Ken Wilber and Victor Chan take an in-depth look at The Wisdom of Compassion, a book written by Victor and the Dalai Lama, which offers rare insights into the Dalai Lama’s life, his spiritual practice, and his efforts to bring wisdom to the world and translate compassion into action. Packed with deeply engaging, behind-the-scenes stories about the Dalai Lama’s interactions with remarkable people from all walks of life, this dialogue offers a precious glimpse into the heart and mind of one of the world’s most beloved spiritual leaders.
We at Integral Life have tremendous respect and admiration for the Dalai Lama. Not only is he a cherished leader and role model for Buddhists around the world, but for many more millions of people who know little about Buddhism, their whole perception of the tradition is based around their observation of the life and work of this amazing human being. There are many who might roll their eyes when they hear the word “spirituality”, but still pay attention whenever the Dalai Lama speaks. He is remarkably skillful in translating many of the timeless truths of Buddhism into exceptionally simple and accessible practices and insights, stripped of yesterday’s myth and metaphysics, and has thus found notable success bringing spiritual perspectives into a secular world that tends to throw the spiritual baby out with the bathwater of pre-rational belief.
The Dalai Lama seems tremendously sympathetic with many of the core insights of the Integral approach, particularly when it comes to the need to adapt ancient wisdom to meet the scientific discoveries and cultural expressions of the 21st century. He seems to understand that so long as religion remains anchored to pre-rational beliefs and interpretations of reality, it is unlikely to survive the dramatic cultural, scientific, and technological changes that are taking place all over the world. Instead, he is calling for an entirely new approach to Buddhism, representing a new level of spiritual understanding. The following quote was communicated through the Dalai Lama’s Facebook account, appropriately enough:
“All the world’s major religions, with their emphasis on love, compassion, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness, can and do promote inner values. But the reality of the world today is that grounding ethics in religion is no longer adequate. This is why I am increasingly convinced that the time has come to find a way of thinking about spirituality and ethics beyond religion altogether.”
You can also see the Dalai Lama’s commitment to evolving Buddhism from a typically mythic religion to a genuinely rational path to enlightenment in quotes like this one:
“My confidence in venturing into science lies in my basic belief that as in science so in Buddhism, understanding the nature of reality is pursued by means of critical investigation: if scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.”
As you can see, for the Dalai Lama there is no need for conflict between the scientific and the spiritual. They simply look at very different dimensions of reality, dimensions that cannot be reduced to one other (science looking at 3rd-person aspects of reality, and spirituality looking at 1st-person, or “render unto Caeser the things which are Caeser’s, and unto God which are God’s”). So long as when science discloses some truth about the exterior world, spirituality listens and adapt to this new data, and when spirituality discloses truth within the interior world, science pays attention without trying to explain it away as some epiphenomena of material processes, then science and spirituality can both enrich and inform each other in very powerful ways.
For all these reasons and more, the Dalai Lama continues to be one of the greatest forces of wisdom, transformation, and embodied compassion in the world, and a beacon of simple enlightened living for all of us. Listen as Ken and Victor take a closer look at the life, work, and inexhaustible spirit of one of the greatest friends the world has ever known, His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
The Wisdom of Compassion: Stories of Remarkable Encounters and Timeless Insights
The Wisdom of Compassion is an intensely personal portrait of the Dalai Lama. It recounts the story of his friendship with a blind Irishman, how they first met and how in later meetings the Dalai Lama comes to call him his one and only hero. It explores the Dalai Lama’s collaboration with a neuroscientist and how it results in significant discoveries about the human brain. It also brings to life poignant accounts of his uncommon encounters with a little beggar girl, a disabled boy in a critical care ward, a man who trains grandmothers to become solar engineers, and many others.
We see how he approaches the world with playfulness, optimism, and a profound empathy for the suffering of others. Through his own conduct he shows us the tangible benefits of practicing kindness, forgiveness, and compassion, and demonstrates that opening our hearts and minds to others is the surest path to true happiness.
The Dalai Lama’s wisdom principles revolve around the practical application of compassion. Enhanced by his seven decades of practice and elucidated through captivating anecdotes of his own experiences, they will help readers lead more fulfilling lives. As the Dalai Lama has written many years ago: if you want others to be happy, practice compassion; if you want yourself to be happy, practice compassion.
About Victor Chan
Victor Chan has known the Dalai Lama for over 40 years, and in 2005 they co-founded the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education. The Dalai Lama and Victor Chan also co-authored The Wisdom of Compassion: Stories of Remarkable Encounters and Timeless Insights. Their previous work, The Wisdom of Forgiveness: Intimate Conversations and Travels, was shortlisted for the Nautilus Prize, New York and translated into 14 languages. Chan is also the author of The Tibet Handbook: A Pilgrimage Guide.
About Ken Wilber
Ken Wilber is a preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. He is an internationally acknowledged leader, founder of Integral Institute, and co-founder of Integral Life. Ken is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative world philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”.