A single tear sat comfortably at the corner of his eye while the deep joyous sound of his famous chortle echoed through the halls. His Holiness the Dalai Lama (HHDL) had just entered the entrance hall, where eight of us had the opportunity to receive a private audience.
Why did the HHDL express such emotion? The eight of us were representing Reimagining Doeguling (RDTS), an organization working on the economic, social, and environmental sustainability of the largest Tibetan settlement in India, to which HHDL expressed his continued support of the tangible impact its initiatives have had over the last seven years.
Nonetheless, what seemed to prompt his unapologetic expression of emotion was a copy of an old photo featuring himself as a young man and the RDTS, co-founder and Advisor’s 100-year old father, Gyaltsen Choeden. Their friendship spanned the course of some of the most challenging times in history to the current moment. The photo seemed to speak about the power each human connection can have on the world. With the photo in his hand, the Dalai Lama urged us to consider how theories and concepts can only go so far. He spoke about how the process of deep inquiry and real-world contextualization is critical to unleashing each human’s inherent capacity to generate positivity for the world.
It’s not enough to talk about or blindly accept theories or suppositions, but to question them, apply them, and live them. That includes the 12 competencies of Emotional Intelligence.
The Dalai Lama spoke about the importance of each person having responsibility to use the capacity of their minds to better themselves and humanity. While it is often easy to defer responsibility to others, it is only through individual action that things can change.
For example, Dr. Dhondup Tashi made the conscious decision with his anesthesiologist wife, to stay in a refugee settlement to work at a highly subsidized hospital for Tibetan refugees and local Indians, instead of living a more materially comfortable life. Or Tenzin Thakpo who left the corporate world to learn how to engineer rain harvesting around 7 sites from YouTube. Or Gyaltsen Choeden, whose planting of seedlings 50 years ago have now resulted in luscious trees lining the main streets of the community.
While we may not have the capacity to control much – other people, the weather – we do have far greater personal agency than we often recognize. And when we recognize that we have the capacity to influence, we may come to recognize our responsibility to answer the call to serve.
Self-Awareness, the foundational skill of Emotional Intelligence, allow us to access this recognition by raising greater recognition of those around us and how our own motivations can serve as a driver to act. Empathy allows us to connect with others such that we better recognize how our own individual actions can help – or harm – others. How we lead with Emotional Intelligence is how we use our agency to cause a ripple effect of generative positivity – or destructive tendencies.
The Dalai Lama also spoke at length with great fervor about the critical importance of analysis. He noted the importance of preserving the ancient Indian Nalanda tradition, the pedagogy rooted in the 5th Century at one of the oldest universities in the world that attracted global scholars. This tradition is grounded in reasoning, debating, and questioning, and separate from any religion, is essential to knowledge and understanding. For example, If in the process of inquiry, investigation, and analysis, contradictions are found, no matter how authoritative the source of information may appear, it is up to each of us to think for ourselves.
Asking “Why, Why, Why?” is, in fact, essential to the generation of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Simply being introduced to facts and figures is not enough.
In other words, awareness without analysis is insufficient. If we only settle for Self-Awareness, we can be overtaken with heightened sensory information and overload ourselves with unsettling, discomforting, perhaps contradictory messages. Analyzing and questioning as to the sources of these thoughts and feelings are critical to deeper understanding. It is through analysis that we can begin to better have Emotional Balance such that we can better regulate ourselves and then have greater choice to how we want to show up for others with heightened Relationship Awareness.
The Dalai Lama also spoke about how to apply the process of analysis and investigation to the real world. After all, one cannot learn in the abstract. The Nalanda tradition stresses the application of knowledge to oneself, to transform, and to generate positivity to others.
In a divided world, we need the capacity to question, inquire, and appreciate differences even more. HHDL noted how all people – from scientists to laypeople – benefit from applying reason and logic to anything, and that taking things at face value doesn’t do a service to anyone. Going outside of our usual comfort bubbles is the need to seek those who challenge our ways of thinking and behaving. Applying this level of inquiry in the real world is not simple and it can be rather disruptive. In fact, with his usual sense of humor, HHDL admitted that this line of questioning had a casualty early on in his education: the world was indeed not flat!
If we are to consider how to generate the conditions necessary for a more understanding world, we must apply the same approach of cooperative debate and dialogue in real life. We can read about Emotional Intelligence all we want. We can analyze its validity, benefits, or drawbacks. But if we do not apply and practice the skills to ourselves and others, these skills – like any text – remain words on a page with limited benefit.
If emotion is the mind fused with feeling, we cannot separate the two. In fact, we have the capacity – and the responsibility – to better understand our minds such that we can better regulate our emotions. Emotional Intelligence can offer the tools to raise awareness of our agency, the capacity to analyze and make sense, and the motivation to apply our knowledge for a greater good.
From right to left: HH The 14th Dalai Lama looking at the RDTS magazine with a photo of himself and Gyaltsen Choeden taken decades ago at a Tibetan settlement in South India; Tsewang Namgyal, Chair of RDTS Advisory Board and son of Gyaltsen Choeden, Joe Wood, RDTS Advisory Board Member, and Tsering Yangki, RDTS Advisor and daughter of Gyaltsen Choeden