In this part of the interview we talk about building more compassionate institutions and creating new institutions that promote compassion. We also spoke spiritual rituals in our world and how we can develop them. Then I ended the interview by asking him what is the most important life lesson he's ever learnt.
"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive." - Dalai Lama
KB: I wanted to talk about developing compassion on a societal level.
PG: Your social context has a very major impact on your behaviour. If we lived during the reign of the Romain empire, we’d all be going to the coliseum.
I saw a fantastic video by a guy whose name I forget. He spoke about when we have an institutional problem, the people at the top shouldn't hand solutions downwards. They should hand problems downwards. And then they hand solutions upwards.
Let's say you work in a hospital and you ask your staff, 'How would you create a compassionate environment on your ward?' One of the things they’d say is stability. We need stable staff, so they get to know the patients. They take an interest in their ward and making it a caring place. They take a lot of pleasure from the letters, the postcards, and the gifts from their patients.
KB: What about creating new institutions directed towards creating a more compassionate society?
PG: Again you have to be careful you don’t have a top-down solution. The issue is how do you identify where compassion is helping right now, and how can we feed that fire?
That’s really how Buddhism started. Buddha didn’t try to set up institutions. He just went around talking, and let other people spread it.
What we’re most interested in is finding and fostering, and not to worry so much about creating. The key thing is to pull together people who are actually doing compassionate things. We just have to give people the opportunity to join in.
KB: I know that Buddhism, in the religious sense, uses a lot of rituals. Do you think we can learn from these rituals?
PG: Rituals are mostly about a shared place and a respect for the teaching. Alain de Botton makes an interesting point that one of the problems in the last few hundred years is that we have lost the rituals that create community.
There used to be a lot of symbols that represented spiritual values. But now the only symbols that you’ll see anywhere are saying 'Have more' and 'Do more.' You won’t see any symbols that stimulate you in self-restraint, self-sacrifice, and giving to charity. But of course you don’t want that! You want to have a new car!
KB: So how do you develop spiritual rituals in an atheistic society?
PG: What we’re gradually seeing is the movement towards rituals where people share in meditation, for example. Rituals are really now about the importance of cultivating your mind. And I think that these rituals are just the beginning.
If science can discover something interesting about consciousness, then those rituals that will develop around these facts will become very important. I suspect that science will discover something about the nature of consciousness that will be very surprising.
KB: What do you think that is?
PG: Well, I think the key question is consciousness just a result of biology or is it something else entirely? Like ripples in the sea, you wouldn't mistake ripples for the sea itself.
So I don’t know the answer to that. Even now some physicists are beginning to theorize that consciousness may be non-local.
"Love makes the world go round."
KB: What is the most important lesson that you’ve learnt in your life?
PG: Love makes the world go round.
All the studies that I've seen point to the fact that if you feel loved, valued, wanted, and a sense of belonging and you are loving, then you are at your happiest.
I personally feel that from the evidence and my own personal experience that this is where we are at home.
If you enjoyed this interview, check out the interview with Charles Eisenstein, author of Sacred Economics, The Yoga of Eating, The Ascent of Humanity, and The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible.
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