How can contemplative wisdom and science better inform our knowledge of human nature and what it takes to inspire caring and action for our collective future? On October 30th and November 1st, the Dalai Lama will engage prominent thought leaders—evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson and clinical psychologist Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela—in two intimate conversations designed to inspire insight, provoke debate, and offer hope for healing deep divides in today’s world.

Sponsored by the Mind & Life Institute, these “Conversations on Compassion, Interconnection, and Transformation“ will be livestreamed, for free, from Dharamasala, India. The two hour-long events are adapted from Mind & Life’s Dialogues with the Dalai Lama, which have taken place regularly since 1987.

“These conversations speak to issues at the core of our work,” says Mind & Life President Susan Bauer-Wu. “In an increasingly polarized world, we seek to engage leading scholars, contemplatives, and changemakers to deepen understanding of how to build healthy human connections. Pumla and David are visionary leaders who, together with the Dalai Lama, promise rich insights to help guide the way forward.”

Gobodo-Madikizela serves as Research Chair in Historical Trauma and Transformation at Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, South Africa. Her research and writing explore the impact of historical violence and oppression on the next generation, and the conditions that allow for forgiveness and healing. Her work is deeply rooted in the African philosophy of ubuntu and her experience serving on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission during South Africa’s post-Apartheid transition to democracy.

“Ubuntu is about openness to the Other and being able to bestow a sense of love and compassion towards another,” she says, referring to the Dalai Lama as someone “who reaches out in compassion in everything he does.”

A critical question driving Gobodo-Madikizela is what compels those who are deeply wounded by, and “even hateful of,” another person, to find a place of compassion within. She calls this the “emergence of the unexpected.” Her current work centers on what contributes to such shifts, with a focus on how emotions are embedded within the body.

Wilson, Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University and President of the Evolution Institute, speaks admiringly of the Dalai Lama’s commitment to science and empirical inquiry “of all sorts,” and looks forward to exploring, together, new frontiers in evolutionary science.

In his recent book, This View of Life: Completing the Darwinian Revolution, Wilson emphasizes the need for humans to claim their role as “wise managers of evolutionary processes,” and describes how behaviors such as goodness can evolve under the right conditions. The book is dedicated to “all who are reaching for an ethics for the whole world.” Wilson notes alignment in the Dalai Lama’s call, in Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World, for a “universal approach to ethics, inner values, and personal integrity… that can transcend religious, cultural, and racial differences.”

All three speakers, who come from very different backgrounds, will explore the uniqueness and value of diverse perspectives and traditions in realizing this goal.

Many spiritual and secular traditions arrive at a common awareness of which the world is richly interconnected, according to Wilson. With this in mind, he points to the futility of one part of the system attacking another part. “You must take a more systemic view,” he asserts. “When you have the needs of the whole system in mind, that makes you compassionate far beyond yourself.” In practical and evolutionary terms, it’s time to create a cultural and social system that works for everyone and the planet, he posits.

How do we get there, and what is the role of ‘conscious evolution?’ Tune in to the upcoming conversations to find out. Viewers from around the world can expect probing questions, new insights, and a dose of optimism rooted in the deep commitment of all three speakers to nurturing understanding of our shared humanity.

In the words of Gobodo-Madikizela, “Our world is in such pain; there is so much violence.” Conversations such as these inspire hope, making “transformational moments possible.”

Click here to receive announcements and view the livestream events. Replays will be available following each conversation at the same site.

Mind & Life Connections