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‘Ambassador of Love’: Arthur Brooks Leads Harvard Delegation to Meet the Dalai Lama

Arthur C. Brooks and the Dalai Lama share an embrace during a trip to Dharamsala, India last week.
Arthur C. Brooks and the Dalai Lama share an embrace during a trip to Dharamsala, India last week. By Courtesy of Arthur C. Brooks
By Patil Djerdjerian and Rachael A. Dziaba, Contributing Writers

Harvard professor Arthur C. Brooks and the Harvard Kennedy School Leadership & Happiness Laboratory led a delegation to meet the Dalai Lama for a conference last week.

Hosted at the Dalai Lama’s residence in Dharamsala, India, the meeting provided a platform for scholars, faculty, donors, monks, and members of the HKS lab to discuss spirituality and faith.

Brooks said the conference delegation featured a “diverse cast of characters and 38 people all together.”

“Most of them were meeting the Dalai Lama for the first time and I got to facilitate a very, very deep conversation on the nature of transcendence,” he said. “That was pretty enriching, I think, for everybody.”

This conference marked the lab’s second with the Dalai Lama to discuss leadership and happiness.

Reece M. Brown, the assistant director of the Leadership & Happiness lab, said this year’s meeting was “not just about how leaders can be happiness teachers, but how leaders can infuse meaning into the institutions that they lead and in the lives of the people that they lead.”

According to Brooks, one of the main topics of the conference was the nature of transcendence.

Brooks said that there are two kinds of transcendence: “transcend yourself, such that you are in service of others” and “transcend yourself, such that you’re in the presence of the Divine.”

Such “lateral” and “vertical” forms of transcendence are “the secret to a good life,” he said.

A documentary team accompanied the trip and is planning to turn it into a series of shorts or one documentary, according to Brooks.

Last week was Brooks’ 11th trip to visit the Dalai Lama. But, for conference participants who were meeting the Dalai Lama for the first time, “their minds were fairly blown,” Brooks said.

“As he talks, you can see that people’s minds really open up for new ideas,” Brooks said.

Though people may come “seeking something,” the conversation revealed they “were sought — that the ideas had been seeking you,” he added.

Lisa J. Miller, a professor of psychology and education at Columbia, attended the trip and called it “a cross between a quest for truth” and a “mission for peace and a pilgrimage.”

“It was absolutely life-changing,” she said. It was her first time meeting the Dalai Lama, and she “was taken by his absolute commitment to love.”

Brooks also praised the Dalai Lama, calling him “extremely deep and intuitive.”

“You can ask him almost anything, and he’s gonna say what you need to hear,” he said.

Following the trip, several members of the delegation said they felt a duty to spread the Dalai Lama’s message.

Miller pointed to the importance of being “an ambassador of love.”

“I’m profoundly grateful,” she said. “The Dalai Lama said, ‘Bring forward the message of love,’ and I called home and shared it with friends and colleagues and people on the plane, and now I’m off to work to share a message of love.”

“The reality is that if leaders want to be effective in the halls of power for all human lives, it starts and ends with love, right?” Brown said. “And that’s the biggest takeaway that we got from this year that His Holiness gave.”

Brooks said he hopes to return to visit the Dalai Lama again in order to further his message.

“I’m gonna go as many times as I can for the rest of my life and do as much as I can to bring the spirit of his message of love and warm heartedness and reconciliation to the rest of the world,” Brooks said.

“This is what we need,” he said. “We need to drive fear out with love. That’s what would cure our problems as a campus, but that’s what the world needs as well.”

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