Saturday, April 14, 2012

Dalai Lama Awarded World's Largest Annual Monetary Prize

I've always taken an interest in world religions, but given that I'll soon be living and teaching in a monastery following the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, I've started paying especially close attention to happenings in this part of the world. Today, I read this article from the John Templeton Foundation, a really neat foundation supporting the intersection of science and life's "big questions," and the sponsor of the prestigious Templeton Prize. This year, the prize has been awarded to the Dalai Lama -- "the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader whose long-standing engagement with multiple dimensions of science and with people far beyond his own religious traditions has made him an incomparable global voice for universal ethics, nonviolence, and harmony among world religions."



It's really neat to see someone like the Dalai Lama recognized in this way, and especially when such a large cash prize is included.  He is clearly someone who will continue to invest in the betterment of people's lives all over the world. Here is an excerpt from the article that best highlights his background, purpose, and accomplishments.
For decades, Tenzin Gyatso, 76, the 14th Dalai Lama - a lineage believed by followers to be the reincarnation of an ancient Buddhist leader who epitomized compassion – has vigorously focused on the connections between the investigative traditions of science and Buddhism as a way to better understand and advance what both disciplines might offer the world..... 
Within that search, the "big questions" he raises - such as "Can compassion be trained or taught?" – reflect the deep interest of the founder of the Templeton Prize, the late Sir John Templeton, in seeking to bring scientific methods to the study of spiritual claims and thus foster the spiritual progress that the Prize has recognized for the past 40 years..... 
Valued at £1.1 million (about $1.7 million or €1.3 million), the prize is the world's largest annual monetary award given to an individual and honors a living person who has made exceptional contributions to affirming life's spiritual dimension.... 
In 2005, after a series of dialogues at Stanford University among the Dalai Lama, scientists in the fields of neuroscience, psychology, and medicine, and contemplative scholars, the university became the home of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. The interdisciplinary discourse recognized that engagement between cognitive sciences and Buddhist contemplative traditions could contribute to understanding of the human mind and emotion. The center now supports and conducts rigorous scientific studies of compassion and altruistic behavior. 
Many of these conferences have led to popular best sellers written or co-written by the Dalai Lama, including The Art of Happiness (1998), The Universe in a Single Atom(2005), and The Dalai Lama at MIT (2006). All told, he has authored or co-authored more than 70 books. The Dalai Lama’s love of science is also evidenced in the Science for Monks program, created in 2001 to teach science in Buddhist monastic centers of higher learning in India. The program engages Indian and Western scientists to explore connections between Tibetan Buddhist traditions and science, and teach methods of scientific inquiry in physics, quantum mechanics, cosmology, biology, neuroscience, and mathematics. 
This openness to new ideas and cutting edge findings has set him in the rare pantheon of internationally respected religious leaders and also has given him a stature among secular audiences unlike any other religious leader. 
Indeed, in his recommendation to the Prize committee, Richard Davidson, founder of the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wrote, “More than any other living human being, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has served humanity to catalyze the advancement of ‘spiritual progress’ and to help us all to cultivate a better understanding of the spiritual dimensions of human experience.”
Upon hearing my plans for the summer, several people have questioned me about how a young Christian woman will fare in an all-male Tibetan Buddhist monastery.  I'm optimistic: There are clearly themes which traverse the boundaries of these two faith traditions. Humility, Compassion, Love, Peace. Whereas religion is constructed with man-made rules and regulations, faith is universal.
Having watched the video, I'm a little surprised but happy with how well the Dalai Lama speaks English. And who knows, maybe I'll get to teach English to the next Dalai Lama!
(Click here to learn about how the Dalai Lama is a spiritual leader who is "found," not "chosen.")

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