Spiritual leader honoured for encouraging scientific research and harmony among religions
LONDON, MARCH 29 – 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, has won the 2012 Templeton Prize.
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 honours a living person who has made exceptional contributions to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.
The Prize will be presented to the Dalai Lama at a ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London on the afternoon of Monday, May 14. A news conference with the 2012 Prize Laureate will precede the ceremony. Both events are invitation-only and will be webcast live at www.templetonprize.org and to global media on a pool basis. Photography from the events will also be pooled.
It will be the first time that the Dalai Lama has visited St Paul’s.
For decades, Tenzin Gyatso, 76, the 14th Dalai Lama – a lineage believed by followers to be the reincarnation of an ancient Buddhist leader who epitomised 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.
Specifically, he encourages serious scientific investigative reviews of the power of compassion and its broad potential to address the world’s fundamental problems – a theme at the core of his teachings and a cornerstone of his immense popularity.
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.
The announcement praised the Dalai Lama for his life’s work in building bridges of trust in accord with the yearnings of countless millions of people around the globe who have been drawn by the charismatic icon’s appeal to compassion and understanding for all.
Dr. John M. Templeton, Jr., president and chairman of the John Templeton Foundation and son of the late Prize founder, said: “With an increasing reliance on technological advances to solve the world’s problems, humanity also seeks the reassurance that only a spiritual quest can answer. The Dalai Lama offers a universal voice of compassion underpinned by a love and respect for spiritually relevant scientific research that centres on every single human being.”
He also noted that the Dalai Lama’s remarkable record of intellectual, moral and spiritual innovations is clearly recognised by the nine Prize judges, who represent a wide range of disciplines, cultures and religious traditions. The Prize judges evaluate – independently of each other – typically 15 to 20 nominated candidates each year and then individually submit separate ballots – from which a tally then determines the selection of each year’s Laureate.
The Dalai Lama responded to the prize in the humble style that has become his signature. “When I heard today your decision to give me this quite famous award, I really felt this is another sign of recognition about my little service to humanity, mainly nonviolence and unity around different religious traditions,” he said in a video available at www.templetonprize.org.
In other brief videos on the Prize website, the Dalai Lama elaborates on key issues including his call for humanity to embrace compassion as a path to peace, both personally and on a global scale. “You can develop genuine sense of concern of well-being of others, including your enemy,” he states in one video. “That kind of compassion – unbiased, unlimited – needs training, awareness.”
The Right Reverend Michael Colclough, Canon Pastor at St Paul’s Cathedral, welcomed this event: “A non-violent voice of peace and reason in a calamitous world, the Dalai Lama represents core values cherished by many different faiths. The award of the Templeton Prize to the Dalai Lama under the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral will be a reminder that working towards peace and harmony is a practical and spiritual challenge to all faith communities.”
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 catalyse the advancement of ‘spiritual progress’ and to help us all to cultivate a better understanding of the spiritual dimensions of human experience.”
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The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso
The Dalai Lama is no stranger to honours and accolades, with scores to his name. In 1989, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his advocacy of nonviolence as the path to liberation for Tibet. He becomes the second Templeton Prize Laureate to have also received the Nobel Peace Prize; Mother Teresa received the first Templeton Prize in 1973, six years before her Nobel.
In concert with his efforts to achieve peace for Tibet, the Dalai Lama’s extensive travels have promoted cross-cultural understanding with other religions and with disciplines as varied as astrophysics, quantum mechanics, neurobiology, and behavioural science.
He often notes that the rigorous commitment of Buddhists to meditative investment and reflection similarly follows the strict rules of investigation, proof and evidence required of science.
Among his most successful efforts is the Mind & Life Institute, co-founded in 1987 to create collaborative research between science and Buddhism. The institute hosts conferences on subjects such as contemplative science, destructive and healing emotions, and consciousness and death. While initially beginning as quiet academic affairs, they have evolved into enormously popular public events.
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 recognised that engagement between cognitive sciences and Buddhist contemplative traditions could contribute to understanding of the human mind and emotion. The centre 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 centres 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.
Tenzin Gyatso was born on July 6, 1935 as Lhamo Dhondup in the Tibetan cultural region of Amdo, a farming village in the Qinghai Province of western China. When he was two years old, a search party set out to find the successor to the recently deceased 13th Dalai Lama. Guided by visions and omens, they came upon the home of the toddler, who was selected as the 14th Dalai Lama and taken to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa.
At age six he began his monastic education within the walls of the Norbulingka Palace near Lhasa, studying logic, Tibetan art and culture, Buddhist philosophy, Sanskrit and medicine. A precocious child surrounded by the trappings of a king, he roamed the palace in search of diversions. Among those was a telescope that allowed him to peer into the night sky and the watch belonging to the 13th Dalai Lama that he repeatedly deconstructed and rebuilt for amusement.
In 1950, at age 15, he was officially installed as the political leader of Tibet. The subsequent involvement of the Chinese government in Tibet soon prompted his departure from Tibet. In 1951 he returned to Lhasa for negotiations with the Chinese government and, in 1954, traveled to Beijing for peace talks with Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Chou En-Lai, and others.
In 1959, in response to increasing tensions from an uprising within the region at just 23 years old, he and a small entourage departed from Tibet to India, eventually settling in Dharamsala, which remains his home in exile.
In 1987, he offered a Five-Point Peace Plan for Tibet that includes making the region a non-armed enclave and an environmental sanctuary with China responsible for defence and foreign policy, a proposal as yet unrecognised by Beijing.
In 2011, he relinquished his political responsibility over Tibet in favor of a proposed constitutional government, albeit in exile, removing the Dalai Lama as head of state and replacing him with an elected leader. This ended the tradition begun by the 5th Dalai Lama in 1642 of the Dalai Lamas holding dual responsibility of spiritual and temporal powers.
The Templeton Prize
The Templeton Prize each year honours a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works.
Established in 1972 by the late global investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton, the Prize is a cornerstone of the John Templeton Foundation’s international efforts to serve as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality.
The monetary value of the prize is set always to exceed the Nobel Prizes to underscore Templeton's belief that benefits from discoveries that illuminate spiritual questions can be quantifiably more vast than those from other worthy human endeavours.