The Dalai Lama on Charitable Giving and Happiness

Giving is good for you, and scientists at Stanford University are finding out why. Following a discussion with the Dalai Lama, scientists at Stanford from fields as diverse as neuroscience, psychology and medical science were inspired to explore the neural underpinnings of compassion and altruism – some of the ancient practices of Buddhism.

The result was the creation of The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education in 2009. The Center uses state-of-the-art science to explore ways compassion can be cultivated in individuals, as well as society.

They believe that health, well-being and even happiness, are related to leading a giving life, characterized by charitable thoughts and actions. A team led by noted Stanford psychologist and neuroscientist Brian Knutson, PhD, is using brain scans to identify regions in the brain associated with compassion.

But, even as scientists locate those compassionate areas of the brain, can we learn to develop them and become more giving and therefore lead richer, more meaningful lives? That’s another question the Center hopes to answer. Donors tell us it “just feels good to give.” Charitable giving does feel great. Now science is exploring what we already know instinctively. If you want to feel good, help someone else.

The Dalai Lama put it more eloquently: “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

Debbie Starke

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