The Global Spa and Wellness Summit - being held in New Delhi, India - was buzzing earlier this morning (6 October) as it welcomed keynote speaker the Dalai Lama, to participate in a discussion on the subject, What is Wellness?
The session, led by Ken Pelletier - professor of medicine at the University of California School of Medicine - saw the Dalai Lama address the summit, before participating in a Q&A session.
In a warm and enlightening address, peppered with humour and regular outbursts of laughter, he shared his frank views and philosophies with delegates on a wide range of subjects from health and wellbeing to world peace and from science and religion to education.
He told delegates "Trust and a peaceful mind are the key factors for a healthy body. Healthy mind: healthy body. Hygiene of the body is important, but hygiene of the emotion is just as important."
He advocates self reliance and taking personal responsibility, saying “If I'm angry and pray to Buddha, not much happens. Destructive emotions develop within, so the antidote must also develop within. Better humanity doesn't come from the sky - from God - it comes from within ourselves.
“Once you realise an emotion is harmful, relax and your mind will be at peace. Relaxing isn't just for the body.”
Pelletier asked the Dalai Lama how we can cope with disease and move towards wellness. “We need to take an holistic approach,” he said, “and try not to worry too much. Sometimes if we look too closely at a problem, it appears unbearable. It’s easier to cope if we look at it from a wider perspective. We also need to keep courage and hope.”
Individuals who receive affection from their mothers are secure and happy inside, he said: “Mothers' love is very important, and we should have compassion for those who didn’t have enough of it, because it affects their self confidence.”
He believes self confidence is vital: “You may be an intelligent person, but telling lies, hypocrisy and procrastination are signs of weakness and a lack of self confidence. If you have self confidence, your life is happiness and it’s an immense help in reducing a self-centred attitude. Most problems come from a self-centred attitude, whereas courage and principled honesty gives you inner strength and confidence.
He’s a great believer in science and education saying: “Sometimes the minds of religious people are a little biased, but genuine scientists’ minds are open, wonderful and generally unbiased. Education through scientific findings is the key to understanding - learning comes through education, not religion.”
The theme of the Global Spa and Wellness Summit 2013 is ‘A Defining Moment’ and Pelletier asked the Dalai Lama about defining moments in his life. He answered with emotion, “When I was 16 I lost my freedom, when I was 24, I lost my country. Then I lost my individual freedom when I became the Dalai Lama.
“When I was young I realised I wasn’t holy, but I had to pretend to be holy,” he said, “I had no interest in studying and my tutor had a stern face. I had to sit with him and pray and do recitations, but Buddhism involves much training of the mind, so I became interested. It’s been 60 years since then and I have learned that your most reliable friend is your own intelligence and warm heartedness.”
He spoke strongly in favour of equality, addressing both men and women in the audience and saying, “There are seven billion of us and we are all equal.”
The Dalai Lama said people’s basic needs are the same as those of animals - “we sleep, we eat, we drink”, but that our “special brain” is a unique gift: “We have a special sort of brain - if you don’t use it properly, it’s wasted.”
However, he said this intelligence can bring great pain as well as happiness: “It creates most of the worry and greed and this creates pain and problems. However, because these problems come from human intelligence, so the solution must also come from there. Education is the solution.”
He said the only main weakness of the modern education system is that it’s orientated towards material things, so it’s not complete in terms of all human need, saying it must include a focus on the “mental qualities that brings peace.”
The Dalai Lama said India is a wonderful continent and generally speaking Indians are religious-minded people, however, sometimes it seems some are “praying that their corrupted lives will be successful.”
“Sometimes I pray that the corrupted people will be punished,” he said unexpectedly - but with humour - “We should pray that these corrupted people be taken to heaven sooner.”
The Dalai Lama said he’s optimistic about the future: “People are fed up with violence and human beings have great potential for peace - all religions accept the importance of love and compassion. We are social animals and in all social animals, co-operation is essential. We’re becoming more mature and human creativity can reduce man-made problems such as nationalism, which is a self-centred attitude, pollution and hatred.
“Secular doesn't mean disrespect for religions - respect between religions is very important in today's world. We need to engage in respectful debate - respect everyone - even non-believers, Extend your unbiased compassion towards your enemy. These are sufficient reasons to be optimistic.”
He was asked about his experiences of spa bathing, commenting that he understood there was great expertise in knowing which hot springs are good for which illnesses, but that just generally he found them to be really “quite comfortable”. He repeatedly mentioned having pains in his right knee and many in the audience were clearly itching to invite him to their spa for a treatment.
And the Dalai Lama's advice on happiness and health? “Compassion and love, trust and an open heart are the keys to happiness,” he said, “and everyone has the right to achieve that,” concluding, “Peace of mind and warm heartedness are also key - and no sugar."
Susie Ellis, President of the Global Spa and Wellness Summit shares her thoughts on today's meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama:
"When I realized that the doors were opening where His Holiness the Dalai Lama was to come into the room, and I first caught a glimpse of him, my reaction was emotional. It had been 16 months since the idea of inviting His Holiness to the 2013 Summit was first suggested (16 months of working and planning for this momentous gathering) and, at that very moment, it was really happening.
So many things had taken place between the idea and the actual moment, and any of those things could have interrupted the plan. And yet, it had come to pass, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude because I knew that this was a defining moment for our industry and that all of us in the room would be touched by this experience. We would surely learn something about spirituality in the next hour that would help us understand what the body, mind and spirit are all about.
During the question and answer session that followed His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s powerful talk, I was especially moved when Dr. Ken Pelletier, who moderated the Q&A, told His Holiness that the theme of the 2013 Summit was “A Defining Moment” and asked him if he might describe a defining moment in his life. There was a bit of a pause as the interpreter helped him understand exactly what the question was. And then his answer was so very clear. He said that when he was six and began his monastic education, it changed his life forever. He was no longer a child playing with other children; he needed to devote his life to study. A second defining moment was in 1959 when he had to go into exile; he has since been living in Dharamsala in northern India.
I was struck by the fact that these were such clear defining moments and it helped me understand what a defining moment really is. It is that time where everything changes…there is a new direction…a new reality.
I was also touched by a question from the audience regarding whether or not he ever used the hot springs that are in a part of Tibet he might have experienced. He said no but that he had a hot springs experience in India. And then he intimated that while he didn’t know much about such things, “It felt good.” The entire audience exploded with laughter as he heartily laughed about it also. It reminded me of how very simple what we do in the spa world really is: It just feels good.
And then finally it seemed to me that something very special and profound had taken place. Not just because His Holiness was present, but that he was so engaged, that he laughed so heartily so many times and he seemed to truly be enjoying himself. In fact he stayed much longer than expected – almost two hours – and when the session ended, he wanted to take even more questions. Later when I spoke to Veer Singh, who has met His Holiness several times in the past and was very engaged in arranging his appearance, he said that he had never seen him so engaged and energetic and animated. So the special moment that I think all of us sensed, was truly something special not only for visitors, but also for those from India.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama talks a lot about gratitude, and I can say that there was no one in the overflowing audience who wasn’t grateful. I was brimming with gratefulness that something that started out as a dream became a reality and that I truly feel the momentum within our industry, within our organization and within each of us personally – and that we are heading in the right direction in defining what our industry is all about. Today truly blessed us all."
The Global Spa and Wellness Summit