Daniel Goleman, a former science journalist for the New York Times, is the author of many books, including the international bestseller Emotional Intelligence. He has known the Dalai Lama for decades, mainly through an on-going service of science meetings organized by the Mind & Life Institute.
In A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision for Our World, Goleman outlines a singular vision for transforming the world in practical and positive ways.
The book will be available June 23rd and can ordered here.
Q: How is A Force for Good: The Dalai Lama’s Vision unique among his many books?
A: The Dalai Lama, as he turns 80, summarizes his message to the world at large. He’s been offering this vision in bits and pieces for years; several hours of interviews let me pull this vision together for the first time. This is not a Buddhist book, but rather based on his decades of dialogues with scientists – most of those organized by the Mind & Life Institute. He draws on those encounters time and again in arguing for this vision of a better world.
Q: Dan, you describe this new book as more than simply a manifesto for how to be a force for good. In fact, you call Force for Good the book behind the Movement. What do you mean by that?
A: Force for Good shares the Dalai Lama’s call to action – he urges us each to act now, in whatever ways we can, to move the world in a positive direction. This manifesto, though, goes beyond our individual efforts to envision a collective force for good—a movement—that far outweighs the forces of negativity at play in the world. The Dalai Lama’s theory of change puts less stock in governments and policies than in the united power of the collective, all of us, each contributing in our own way.
Q: On the Force for Good website, you have 8 different ways that individuals can grow, share and do good. Can you give us some examples?
A: These are the main points in the Dalai Lama’s vision on the site, www.JoinaForce4Good.org. They range from inner acts like Free the Mind and Heart and Embody Compassion, to actions in the world, such as Oppose Injustice, Choose A Human Economy, and Heal the Earth. For each of these the site offers more in-depth education, inspiring examples, and ways to act now toward these ends. So for example, for Free the Mind and Heart we have inspiring videos of the impact of mindfulness on prisoners and of Jon Kabat-Zinn explaining mindfulness practice. And we encourage people to let us all know, by posting on the site, what way they have found to act as a force for good.
Q: Who do you imagine engaging with the site, and how might this site be different from other platforms for ‘doing good’?
A: The site, like the book, is for anyone who values and wants to embrace this vision of a force for good. A unique feature of the Dalai Lama’s vision has us each start within, becoming more calm and clear and following a North Star of compassion, and acting in the world from this better internal place. And there is an accompanying social media campaign – Facebook, Twitter, and so on – aimed particularly at Millennials, whom the Dalai Lama calls “the people of the 21st century.” He sees the world’s destiny largely in their hands in the long future, and aims much of his message at them, offering a road map for piloting the globe toward a more positive arc of history.
Q: You have known the Dalai Lama for many decades, primarily through the dialogues around science and contemplative practice with the Mind & Life Institute. What have you seen over the years, as an area of particular focus and passion?
A: The Dalai Lama has particular enthusiasm for our individual ability to transform our emotional life and moral compass. His initial points in A Force for Good put this change in terms of “emotional hygiene” – getting our destructive emotions under better control – and adopting a universal compassion as our moral compass. With this internal adjustment, he urges us to act, to become part of this force for good.
I’ve seen this focus coalesce over the decades in his meetings with scientists, and in his addresses to the general public throughout the world. He draws in particular on the data from the science meetings to use as what he calls “ammunition” in his public talks to support his vision. Recently, for instance, I’ve heard him cite data on how empathy and compassion seem innate in the very young, on the particular strength women have in empathizing with other people’s suffering, and on the ability we all have to cultivate a greater compassion. All these findings came to him in Mind & Life meetings.
Q: He is turning 80 this summer, just as this book is released. Is that significant in some way for the topic of this book?
A: As the Dalai Lama approaches his 90th decade, I sense he feels an urgency to share his vision of the many ways in which the world can be made better. He takes an extraordinarily long term view, thinking over the course of centuries. He says, act now, even if you will not live to see the full fruits of your efforts. And so he himself embodies this message.