Monday, October 18, 2010



 “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

ATLANTA--Emory University has a rather impressive Presidential Distinguished Professor. His name is His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama and he came to the Atlanta campus, a place he now calls “my university,” to lecture and participate in discussions. The weather was near perfect and the topics timely for students and adults.

The first all-day conference brought leading scientists and educators into dialogue with the Dalai Lama to discuss the state of current research on empathy and compassion, the scientific study of meditation practices for cultivating compassion, and the implementation of such meditation programs in various clinical and educational settings. The importance of empathy and compassion for human flourishing is being increasingly recognized in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, medicine and contemplative science.

The following day’s program brought together on Emory’s stage internationally known humanitarian and award-winning actor Richard Gere with Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Georgia native Alice Walker for "The Creative Journey: Artists in Conversation with the Dalai Lama on Spirituality and Creativity."  The topics included: How do the arts help us to express, or indeed to uncover, our spiritual yearnings and questions or certainties?  What do the artist and the spiritual master have to teach each other from their respective disciplines?  What is the role of tradition (or, conversely, iconoclasm) in maintaining or renewing art and spiritual life?  Is the human being innately spiritual, innately artistic? 

Emory University continues to be the intellectual and academic epicenter of the New South and beyond. I will be writing columns about these momentous events, placing certain aspects of this special visit in context of Atlanta and the South’s history along with the development of new understandings and visions.

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