A Force for Good

June 22, 2015

A note from Dan Goleman:

As I was interviewing the Dalai Lama for my book A FORCE FOR GOOD: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World, Paul Ekman’s work came up repeatedly. The Dalai Lama places great importance, for one, on Paul’s mapping the emotions – a tool that can help people get a better grip on their own. Then there’s the Cultivating Emotional Balance program, which has helped countless teachers and others mange their inner world better.

As Paul makes clear in his book, there is the challenge the Dalai Lama poses to all of us, moving toward the ideal of universal compassion, an attitude that values every person on Earth equally.

In A FORCE FOR GOOD the Dalai Lama suggests we start with an emotional transformation toward greater calm, clarity, and compassion. Then, with this inner rudder, act to improve the world he spells out what our world needs in many spheres – ranging from transparency to dispel corruption in government and business, to a more caring economics, to healing the planet.

And he urges us to act now, in whatever way we can – even if we won’t see the results in our lifetime. We can change the future over the course of this century, if we all act to create this force for good, he urges.

Intriguingly, the arguments the Dalai Lama makes are not based in Buddhism, but rather in science.  He supports his views by drawing on the countless meetings he has had over the decades with world-class scientists – especially Paul’s work.

Paul has spent more than 60 hours in one-on-one conversation with the Dalai Lama. As Paul puts it, they are like brothers.

Of all the many achievements over the course of Paul’s career, this may be the most remarkable. For one, even those close to the Dalai Lama’s inner circle find it difficult to schedule time with that ceaseless world traveler. For another, when Richard Davidson and I were considering which scientists to invite to participate in the Mind and Life meeting on “Destructive Emotions,” we had misgivings about Paul, despite his being at the top of our list.

Our hesitation had to do with Paul’s tough-mindedness as a scientist – we were unsure what his chemistry might be with the Dalai Lama – and we know that beyond first-class science, personal rapport made these meetings work. And, as Paul has said himself, at first during the meeting he had his own doubts. But on the third day there was a personal encounter with Paul and the Dalai Lama – when Paul introduced his daughter Eve, and the Dalai Lama held on to Paul’s hand as they spoke.

There was an almost electrical charge, as Paul has put it – and a subsequent deep change in Paul’s being. Where he had been quick to anger, as Paul describes, after that encounter he didn’t even have an angry thought for about nine months.

While most of us can’t hope for such a drastic inner transformation, any of us can begin the inner journey toward more peace and clarity.  As for myself, I find that meditation has offered a way to renew that state daily.  Cultivating Emotional Balance offers a range of approaches to emotional hygiene. There are countless methods.

But as the Dalai Lama emphasizes, that’s a first step. By also enhancing our own compassion, we become better able to act in ways that will add our energy to the force for good he calls us to create.