Dalai Lama inspires Sanford to donate $100mn

Dharamsala: Inspired by Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama’s philosophy of compassion as a source of happiness, billionaire philanthropist T. Denny Sanford has donated $100 million to the University of California San Diego for the scientific research on empathy and compassion and to cultivate these qualities in doctors and healthcare professionals.

“I have been inspired by the work and teachings of the Dalai Lama, whose interest in the intersection where science and faith meet is deep and profound,” Sanford said in a statement.

“Doctors work in a world where compassion is essential, but it is often lost in the harsh realities of modern medicine. If we can help medical professionals preserve and promote their compassion, based on the findings of hard science, the world can be a happier, healthier place. This gift extends that vision,” the statement added.

Officials in the Dalai Lama’s office told IANS that philanthropist Sanford had a private meeting with the Dalai Lama when he visited the University of California San Diego in 2017.

Earlier in 2012, the Dalai Lama had visited the University on his “Compassion Without Border” tours.

His Holiness’ message of global compassion with an emphasis on education and scientific inquiry in the realms of ancient wisdom made an impression on Sanford and scientists and scholars at the university. And now, the message has inspired Sanford to make a donation.

Vice Chancellor of Health Sciences David Brenner said in May 2017 he had led a delegation of university physician-scientists to India, where they met with His Holiness to discuss effective ways to cultivate empathy and compassion in healthcare.

The meeting helped Brenner iron out the final details of Sanford’s new $100 million gift to the university.

Then in June 2017, his Holiness gave the University of California San Diego commencement keynote address on “The value of education, ethics and compassion for the well-being of self and others.”

“The Dalai Lama said that we must show that there is a scientific basis to empathy and compassion,” Brenner said. “That’s what Denny’s gift will help scientists do,” he added.

With the landmark funding, the university has launched the T. Denny Sanford Institute for Empathy and Compassion which conducts innovative research into the neurological basis of compassion, establishing the empirical evidence required to design a compassion-focused curriculum for training new generations of medical professionals and developing new methods to protect and promote the well-being of current clinicians and their patients.

Officials of the Dalai Lama’s office, which is based here, say the spiritual leader visits places only on invitation.

And he prefers visiting universities and educational institutions to speak on peace, non-violence, environment, promoting human values and Buddhism.

Ever since he fled Tibet in 1959, the Tibetan spiritual leader has travelled to more than 50 countries and met with presidents, prime ministers and crown rulers of major nations, said his aides.

In the past five years, the Dalai Lama’s preferred foreign destinations have included Japan, the US, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and France.