The Dalai Lama and You: How Teachings of Humanity Fit into Government

Today I had the privilege to attend the Sadat Lecture for Peace hosted at the University of Maryland (UMD), College Park. The Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development, named for Egypt’s past president, the late Anwar El-Sadat, has organized these lectures since 1997 to promote leadership in the mission to gain peace. Past lectures have been delivered by former President Jimmy Carter, Henry Kissinger, former President of Israel Ezer Weizman, and Nelson Mandela. Today, the University of Maryland welcomed the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, in the words of UMD President Dr. Wallace Loh, “treads softly on the world stage but leaves deep impressions.” He has traveled the world urging leaders to abandon violence and to seek reconciliation through tolerance and mutual respect. Though he is the spiritual leader of Tibet, his lessons of non-violence ring true for many other people in countries torn apart by differing beliefs such as those in the Middle East.

That said, you may wonder what this has to do with government. Believe it or not, some of the Dalai Lama’s lessons fit quite nicely into a government setting. Below are three take-aways from today’s Lecture for Peace.

1. Talk as Equals

When His Holiness first spoke, he joyfully told the audience to “sit down,” ending the standing ovation; “When I give a talk, no formality. We are actually the same, human beings. The way we are born, the way we die, no formality,” he said. One of the main points of his talk was that all people are human beings and no one person is any better than another, and though they may differ in many ways, they are still “human brother and human sisters”. Though formality cannot be completely dropped in government, it is important to recognize that in order to successfully communicate you have to treat others inside your agency, in other agencies, and constituents as equals; you need to get on the same level, lose the jargon and relay data and other information in simpler terms. Whether the conversation is between IT professionals and marketing managers or constituents and the public relations department, speaking in a language that everyone understands will be beneficial.

2. Remember, the Government is Made of People

We often forget that federal employees are people. Even when you yourself work in government, it is sometimes easy to forget that the “red tape” and “bureaucracy” is usually just people trying to do their job with the limited resources they are provide. The Dalai Lama wanted to emphasize everyone’s humanity and government has been trying to do the same. Through citizen engagement and increased inter-agency and public to private sector dialogue, we learn that the government is made of people. Once that is realized, real efforts can be made to make government work by the people and for the people that emphasizes the humanity of both the employees and the constituents.

3. Work as One Government

The Dalai Lama discussed the truth in the “oneness of humanity,” that can only be realized through serious interfaith-dialogue. In government, agencies need to communicate with each other, sharing their data, experiences, failures, and successes. The sharing of information will cut down on unnecessary repeated research and data mining and could lead to more cohesive agency missions that prevent duplication and increase productivity. If agencies work together, instead of trudging along in their own silos they may be able to work as one government in an efficient, cohesive body of service.

These are all idealistic goals. It may be impossible to ever fully work as one government or it may be within the reach of the near future. Either way, they are some interesting points that deserve a good mulling over or water-cooler conversation.

What’s your take on it?

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Namaste. This outlook has helped me so many times. One of the main teachings of the Buddha is compassion. I kept that outlook in my blog with regard to OpenGov and Anti-Bullying. It essentially shifts the focus from the acquisition of power and wealth to helping vulnerable members of society, a healthier way to live in the long run, leading to a healthier government, and a healthier society overall.

Dale M. Posthumus

1) Talk as equals: I am no better/greater than the person with whom I am dealing, whether I am seeking assistance or providing assistance. It also calls on all of us to accept the sincerity of people with whom we disagree, until proven otherwise.

2) Govt is made of people: As are the people to whom Govt serves. Basically the same as the first, give people the benefit of the doubt until they prove otherwise. And even then, a soft approach can “soothe a savage beast”.

3) Govt work as one: Probably the most idealistic. The first two are what each of us can choose to do regardless of what others do. This requires enlightened leadership and people at all levels seeking to solve problems rather than protect turf. But, we must continue to call on our political and govt leaders to strive for the ideal.