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For more than half a century, in such books as The Art of Happiness and The Dalai Lama’s Little Book of Inner Peace, the Dalai Lama has guided us along the path to compassion and taught us how to improve our inner lives. In A Force for Good, with the help of his longtime friend Daniel Goleman, the New York Times bestselling author of Emotional Intelligence, the Dalai Lama explains how to turn our compassionate energy outward. This revelatory and inspiring work provides a singular vision for transforming the world in practical and positive ways.
Much more than just the most prominent exponent of Tibetan Buddhism, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama is also a futurist who possesses a profound understanding of current events and a remarkable canniness for modern social issues. When he takes the stage worldwide, people listen. A Force for Good combines the central concepts of the Dalai Lama, empirical evidence that supports them, and true stories of people who are putting his ideas into action—showing how harnessing positive energies and directing them outward has lasting and meaningful effects. Goleman details the science of compassion and how this singular guiding motivation has the power to
• break such destructive social forces as corruption, collusion, and bias • heal the planet by refocusing our concerns toward our impact on the systems that support all life • reverse the tendency toward systemic inequity through transparency and accountability • replace violence with dialogue • counter us-and-them thinking by recognizing human oneness • create new economic systems that work for everyone, not just the powerful and rich • design schooling that teaches empathy, self-mastery, and ethics
Millions of people have turned to the Dalai Lama for his unparalleled insight into living happier, more purposeful lives. Now, when the world needs his guidance more than ever, he shows how every compassion-driven human act—no matter how small—is integral for a more peaceful, harmonious world, building a force for a better future.
Revelatory, motivating, and highly persuasive, A Force for Good is arguably the most important work from one of the world’s most influential spiritual and political figures.
Praise for A Force for Good “A Force for Good offers ideas that every individual can work with and build on, ranging from things that help the environment to things that help the less fortunate. [It’s] a long-range, global plan from a brilliant futuristic thinker, so this is a book that can be of value to any human living on Earth. When you’re ready for a jolt of optimism, pick up this book.”—Pop Culture Nerd “Far from being a self-help book, this examines specific ideas espoused by the Dalai Lama, such as emotional hygiene, compassionate economy, and education of the heart that can make the world a better place. An optimistic and thoughtful primer with practical applications.”—Booklist
Under the Cover
An excerpt from A Force for Good
Reinvent the Future
The British Broadcasting Corporation transmits its world-news report globally, the shortwave signals reaching even the remote Himalayan hill district of Dharamsala and its ridge-hugging town McLeod Ganj, where Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth Dalai Lama,lives. He numbers among the BBC’s most devoted listeners, having started in his youth back in Tibet. He sets great store in its reliability as a news source, tuning in whenever he is home at 5:30 a.m., about the time he has breakfast. “Every day I listen to BBC,” the Dalai Lama told me, “and I hear news of killing, corruption, abuse, mad people.” The BBC’s daily litany of human injustices and suffering has led him to the insight that most tragedies are the result of a single deficiency: a lack of compassionate moral responsibility. Our morals should tell us our obligations to others, he says, asopposed to what we want for ourselves. Reflect for a moment on any morning’s news as a barometer of humanity’s lack of that moral rudder. The reports flow as a sea of negativity that washes over us: children bombed in their homes; governments brutally suppressing dissent; the devastation ofyet another corner of nature. There are bloody executions, invasions, hells on earth, slave labor, countless refugees, even the working poor unable to feed and house themselves. The litany of human failings seems endless. There’s a curious sense of déjà vu about this. Today’s news echoes last year’s, last decade’s, last century’s. These tales of woe and tragedy are but current tellings of very old stories, the latest missteps in the march of history. While we can also take pride in the progress made during that long march, we can only be troubled by the persistence of destruction and injustice, corruption and grinding inequality. Where are the counterforces that can build the world we want? That’s what the Dalai Lama calls us to create. His unique perspective gives him a clear sense of where the human family goes wrong and what we can do to get on track to a better story—one that no longer incessantly repeats the tragedies of the past butfaces the challenges of our time with the inner resources to alter the narrative. He envisions a much-needed antidote: a force for good. More than anyone I’ve ever known, the Dalai Lama embodies and speaks for that better force. We first met in the 1980s, and over the decades I’ve seen him in action dozens of times, always expressing some aspect of this message. And for this book he hasspent hours detailing the force for good he envisions. That force begins by countering the energies within the human mind that drive our negativity. To change the future from a sorry retread of the past, the Dalai Lama tells us, we need to transform our own minds—weaken the pull of our destructive emotionsand so strengthen our better natures. Without that inner shift, we stay vulnerable to knee-jerk reactions like rage, frustration, and hopelessness. Those only lead us down the same old forlorn paths. But with this positive inner shift, we can more naturally embody a concern for others—and so act with compassion, the core of moral responsibility. This, the Dalai Lama says, prepares us to enact a larger mission with a new clarity, calm, and caring.We can tackle intractable problems, like corrupt decision-makers and tuned-out elites, greed and self-interest as guiding motives, the indifference of the powerful to the powerless. By beginning this social revolution inside our own minds, the Dalai Lama’s vision aims to avoid the blind alleys of past movements for the better. Think, for instance, of the message of George Orwell’s cautionary parable Animal Farm: how greed and lustfor power corrupted the “utopias” which were supposed to overthrow despots and help everyone equally but in the end re-created the power imbalances and injustices of the very past they were supposed to have eradicated. The Dalai Lama sees our dilemmas through the lens of interdependence. As Martin Luther King Jr. put it, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Since we are all enmeshed in the problems, some of the needed solutions are within our reach—and so each one of us potentially numbers in this force for good. We can begin now, he tells us, to move in the right direction—to any degree we can, and inwhatever ways are available to us. All of us together can create a movement, a more visible force in history that shapes the future to break free of the chains of the past. The seeds we plant today, he sees, can change the course of our shared tomorrow. Some may bring immediate fruits; others may only be harvested by generations yet to come. But our united efforts, if based on this inner shift, can make an enormous difference. The life journey that led the Dalai Lama to this vision has followed a complex course. But we can pick up the final trajectory to this book from the moment he attained a sustained global spotlight. A Prize for Peacemaking The place is Newport Beach, California; the date, October 5, 1989. The Dalai Lama enters the press conference for his just-announced Nobel Peace Prize, to a chorus of clicking cameras and a strobe-like staccato of flashbulbs. The Dalai Lama had heard he won the prize only hours before and was still on a learning curve. A reporter asked him what he would do with the prize money, at the time around a quarter million dollars. Surprised to find that money went with the prize, he answered, “Wonderful. There’s a leper colony in India I’ve wanted to give some money to.” His immediate thought, he told me the next day, was how to give the money away—perhaps also to the starving. As he often reminds people, he does not think of himself as the exalted “Dalai Lama” but rather as a simple monk. As such, he had no personal need of the money that came to him with the Nobel. Whenever the Dalai Lama receives a gift of money, he givesit away. I remember, for example, a conference with social activists in San Francisco; at the sessions’ end, the finances were announced (itself an unexpected gesture at such an event). There was around $15,000 left over from ticket sales after paying expenses,and on the spot the Dalai Lama announced—to everyone’s pleasant surprise—he was donating it to a participating group for disadvantaged youth in Oakland, which had been inspired by the event to hold similar ones on their own. That was years ago, and I’ve seenhim repeat this generous gesture of instant donation in the years since (as he has done with his share of the proceeds from this book). The call from Norway saying its ambassador was on his way to deliver the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize declaration in person had come the night before, at 10:00 p.m., long after the Dalai Lama’s 7:00 p.m. bedtime. The next morning the Dalai Lama was doing his spiritual practices, which start at around 3:00 a.m. and last until 7:00 a.m. or so (with a break for breakfast and the BBC). No one dared intrude to inform him of the prize, so the public announcement wentout before anyone could tell him the news. Meanwhile, his private secretary was turning down a tsunami of interview requests from the top media around the world—a contrast with previous years, when reporters had often been reluctant to cover him. Suddenly the global press was clamoring for him;it seemed every major TV network and newspaper in the world was calling for an interview. Though the phones were ringing constantly, that morning the Dalai Lama calmly instructed his secretary to continue with his scheduled event for the day, a meeting with neuroscientists. Because he would not cancel this meeting, the requests were turneddown or delayed. A press conference could be added to his schedule at the end of the afternoon. By that hour, close to a hundred reporters and photographers had reached a local hotel ballroom for the impromptu press conference. As they gathered, the photographers jockeyed in something like a rugby scrum for the best front-of-the-room camera angles. Many reporters there had been hastily recruited from the nearby Hollywood pool that covered the film industry and were accustomed to an entirely different breed of celebrity. Here they confronted one who was neither thrilled by fame and money nor overlyeager for exposure in the world press. In the age of the selfie, when so many of us feel obligated to broadcast our every move and meal, these are radical positions. You are not the center of the universe, his very being seems to tell us—relax your anxieties, drop your self-obsession, anddial down those me-first ambitions so you can think about others too. Consider his reaction to winning the Nobel. I happened to be present for his press conference, because I had just finished moderating a three-day dialogue between the Dalai Lama and a handful of psychotherapists and social activists on compassionate action. Interviewing him for The New York Times the day after he heard about the prize, I asked him once again how he felt about it. In what he calls his “broken” English, he said, “I, myself—not much feeling.” He was pleased instead with the happiness of thosewho had worked to get him the prize—a reaction signifying what his tradition would call mudita, taking joy in the joy of others. Consider his playful streak. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, his dear friend, particularly seems to trigger this joyous, impish face of the Dalai Lama. When the two are together, they banter and joke around like small boys. But no matter the decorum an event calls for, the Dalai Lama seems always ready to laugh. I remember a moment during a meeting with scientists when he told a joke at his own expense (as is often the case). He had been to many such meetings with scientistsbefore, and, he told me, it reminded him of an old Tibetan story about a yeti who was catching marmots. This yeti had stationed himself at the entry hole to a nest of marmots, and when one popped out, the yeti would lunge to grab it and capture it by putting the marmot under him as he sat down. But every time the yeti reached for another marmot, he wouldhave to stand up—and the marmot previously captured would run off. That, he said with a laugh, was just like his memory for all the scientific lessons he’d learned! Then there was the time he was waiting in the wings at a college where he and a group of scientists were about to have a panel discussion. The prelude to that meeting was an a cappella choir of high school students entertaining the audience. But as theystarted, the Dalai Lama, intrigued, walked out alone on the bare stage, hovering near the choir as they sang, rapt. It was an off-script moment—the rest of the panel and the university officials who were prepared to formally greet him remained backstage, befuddled. The Dalai Lama, self-contained, stood there beaming at the singers—oblivious to the members of theaudience, who were beaming at him. At an invitation-only meeting, two dozen CEOs were seated at a long conference table, with the Dalai Lama at the head. As they talked, a photographer who had been hired to document the session ended up on the floor next to the Dalai Lama’s chair, clickingaway with a huge telephoto lens. The Dalai Lama stopped in mid-sentence, looked down at the photographer with bemusement, and suggested he just lie down for a quick nap. At the end of the session the same photographer snapped a rather formal group photo of the Dalai Lama with the businesshonchos. As that group pose was breaking up, the Dalai Lama motioned the photographer over and, hugging him close, posed for a photo with him. Such small moments seem unremarkable taken alone. But they number among myriad data points telling me the Dalai Lama lives by unique emotional settings and social algorithms: an empathic attunement to those around him, humor and spontaneity, and a levelingsense of the oneness of the human family—as well as remarkable generosity, to name a few. His refusal to be sanctimonious about himself—and readiness to laugh at his foibles—strikes me as one of his most endearing qualities. He flavors compassion with joy, not dour and empty platitudes. These traits are no doubt grounded in the study and practices the Dalai Lama has immersed himself in since childhood and still devotes himself to for five hours each day (those four in the morning and another hour at night). These daily practices surelyshape his moral sense and his public persona. His self-discipline in cultivating qualities like an investigative curiosity, equanimity, and compassion undergirds a unique hierarchy of values that gives the Dalai Lama the radically different perspective on the world from which his vision flows. We first met in the early 1980s when he visited Amherst College; his old friend Robert Thurman, then a professor there, introduced us. At that meeting, I remember, the Dalai Lama let it be known that he sought serious discussions with scientists. Thisresonated with both my own background as a psychologist and my occupation as a science journalist for The New York Times. In the ensuing years I arranged or took part in a handful of meetings for him with scientists in my own field, and for several years I sent him articles about scientific discoveries from the Times. My wife and I have made it a habit to attend his talksand teachings whenever we can. And so when I was asked to write this book, I jumped at the chance. While most of my books explore new scientific trends and go into some detail, and though the Dalai Lama bases his vision on science rather than religion, this is not a science book. I bring in scientific evidence as it supports the vision or to illustratea point, not as a primer. Those readers who want more can go to the sources I cite (and reader be warned: The endnotes here are “blind,” without numbers in the text—but are there in the back nonetheless). The vision that has emerged from my interviews with the Dalai Lama is, I’m sure, flavored by my own interests and passions, as is the telling. Even so, I strive to be true to his basic insights and the essence of the call he makes to each one of us. The Man Tenzin Gyatso came to this worldwide role through accidents of history. For more than four hundred years, since the institution began, no Dalai Lama—Tibet’s religious and political head—had resided outside the territories of Tibetan Buddhism. As a child, this fourteenth Dalai Lama roamed the massive Potala Palace in Lhasa,where he was groomed, like those before him, in topics like philosophy, debate, and epistemology, and in how to fill his ritual role. But with the invasion of Tibet by Communist China in the 1950s, he was thrust into the wider world, finally escaping to India in 1959. There he has resided since, never to return to his homeland. “At sixteen,” he says, “I lost my freedom,” when he stepped into the role of Tibet’s religious and political head of state. Then, when he left, he says, “I lost my country.” The moment of this transition was captured in the film Kundun, which tracks the Dalai Lama’s early years. As he crosses into India from Tibet, the young Dalai Lama gets off his horse and looks back at the Tibetan guards who have escorted him this far.The tone is a bit wistful—partly because they have left him there in this alien new land, partly that he will likely never see them again; they are riding back to a country in danger, for which they may risk their lives. As those familiar faces recede into the distance, the Dalai Lama turns, realizing he is now among strangers: his Indian hosts, who are welcoming him to his new home. But these days, as the actor—and his longtime friend—Richard Gere put it in introducinghim at a public event, “Wherever he goes, he is among friends.” No previous generation of people living outside Tibet has had the chance that we have today to see a Dalai Lama. He travels incessantly, making himself available around the globe—speaking in Russia with devout Buddhist Buryats one day, scientists in Japanthe next week, hopscotching from classrooms to overflowing auditoriums. Perhaps the only force that hinders him from reaching more people is his inability to obtain visas from the many nations throughout the world that, pressured by China, fear economic consequences if they allow him on their soil. In recent years, hard-linerswithin the Chinese Communist leadership apparently see every activity of the Dalai Lama as somehow political, aimed at undermining China’s grip on Tibet. Even so, a sampling of one itinerary has him speak to students in New Delhi on “secular ethics,” then journey to Mexico City where, among many other engagements, he addresses a thousand Catholic priests on religious harmony, has dialogues with a bishop,and gives a public talk at a stadium on compassion in action—and then is off to New York City for two days of teaching, before hopscotching to a peace summit in Warsaw, a quick stopover on his way back to New Delhi. With this global immersion, he has stepped into a larger role as global statesman. It was slow going at first. In the years before his Nobel, the Dalai Lama’s press conferences drew just a handful of reporters. I remember the dismay his official representative in the United States expressed to me in 1988 when he made a major concession to the Chinese, saying hisgoal for Tibet was autonomy, not independence. Though of momentous import to those supporting the Tibetan cause (and likely one trigger for his Nobel Peace Prize the next year), the statement ended up as a one-paragraph story in The New York Times, picked up from a wire service and buried deep inthe inside pages. Since the Nobel, though, his movements have attracted more and more people and press, and he has become an icon even in pop culture: His face was once featured in an ad for Apple (with the phrase “Think Different”), and a seemingly endless (though sometimesspurious) series of inspirational quotes has been attributed to him. His attitude here is spacious: While one senses he would just as soon be doing his predawn practices, the publicity, the celebrity, and the media storm can all be used for the good. Now his compassionate message, as his longtime English-language interpreterThupten Jinpa puts it, has “a bigger microphone.” The Dalai Lama numbers among the small handful of widely admired public figures today who embody an inner depth and gravitas. Few if any “boldface names” match his moral stature or the power of his presence, let alone his breadth of appeal. His appearancesworldwide draw huge audiences, often filling stadiums. The Dalai Lama has traveled the world for decades, meeting with people of every background, social level, and outlook—all contributing to his perspective. The people he routinely engages range from denizens of shantytowns—from São Paulo to Soweto—toheads of state and Nobel-winning scientists. To his vast range of encounters he brings his own unflagging motivation: compassion. He sees the oneness of humanity—the we—rather than getting lost in the us-and-them differences. The issues faced by “our human family,” as he calls it, are global, transcending boundaries, like the growing gap between rich and poor and the inexorabledecay from human activities of the planetary systems that support life. From this rich mix, the Dalai Lama has fashioned a plan that can bring hope, drive, and focus to us all—a map we can turn to in orienting our own lives, in understanding the world, assessing what to do, and how to shape our shared future. His vision for humanity, like the man himself, embodies a way of being and perceiving that upends many values rampant today. He envisions a world more caring and compassionate, one wiser in dealing with our collective challenges—a world more suited tothe demands of an interconnected planet. And this vision of what could be goes beyond wishful thinking to offer the seeds of the pragmatic antidotes we need more urgently than ever.
Daniel Goleman is the New York Times bestselling author of the groundbreaking book Emotional Intelligence. A psychologist and science journalist, he reported on brain and behavioral research for The New York Times for many years, and has received several awards for his writing. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including three accounts of meetings he has moderated between the Dalai Lama and scientists, psychotherapists, and social activists. Goleman is a founding member of the board of the Mind and Life Institute, a cofounder of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, and codirector of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations.