By Rajiv Mehrotra
The Dalai Lama is 84 years old today. Prayers resonate for his long life from across the world: From the land encircled by snow mountains/ You are the source of all happiness and good/ All-powerful Chenrezig, Tenzin Gyatso/ Please remain until samsara ends.
The Dalai Lama is revered as an incarnation of Chenrezig, patron of Tibet, the living Buddha who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. This drives him to help others find happiness so profoundly that he chooses to remain eternally in samsara, as the prayer entreats, embracing the endless cycles of birth and rebirth in human form with its inherent struggles and suffering to serve all sentient beings.
His Holiness describes India as Guru for Tibetans and himself. He passionately feels that India has the obligation and potential to serve humanity by combining its ancient wisdom with modern education, to address contemporary predicaments. One of his missions is to help with the Nalanda tradition, of which he is a much celebrated heir. Seminal to this tradition is the significance of karuna, compassion, not merely as an abstract virtue, but of practical value. It is what defines the Dalai Lama.
Individuals with psychological problems have an exaggerated sense of self. They frequently use the words – ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘mine’. When this extends to communities, corporations or nations, where self-interest transcends reasonable needs, they become seeds of inequity and disharmony. Compassion softens this obsession with self.
Until recently, we believed that our brains were hardwired at birth and therefore, unchangeable. Today the science of neuroplasticity demonstrates that our thoughts can reshape our brains. Brain imaging demonstrates that when we help others, a circuit in the brain is activated, making us feel good – there is a powerful connection between compassion and happiness. We can train our minds to be compassionate by consciously changing our thoughts. The techniques have been available for thousands of years.
The Dalai Lama has worked with educators and scientists from around the world for decades to help traditional wisdom and modern science learn from each other. It has l