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Dalai Lama talks compassion to Mayo Clinic staff

A crowd of around 500 Mayo Clinic staff members attended the talk Monday Feb. 29 in Rochester. A lottery system was used to select the attendees out of thousands of applicants. (Republican Eagle photos by Michael Brun) 1 / 3
The Dalai Lama greets audience members on his way into the chapel at Mayo Clinic’s Saint Marys Campus. 2 / 3
The Dalai Lama, joined by an interpreter, responds to a submitted question read by moderator and Twin Cities journalist Cathy Wurzer. The discussion lasted nearly two hours and covered a wide range of topics.3 / 3

ROCHESTER — The Dalai Lama brought his teachings — and sense of humor — to Mayo Clinic on Monday for a talk on compassion in health care.

The Tibetan spiritual and political leader spoke for more than an hour and a half to a full crowd of Mayo Clinic staff seated in the Saint Marys Campus chapel. He fielded written questions as well as told anecdotes that elicited laughs from the audience and Twin Cities journalist Cathy Wurzer, who moderated the event.

He discussed the negative health impacts of holding in destructive emotions such as anger. The remedy to anger, he said, is analyzing its cause from different angles.

Compassion and other constructive emotions are developed through training, he added.

Asked if developing compassion requires religious belief, the Dalai Lama said, “I think yes and no both.”

Believing in and feeling close to a personal God inspires compassion and courage for some people, he said.

“At the same time, out of 7 billion human beings, over 1 billion are non-believers,” he continued. He said different philosophies are beautiful and helpful to humanity, including a secular concept of “universal compassion.”

The Dalai Lama also warned of the potential dangers of technology, calling it a source of physical — but not mental — comfort.

“But at the same time, I love technology,” he said, before drawing a few chuckles for admitting to not owning a cellphone.

It was the third time the Dalai Lama has given a presentation to Mayo Clinic staff, according to a hospital spokeswoman. Around 500 employees were chosen to attend the event through a lottery system.

“The Dalai Lama’s tireless efforts on behalf of human rights and world peace have brought him international recognition,” Mayo Clinic President John Noseworthy said in introducing the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize recipient.

“He is also a friend to Mayo Clinic and is the recipient of our deep gratitude for having so kindly given his time to meet and talk with our staff,” Noseworthy said. “Each time we are privileged to hear His Holiness speak is a gift.”

Multiple news reports stated the Dalai Lama was at the renowned medical center in January for treatment of a prostate condition. He praised staff Monday for their kindness and professionalism during his monthlong stay.

His appearance at Mayo Clinic followed a presentation Feb. 21 to an audience of around 3,000 people at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

He is scheduled to give a teaching March 8 in Madison, Wisconsin, and participate in a panel discussion March 9 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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