The Dalai Lama Speaks To Youth on Education and the Compassionate Heart

Excerpts from a commencement address delivered by the Dalai Lama at Emory University on Monday, May 11, 1998.

Recently, His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama spoke at a commencement address to the graduating class of Emory University. He began his address, not surprisingly, by speaking about the importance of education. Interestingly however, he also clarified that education alone is not enough: "One of the unique things about humanity is the special human brain. We have the capacity to think and to memorize. We have something that can have very special qualities. Because of that, education becomes very important. I believe that education is like an instrument. Whether that instrument, that device, is used properly or constructively or in a different way depends on the user. We have education on the one hand; on the other hand, we have a good person. A good person means someone with a good heart, a sense of caring for the welfare others, a sense of commitment, a sense of responsibility. Education and the warm heart, the compassionate heart-if you combine these two, then your education, your knowledge, will be constructive. Then you are yourself becoming a happy person. If you have only education and knowledge and a lack of the other side, then you may not be a happy person, but a person of mental unrest, of frustration. This will always happen. Not only that, but if you combine these two, your whole life will be a constructive and happy life. And certainly you can make immense benefit for society and the betterment of humanity. That is one of my fundamental beliefs: that a good heart, a warm heart, a compassionate heart, is still teachable. Please combine these two."

The Dalai Lama also gave encouragement to the graduates to not be discouraged by the setbacks they will inevitably face: "There is another thing I want to tell you. You have achieved your goal, and now you are ready to begin another chapter. Now you start real life. Real life may be more complicated. It is bound to face some unhappy things and hindrances, obstacles and complications. So it is important to have determination and optimism and patience. If you lack patience, even when you face some small obstacle, you'll lose courage. There is a Tibetan saying, 'Even if you have failed at something nine times, you have still given it effort nine times.' I think that's important. Use your brain to analyze the situation. Do not rush through it, but think. Once you decide what to do about that obstacle, then there's a possibility that you will achieve your goal."

On this eve of a new century (and milennium), the Dalai Lama is very aware of the dangers of war, violence and ecological disaster. However, he also feels there are positive signs that humanity as a whole is moving towards peace: "Here we are now entering another new century. I believe humanity during this century has experienced some surprising and great achievements in the fields of technology and science. Then in the meantime, there are other experiences that have been awful. In this century, the greatest number of humanity have been killed through violence, including war and other forms of violence [than in any previous century]. And I think the ecological damage has been very serious. But through these experiences, humanity is becoming more mature. I think one indication of that maturity is the evident concern for peace, nonviolence, and human rights. Even in the politicians' statements now, you hear the words 'compassion' and 'reconciliation.' Peace is now becoming more mainstream. I think these are the signs. Everywhere we hear of unhappy things in every part of the world, but if we judge all, I think there are many signs of hope. But in any case, the future of humanity entirely depends on our own shoulders. You have completed a good preparation for a better future. You must have what I call a sense of global responsibility."

In closing, the Dalai Lama emphasized again the importance of the spiritual dimension to all of us, especially in these troubled times. He also clarified that this dimension is not just "for Sundays only": "I feel an atmosphere of spirituality, of belief, of faith, is also very important. Whether you are a believer or non-believer is up to the individual. It is an individual right. In humanity however, spirituality with faith is very useful. When we face some problem, the various different religious traditions help us keep our mental peace. Those people who believe, who accept religious value, should implement their faith as part of their daily lives, so that they can really feel the value of a religious tradition. It is not just for a few occasions in church, when we are not so much affected. Accept religion, and be a sincere practitioner."

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