or her perspective from a negative one to a positive one.

'Make the effort. Work hard. Be united. I think you should know you have a responsibility to work together,' he told a packed audience at Vancouver's Orpheum Theatre.

Psychiatrist Alan Young, associate director at the Institute of Mental Health at the University of British Columbia, asked the Dalai Lama for his thoughts on the parallels between compassion and mental ill health.

He wanted to know why it seems people have less compassion for people with mental disorders than for those with physical ones.

'It would be a scandal if someone had to sleep in the street with cancer but  why is it not for someone who has schizophrenia?' said Young. 'I don't know.' said the Dalai Lama, noting the centre would be a good place do more research on why people fall ill from depression with seemingly little reason.

The Dalai Lama journeyed to Vancouver over the weekend to open a new centre for peace and education and wrapped up his visit Saturday night before a crowd of 14,000 people at GM Place.

Mayor Sam Sullivan and Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Monte Solberg were on hand to present the Dalai Lama with the honorary Canadian citizenship that parliament unanimously decided to award him earlier this year.

It was only the third time the honour has been granted. South African leader Nelson Mandela and Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved Jews from extermination during the Second World War have both received the honour.

'Your Holiness, if you know anything at all about our Parliament, you will know that we never agree on anything, let alone unanimously,' Solberg said. 'Clearly you really have had the ability to bring people together.'

The honorary citizenship drew strong opposition from China, which warned the gesture could harm relations.

The Foreign Affairs Department says Canada recognizes China as the legitimate government of both China and Tibet, but has great respect for the Dalai Lama.

He fled into exile in northern India in 1959, following a failed uprising against Chinese rule, but is still widely revered in Tibet.

After the ceremony, the floor was handed over to the Dalai Lama, who spoke about how to cultivate happiness.

'I feel for a successful and happy life much of it depends on our mental outlook,' he said, as he sat cross-legged on a couch onstage. 'The money, power or even health, I think is secondary. If mental state is calm, at peace, then you really enjoy your life.'  
 

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