An afternoon with the Dalai Lama and Friends

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”Dalai Lama XIV

I am a member of Action for Happiness – a UK based organisation set up to promote happiness and well-being. This week they hosted His Holiness the Dalai Lama at an event in London to launch a new happiness programme and I decided to go. The venue was the Lyceum Theatre, with over 2,000 people at the event, even on a wet and windy Monday afternoon.

The afternoon kicked off with a brief introduction by the Action for Happiness host, Mark Williamson. He introduced His Holiness the Dalai Lama onto the stage with Richard Layard [a labour economist and author of a number of books on the economics of happiness]. Mark then launched the Action for Happiness 8 week programme and introduced onto the stage Jasmine Hodge-Lake and Adrian Bethune, two early members of the programme, to talk about the benefits of the programme and how they had used it in their personal and professional lives.

Richard Layard then started the conversation with His Holiness the Dalai Lama which lasted for nearly 2 hours.

One of the first questions was, “How to create happiness in ourselves?”

The Dalai Lama responded with: the fact that happiness is based on loving kindness and compassion to ourselves; that we should feel that for ourselves; that we should recognise that when we feel frustration or anger that is when you need to practice your mindfulness.

Next they talked about Secular Ethics. Secular ethics is a branch of moral philosophy in which ethics is based solely on human faculties such as logic, reason or moral intuition, and not derived from supernatural revelation or guidance (which is the source of religious ethics). The Dalai Lama talked about love, compassion, tolerance and forgiveness are at the heart of secular ethics. We all need friends and family. That you need to show and demonstrate love, which leads onto trust and honesty, which deepens and strengthens the bonds of friendship.

The middle part of the discussion was on the three elements in the broader society that need to exist in harmony to foster happiness. They were firstly love and compassion. Second, philosophy and religion. I loved the metaphor that the Dalai Lama used for religion at this point. Different religions are like different foods. They all nourish you in different ways. But they all nourish you. And you might not want to just eat one food type, else it could become stale and boring. Rather, people like to pick and choose what they eat, so to do different people pick and choose their religions. Finally, thirdly, culture. How does the culture of the country you live in support happiness?

The final part was around wealth and happiness, where his holiness talked about the fact that in numerous conversations he has had over the years with the rich and famous, money does not give you inner peace.

After a short break, the afternoon continued with a panel discussion with:

  • Geoff Mulgan, CEO of Nesta, a leading authority on social innovation
  • Suzy Greaves, editor of Psychologies magazine, who has launched 1,000 Happiness Clubs across the UK
  • Anthony Seldon, Vice-Chancellor of Buckingham University and a co-founder of Action for Happiness
  • Richard Davidson, a renowned neuroscientist and a global expert on emotion and the brain
  • Finally, my favourite, Matthieu Ricard, monk and author of the book Altruism. A book I would recommend you read.

What followed was a whirlwind discussion around topics, such as;

The plasticity of the brain and the four constituents of well-being; how to move from despair to happiness;  how to bring happiness into schools and stop the “grave / grind system” of education; to altruism and caring mindfulness, where you can be mindful without caring compassion, but you can not be compassionate without being mindful.

Finally, there was a brief introduction by Daniel Goleman; author of the world famous book Emotional Intelligence; on the new book, “A Force for Good”, which lays out the Dalai Lama’s vision for a better world.

We wrapped up the afternoon with the news that the launch of the programme was going to be broadcast by the BBC, a wonderful outcome.

The link below is to the BBC News programme that mentions the launch of the Action for Happiness programme.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rakF28bExMU

“The Dalai Lama is supporting the launch of the Exploring What Matters course developed by Action for Happiness. This was broadcast on BBC 10 o’clock News on 21 Sept 2015”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-34292274?post_id=1122009653_10206935069871539#_=_

Action for Happiness website:

http://www.actionforhappiness.org/

I leave you with the following quote:

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”

Dalai Lama XIV