From Radical Green Listserv
Washington Post February 20, 2014Dalai Lama translates true happiness
during visit to American Enterprise InstituteBy Melinda Henneberger*
As the Dalai Lama entered the room at the American Enterprise Institute,
where he’d been invited to discuss the idea of “moral markets,” the crowd
stood and kept still, in reverential silence. Then, though, everyone he
passed began to laugh. Not at the idea that unencumbered enterprise might
be the path to peace, but because His Holiness is the Melissa McCarthy of
religious leaders: You look at him and can’t help it, before he even opens
his mouth, and no matter what he says when he does.
“We’re here,’’ said Arthur C. Brooks, the president of the conservative
think tank, “to talk about what matters to us the most.” And although “as
an economist it hurts me to tell you, money’s not on the list.’’
The presence of a self-described socialist and “simple Buddhist monk” as an
honored guest of the enthusiastic capitalists here — Grover Norquist was in
the audience, jokingly wondering if he’d worn the right thing, and real
estate developer Harlan Crow was in the front row — suggested that even if
it is on the list, we know it shouldn’t be near the top.
That’s why, as Brooks said, “the system we believe is most able” to make
success most widely available “is under question today. Have we become too
materialistic? Do we need to reorder our priorities?”
The Dalai Lama, who wore a visor to protect his eyes from the stage lights,
at first laughed when asked to respond. The crowd leaned forward to hear.
An interpreter whispering in his ear tried to help, but came out with
something like “Being happy and well prove auspiciousness,’’ to which
Brooks could only answer, “This is such a good day!”
Mostly, though, the Tibetan spoke for himself, with nouns unadorned by
articles and verbs that might not agree with their subjects but did locate
points of agreement with his hosts: “To try to seek right method to bring
happy life,’’ he said, “where start? From government? No, from individual —
then we can make little contribution. That I feel most important.”
He also challenged the crowd, saying near the top of his remarks that
global cooperation was more essential than ever as we face climate change
in what he called a “turning-point century.”
In two days of talks here, he seemed to have followed his own advice about
keeping an open mind and heart. Before meeting Brooks, he said, laughing
some more, he thought capitalists “only take money, then exploitation.”
Now, he added, “I develop more respect for capitalism.’’
When asked if he agreed it’s the free-enterprise system that’s most moral,
he didn’t say no, but did gently raise the gap between rich and poor.
Others on the stage for two different panel discussions chimed in.
Hedge funder Daniel Loeb, founder of Third Point, told about how yoga had
helped him as a businessman, particularly in decision-making and in
developing the intuition that helps him as a trader. Some people are left
behind by capitalism, he said, but the more we see ourselves as
interconnected, the more we understand that failure hurts us all.
Diana Chapman Walsh, former president of Wellesley College, said she was
not only “very happy to be here in this happy-fest’’ but, according to
recent research that suggests women are happier, was also “so glad to be
here as the lone representative of the happiest sex’’ among the day’s nine
She asked whether we in the West have started treating self-improvement and
even spirituality as any other competition. And she challenged
conservatives to ask whether the weakening of labor unions hadn’t worsened
working conditions. “Now I know I won’t get applause for that,’’ she said,
to the applause of a few contrarians.
Again asked to weigh in, the Dalai Lama observed that “we should be
wise-selfish rather than foolish-selfish,’’ understanding that the more we
help others, the more content we ourselves will be. Happiness comes from
self-confidence, he said, remembering how he had explained to a young South
African man years ago that he was wrong in believing, as he’d been taught,
that white men were intellectually superior. “At least I helped change one
The main job of the Dalai Lama, he said, is to “go different places showing
my teeth.” Which reminded him of some Buddhist humor: “I want to share with
you, as a joke, one time in Germany — my nature, when I see somebody, I
smile. One quite young lady coming, I smile. I think that lady got some
suspicions, ha, ha! I also turned,’’ he said, as if skulking away. Oh, but
“I’m wasting your time,’’ he added, and the audience corrected him.
In closing, Brooks sounded more like the Dalai Lama than when he’d begun,
calling him “the most wonderful man we’ve met in so much time.”
And in the crowd, too, there were nothing but happy sounds: “He doesn’t see
sides,’’ a young Indian woman said. Having “no agenda helps,’’ her friend
answered. He does have one, however, and Republicans are not immune to it.