Worlds Apart Q&A

In his answers in this Q&A, Tsewang Namgyal '97 is speaking for himself and not representing the views of any of the organizations with which he is  involved or affiliated.

What can you tell me about your experience immigrating to the U.S. through the Tibetan Resettlement Project? What sort of cultural challenges did you face? How did you overcome them?

Before answering your question, I would like to share with you a little of my childhood and upbringing. I was born in a Tibetan refugee settlement in north India called Dharamsala. Initially, I attended a Christian missionary school called Dr. Grahams Homes in Kalimpong. The school was originally founded for educating orphaned Anglo-Indian children. Later, it was opened to other disadvantaged communities, including Tibetan refugees. Following violent civil conflict in the region, I was moved to a refugee school called Tibetan Children Village in Dharamsala, part of the SOS Children's Villages.

At the time, our family was poor. My father served as the Dalai Lama's representative in the Tibetan settlements, only earning the equivalent of about US $150 per month. My mother supplemented our family income by selling sweaters on the streets of India. In the midst of these circumstances, I had the great fortune to have a German sponsor who paid for my education, which came to approximately US $40 per month for room, board and schooling.

Initially, I was nervous about the ability to adapt to the culture and life in the United States—particularly, the way that people behaved, spoke and interacted was all new to me.  I was able to overcome these challenges due to the kindness of the people I met, especially my Aunt Dolma who had immigrated earlier to the United States. I was also able to put to use many invaluable lessons I learned from my parents, including being kind to others and the importance of hard work.

What drew you to Dickinson? How did you find out about the college; what made you apply?

My Aunt Dolma, who lived in York, Pennsylvania, spoke highly of Dickinson College. I trusted her judgment since I was in a new land without any way to form educated judgments about such matters. She was a friend of Professor Daniel Cozort from the Religious Studies department. The beautiful campus, liberal-arts curriculum and financial aid package were definitely the other deciding factors for me.     

What do you think you took from your Dickinson experience that has shaped your life?

The most important lesson I learned from Dickinson was the value of the diversity of knowledge-learning to appreciate the views of other people and cultures while at the same time developing and maintaining a very strong appreciation of my own cultural upbringing.

While at college, I double-majored in Religion and East Asian Studies. In addition, I completed a pre-medical curriculum. My studies in science—in particular quantum physics and organic chemistry—made me appreciate how everything is interdependent and in a state of flux. Here was where I first began to appreciate the intersection of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and Western science and see them as complementary ways of thought.  

At a young age, I was taught that all phenomena are made up of causes and conditions. This is one of the analyses used in meditation practices to help reduce negative emotions of hatred, attachment, jealousy and pride. The logic is that once we have a greater appreciation that things do not inherently exist, it allows us to neutralize one's negative emotions.  

My studies in East Asian history and culture allowed me to see China differently and appreciate the struggles and successes of the Chinese on their own terms, despite the troubled history between the Chinese and Tibetans. In Tibetan refugee settlements in India, I often heard heartbreaking stories of Chinese military brutality. Even hearing the Chinese language was troubling to me at that time, being an unfortunate reminder of such tragedy. Many of my relatives died or were imprisoned during the invasion.

Today rather than seeing China as a demonic force, I constantly think about how we Tibetans can leverage China's economic success to benefit Tibet. I feel that Tibet can also help China to develop a more compassionate culture.

Many of my current friends are Chinese, including one who is a child of a People Liberations Army officer that was involved in the invasion. My friend's father still believes that the Chinese liberated Tibet from imperialism and a feudalistic society. Obviously, we hold different views, but are still able to maintain a close friendship.

At Dickinson College I also learned organizational and leadership skills. While at college I was involved in the formation of Students for a Free Tibet ("SFT"). After graduation, I served as one of the founding board of directors. Today, the organization has more than 600 high-school, university and community chapters.  Much of the organization's success can be credited to the support we had received from the late Adam Yauch (Beastie Boys).  At The  Tibet Fund Gala on October 17, 2013 I had the great honor to pay tribute to Adam in front of his family and other Beastie Boys brothers. 

My Dickinson studies and experience continues to shape much of my decisions and life. I would like to acknowledge the support that I received from so many of the faculty, staff and students at Dickinson. I would like to in particular mention my appreciation for Professor Daniel Cozort, Dean Neil Weissman, Dean Mary Carson, Mr. Don Raley from the Financial Aid Office and the late Professor Ralph Slotten.

What made you decide to go into banking? Did you always see a connection between business and peace building?

I did not always see a connection between business and peace building. On the contrary, I used to think that business was the reason for many of the conflicts around the world. This thought was also partially prejudiced by my cultural upbringing where there is much emphasis on compassionate motivation. Business was driven by self-interest, so I felt that the end result was always negative.  

At college my views started to change. I had an opportunity to take a class on American history and economics. It was fascinating to read the debate between the American founding fathers and the writings of Adam Smith. In pursuing their goals, these individuals were driven to create a more enlightened society rather than seeking to exploit others.  Subsequently, I developed a great deal of respect for thinkers like James Madison and Adam Smith.  They were able to creatively come up with solutions that exploit humanity's self-interest to benefit the greater good while mitigating the risks by placing checks and balances in the governance and market systems. Looking at Tibet's weaknesses politically and economically, it's clear that there is much we can learn from such ways of thought.

Upon graduating from college, I was offered a position at Deutsche Bank in New York City. My work in the banking industry helped bring me to the conclusion that I wanted to develop a career in finance. After three years with the bank, I was accepted into the MBA program at the Thunderbird School of Global Management.  I was attracted to Thunderbird because it has  one of the world's most highly regarded international business programs. Since graduating from Thunderbird with my MBA, I have worked in a number of different financial firms, and in my spare time I work with a number of development related organizations.

I understand that you provide pro-bono services to Tibetan businesses and you serve on the board of The Tibet Fund. What can you tell me about this work?

The Tibet Fund (www.tibetfund.org) is the largest Tibet-related humanitarian organization in the Americas. We are based in NYC with a satellite office in India, working closely with many partners in both countries. The Tibet Fund has been very successful in helping Tibetan refugees gain access to education, economic development and healthcare. I have been on the board for the last two years.  Besides my primary work in the Finance Committee I have also been involved in strategy, fundraising and program related work. 

Besides the Tibet Fund, I have been involved in a few other development organizations since I graduated from my MBA program. My wife also shares my passion for development work. She currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Tibetan Village Project (www.tibetanvillageproject.org).

My wife and my primary efforts in our service is to connect friends who have resources with those who are on the ground working for causes that we believe in including non Tibet related organizations. On weekends we tend to collect an eclectic group of friends in our home who are financiers, entrepreneurs, diplomats, nonprofit activists, monks and scientists. 

At an individual level, we have also been sponsoring and mentoring few Tibetan children in India.  It is amazing how small amount of donations can have transformative impact on lives. One of the individuals we sponsored got an opportunity to get an education only at a later part of her life. Within ten years she was able to not only complete her high school but also nursing degree.  She is now working at a large hospital in India and supporting others. 

One of my most meaningful activities since graduation was working with Ambassador Barbara Barrett in arranging His Holiness the Dalai Lama at Thunderbird in September 2005.  Bringing the leader of compassion in the business world I believe had a great positive impact for the world.  If poverty is a disease, finance is one of the best medicines.  Just as a doctor needs good compassionate medicine, I believe financiers have the unique ability to alleviate poverty.  Using the physician analogy, it is exciting to note that former Thunderbird President Angel Cabrera was involved in the development of the Thunderbird Oath of Honor. This is  similar to the Hippocratic Oath that is taken by physicians. Many other business schools have taken Thunderbird's lead or in parallel developed similar oaths.   

I've read that you believe that business can lead to a more peaceful world. How do you see this happening?

Business has proven its ability to alleviate poverty and increase social mobility through innovative solutions. When people are less hungry, this will make the world more peaceful. I do appreciate the challenges of pure capitalism in that it can result in increased inequality, environmental degradation and mental problems. However, other options—like socialism and communism—have their own flaws.

Studying Chinese history I have realized one needs to be in particularly cautious when leaders consolidate power in the pretext it is in the best interest of a country.  Mao's policies such as the Great Leap Forward (1958-1961) in the pretext to create an egalitarian society led to one of the worst famines known to mankind. 

Many of my relatives in Tibet were victims of the policies. One of my aunts who lived in one of these communal farms, now lives here in New York City.  She mentioned that it is amazing when living in one of those communal farms that people were very inefficient and walked slowly despite all the threats from authorities. She laughs that here in New York City, no one forces you to work but yet people work very hard and efficiently.  I have tried to explain to her and few of my elders the concept of the invisible hand. 

I believe the best solution is to have a market economy driven by a more compassionate motivation. A few of my friends in the business world have inspired me in his direction. They are able to skillfully leverage their resources and knowledge to create a more harmonious world while I believe also benefitting through achieving more inner happiness themselves.  At the end the lack of peace is not only related to lack of material resources. 

Friends who I admire include Wayne Silby (Chairman of the Calvert Group), Daniel Spitzer (CEO of Mountain Hazelnuts Group), Jeff Walker (former CEO and co-founder of CCMP Capital), Ambassador Barbara Barrett (CEO of Triple Creek Guest Ranch), Tom Pritzker (CEO of The Pritzker Organization), Bobby Sager (former CEO of Gordon Brothers Group), Nita Ing (Chairman of Continental Engineering Corporation), Marc Benioff (CEO of Salesforce), Jerry Colonna (Venture Capitalist and Business Coach) and Karma Samdrup, a very successful Tibetan trader. These individuals are living proof that one could be a compassionate individual but still succeed in the world of business. 

In a recent Forbes article, you argue that Tibet's social problems could be resolved by economic empowerment. Can you tell me more about this?

There are some fundamental political issues in Tibet that need to be resolved—lack of freedom, human rights and religious rights. Having said that, the continued economic empowerment of Tibetans I believe can help to resolve many social problems. If Tibetans at the individual level are economically empowered, they will be able to provide good education and healthcare to their children.  This will help reduce unemployment, despair, inequality, environmental racism and superstition.  

Where do you think is the solution to economically empower Tibetans?

The challenges faced by Tibetans are similar to other developing countries around the world—lack of capital, marketing and branding skills and finding good management. If we are able to overcome these challenges we will be able to unlock our true potential because we have amazing and unique products and services to offer around the world. In addition, there are tremendous opportunities for Tibetans to leverage His Holiness the Dalai Lama's name, China's economic growth and friends around the world.  However, I believe Tibet remains poor because Beijing policies treat the Dalai Lama as a problem and does not take into account input from local grassroots communities and peoples. 

I appreciate that sometimes officials in Beijing may have good intentions, but this is not enough. Here I would like to share a story to illustrate my point. I immigrated to the U.S. with a first cousin who spent his early life in Tibet. Soon after he received his U.S. citizenship, my cousin decided to go back and see his immediate family members in Tibet. One of his brothers was killed in his monastery in 1988 during one of the Chinese military crackdowns. Since my cousin had not been back for a number of years, he bought many presents to bring back with him. I asked him out of all the presents which one he felt his younger relatives would appreciate the most. He responded by saying binoculars. I was surprised by his answer because I assumed the response would be thick jackets or brand-name sneakers. Sneakers in particular were prized gifts for us Tibetan refugee youths in India. 

On further inquiry, my cousin mentioned that when he lived in Tibet he herded yaks. He said he used to take the animals out into the hills, and it was common practice for the villagers to let their animals loose in the hills. He said in the evenings they herded the animals and took them back home. My cousin recalled that frequently his animals roamed into distant hills. He remembered looking for stray yaks, even to the point of climbing hills, only to find that those were not his animals. He said now with the binoculars they will not have to waste their energy.

This experience made me realize that our needs do not necessarily equate to the needs or interest of others. Despite our blood relationship and trust, we Tibetan exiles have difficulty in understanding the genuine needs of Tibetans in Tibet. It makes me wonder how Chinese policymakers living far away in Beijing can be so confident that they understand the local situation.

According to my sources the current policies disregard the concerns of the Tibetan community, this leads to marginalization and discrimination of local Tibetans because they remain at a distinct disadvantage in many ways. For example, to apply for loans, the usual business language is always Chinese. Many Tibetans, especially nomads, do not speak the language well, so they cannot get loans, necessary permits and benefits. Additionally, the forced settlements of nomads and the marginalization of rural Tibetans are leading to unemployment, anger and alcoholism. 

From a GDP standpoint, Tibet's economy is growing. However, Tibetan refugees continue to escape to India. It is obvious that India, though it has been very kind to Tibetans, is also a developing nation with its own problems of poverty. Over 120 Tibetans have self-immolated to protest Chinese government policies, demand political freedom and try to wake up the world's moral consciousness. It is clear that these individuals could have become suicide bombers and killed innocent people to bring attention to the situation.

An informed Chinese friend told me that even if Beijing drags its feet on changing its policies, a potential solution could be to explore ways to incentivize local leaders not only based on GDP growth but also using local communities' participation in the decision-making process. This can be done by providing training, empowerment and resources to local leaders so that they are not narrowly focused on holding onto power. From the outside, efforts need to be made to form Joint Ventures with socially conscious outside investors that can complement the Tibetan entrepreneurs' strengths. 

Thought I mention here that if China is able to resolve the Tibet issue humanely, this could mature China to become a  more reliable global partner and less of a threat for countries around the world. If China feels that a more authoritarian and violent solution is the only alternative, this would likely lead her to follow a similar path in resolving her own internal issues and disputes with neighbors.   

In the Forbes article you discuss your friend Karma Samdrup. Does his imprisonment encourage or discourage you?

I have to admit that I have been both discouraged and inspired by the imprisonment of Karma Samdrup. Karma used to be one of the richest Tibetans living in the plateau. He used large portions of his profits to fund environmental conservation projects. In 2006, Karma was named Philanthropist of the Year by state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) in recognition of his efforts.

Protecting the environment in Tibet is dangerous from vested individuals who profited from illegal mining and poaching. In June 2010, the police charged Karma with stealing antiques, and he is now serving a 15 year sentence.

It is difficult to believe the charges having spent much time with him. He believed in a modern China and worked hard in shaping her future. Unlike many Chinese business people and officials, he did not move his family or assets to the West. If he had been involved in illegal activities, I believe he would have left the area. Karma encouraged many of us Tibetans living in exile to participate in a creating a China where everyone was respected and had equal opportunity. Unlike Karma, I was less optimistic but did travel with him on the plateau a few times to find ways to support his ventures.

During one of my trips to the plateau, Karma told me that when ethical business investments are made in Tibet, they will strengthen law and order in the region. He said that in the future when the legal system strengthens this will trickle down to other areas. He personally worked hard to attract good ethical investors in Tibet and often requested my support in this area. One project that he was very actively involved in with his Chinese business friend was the development of the now completed St. Regis Resort in Lhasa. Karma felt this project would help create good jobs for Tibetans and promote Tibetan culture.

Could you describe your job for me in your position as vice president at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ?  What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

The group I work with in our bank is primarily involved in providing project finance loans to energy and infrastructure related projects. This type of loan focuses on the cash flow of the project rather than the balance sheet of the sponsors. Such financings tend to be very popular in the electric power sector and with energy infrastructure projects. My work in general involves structuring, portfolio management, advisory and loan distribution.  These days my focus has been mainly in the portfolio management side of the business. 

Our projects include conventional and renewable power projects (including some of the largest wind farms and solar projects), regasification and liquefaction LNG facilities, mines and pipelines.  In addition, I have also worked on Public Private Partnership ("PPP") and reserve base lending of E&P projects.  Deal sizes tend to range from around $100 million to over $10 billion. 

As a portfolio manager, periodically I analyze the market in regards to electricity, copper or LNG, construction progress, operation metrics, regulatory environment, political risk and financial model projections. This is done to evaluate the overall risks of our investments and to decide whether we need to take any proactive measures to mitigate the risks.  My work allows me to closely work with the client, independent engineers, insurance consultants, lawyers and market consultants. The opportunity to work directly with different specialists enables me to gain deep insight into both the market and individual projects.

Occasionally I visit the actual work sites where these projects are taking place. Personally speaking, this is the most fun and exciting part of my work. These visits offer me the chance to meet with the construction contractors and operators on the ground. A few of my most memorable visits were to a mine in Peru, a liquid natural gas (LNG) regasification facility in Chile, a gas power plant in Mexico, a coal-fired power plant in Texas, various solar farms in California, a biomass project in Michigan and a wind farm in Ontario. Each trip is an opportunity to learn more about the project, local culture and history.   

Can you share with me your work prior to your current work atBank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ?

Prior to my current work, I worked at WestLB and Delphos International. In addition, I had an opportunity to do an internship at the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) in their investment-funds group.

At WestLB, I was involved mainly in the structuring side of the business. One of the highlights of my work there were opportunities to identify and analyze limited-partnership (LP) investment opportunities in private equity funds. The bank had a strategy to take LP interest in funds in order to understand the market and get debt financing opportunities from the private equity fund investments. 

At Delphos my work primarily involved advising emerging market clients how to tap funding from development banks and export credit agencies. This experience can provide deep insight into the role and import of these institutions to promote development and trade. 

My internship at OPIC was short but rewarding, an excellent learning opportunity and preparation for my future career. I would strongly encourage Dickinson students who have interest in development work and finance to consider internship opportunities at OPIC.

How does your job intersect with or inform your efforts to increase economic empowerment in Tibet?

Let me share with you two examples.  In the last few years, I had an opportunity to work on a number of wind and solar projects.  Provisions within the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) allow for eligible renewable projects to receive a 30% investment tax credit (ITC). This incentive has led to a number of new projects being formed across the United States.  Leveraging this experience, I have tried to share within our NGO community the benefits of incentivizing social entrepreneurs to invest within our community by providing grants to reduce development costs. 

My work with development banks like OPIC and IFC has allowed me to appreciate their important contributions to alleviating poverty.  Without capital, all the best intentions, strategies and ideas would not be useful. In the case of Tibet, one of the weaknesses Tibetan entrepreneurs face is the lack of funds. Development banks could become a great resource-although now it may be difficult since China is less desperate for outside funding sources.

For the last few years, I have been lobbying for pragmatic policies outside of Tibet. This is something that we have more control over.  One example is the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 (TPA), which is one of our greatest success stories and is a reflection of the hard work of many individuals and organizations, particularly the International Campaign for Tibet. Among other things, TPA promotes Sino-Tibetan dialogue, supports the establishment of a U.S. consulate in Lhasa, provides scholarships for Tibetans and funds poverty-alleviation projects in the Tibetan plateau. However, in terms of economic policies, it still has room for improvement.

The TPA established guidelines for U.S. backing of potential development projects in Tibet through the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), the Export-Import Bank and support from international financial institutions such as the World Bank. The guidelines claim to reflect those released by the Tibetan government in exile and call for "respect for Tibetan culture" and the "active participation of Tibetans" in their own economic development, which would "neither provide incentive for, nor facilitate the migration and settlement of, non-Tibetans into Tibet." 

The clauses in the TPA are well intentioned, but I believe since 2002 no Tibetans have been able to tap some of the mentioned agencies such as the USTDA, EXIM Bank and the financial institutions to give Tibetans a competitive edge in business due to the way the guidelines have been established. TPA could be much more effective if it was more practical. 

At the request of a Tibetan entrepreneur whom I tried to assist in one of his ventures, I did check to see if his organization could tap the USTDA. Through this effort, I realized that it can be extremely difficult for Tibetans in Tibet to tap USTDA. Unless we are able to develop practical policies so that Tibetan entrepreneurs can tap funding sources, it will be very difficult for Tibetans to compete effectively.

Recently, I have been able to recruit a good family friend who served in a senior role in the World Bank to The Tibet Fund board.  I believe if we can gradually build up the recruitment of more of our friends from the finance sector to become involved in the development of Tibet's economic policies, this would benefit the Tibetan cause greatly.

I understand that you've worked with Tibetan meditation teachers as well as the author of The Art of Happiness. How did you come to work with these individuals, and what can you tell me about the importance of individual happiness in promoting peace and social good?

During my MBA program, I was approached by Dr. Howard Cutler. We were introduced by Robert Thurman—a mutual friend and reputed Tibetan scholar—during one of his talks in Phoenix. At the time, Dr. Cutler was working on his book sequel to The Art of Happiness, which had become an international best-seller. He had transcribed many hours of his dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I helped Dr. Cutler to confirm some of the translation meanings and clarify certain concepts.

At a young age, I was taught the basics of meditation by my parents. Meditation allows us to have a better understanding of the nature of our mind and I believe it helps you to develop a more mature view on life. I feel a lot of joy inside of me. Individual happiness motivates one to serve others because the cause of happiness is kindness. This starts a positive cycle that benefits the self and others.   

One of the lessons taught by our elders in particular I found very useful. We are advised to remember when good things happen that they are impermanent. This prevents pride from creeping in. Similarly when bad things happen, we are told to remember this is impermanent, to prevent depression. These tactics help to calm the mind and allow us to rest knowing the mind's true nature is like a clear, blue sky. Our negative emotions are like the dark clouds that prevent us from truly appreciating our existence.

Like many Tibetans, few of my older relatives were put in prison for many years by the Chinese authorities. Two of them was able to move to India after they were released and I have spent substantial amount of time with them.  One of them now helps baby sit our daughter.  Both my relatives were put in prison for about twenty years just because of their political and ethnic affiliations.  It is amazing that they seem to have no post traumatic stress disorder despite having lived under unimaginable conditions during their best years.  I believe the mental tactics they learned allowed them to easily move on with their lives. 

Recently, an area that I spent substantial amount of my spare time studying is the ongoing dialogue among neuroscientists, psychologists and meditation masters. I have a few friends who are active participants in this discussion. There is no doubt in my mind after meeting many of our practitioners that our community has a wealth of knowledge to contribute to diffuse stress in the world. This is one of the major causes of diseases.

My father who used to be a former monk is also a great personal inspiration. He is 92 years old and probably now is the oldest living associate of the Dalai Lama. My father had the wonderful opportunity to know the Dalai Lama when he was only 13 years old. The personal stories I have heard from him on the Dalai Lama and his teachers leave me amazed at the capacity of human consciousness. My father himself spends at least 8 hours a day in meditation. Despite the deterioration of his eye sight and hearing, his memory and clarity of mind is amazing.

I think science could help secularize and authenticate the ancient techniques to develop inner peace so they could be adopted by the larger community. Research in neuroplasticity and epigenetics in particular is very exciting. Once there is more scientific breakthrough on the benefits of meditation, I believe this could revolutionize the medical field and how we approach life.   

Can you give me a brief overview of your approach to meditation?

Buddhism teaches various meditation techniques to train the mind. Although meditation is a mental activity, we are advised certain physical postures-primarily an upright posture—and a quiet environment to assist us in the process.  The basic nature of the mind is said to be the same for everyone—clear as the sky or water, luminous as the sun and sturdy as a mountain. It is considered wrong for us to reduce our mind to a mere bundle of emotions.

Meditation in general is divided into two kinds. One is stabilization and the other is analytical. Analytical meditation in turn is divided into two types. The first involves analyzing a subject or object—for example, emptiness or impermanence-whereas the second seeks to generate certain positive emotions, like compassion. Fundamentally, the goal of our meditation is to stabilize or calm and to sharpen our mind so that we may cut away our ignorance. In order to chop wood, we need a sharp axe and we also need to hit what we are cutting at the same point each time we swing at it; if we do not, we will not be able to cut it effectively. Similarly, to cut through our ignorance, we need a stable and sharp mind.

Often during the initial stages of meditation teachers use the metaphor of a wild elephant to describe their student's state of mind. Like an out of control elephant, the mind can create destruction, though if it is domesticated and tranquil it can do much good work. In reality, the mind is even more destructive—or potentially helpful—than an elephant. Just as we use a rope and hook to domesticate a wild elephant, we use mindfulness and awareness to domesticate our mind. Mindfulness and awareness are used simultaneously, depending on the circumstances. Just as one needs to be mindful of one's destination and any obstacles along the way in order to drive safely, in meditation we have to be both mindful of the object of meditation and also aware of the distractions to be avoided. Learning to meditate is not unlike learning to drive. In driving one learns to control the steering wheel, whereas in meditation we learn to control our mind.

Teachers sometimes advise their students not to suppress distractions, because this would only give them more energy and make them more difficult to control. Our current minds are like muddy water. To settle the mud, it is best to do nothing, so in meditation not trying to force oneself to get rid of the distraction will produce a real clarity of mind.

What is the common mistake made in meditation here in the West?

From a Tibetan perspective, I believe in the West the importance of right motivation is not emphasized strong enough.  Partly this could be because it may appear religious.  However, from our teachers standpoint without the right motivation, one will not be able to reach the other side of the river. The right motivation will be similar to taking out the anchors from your boat. 

To help set the right motivation, before the start of one's practice the meditator is encouraged to recite the "The Four Immeasurable Thoughts" to generate  loving kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity.

May all sentient beings have happiness and the causes of happiness;

May all sentient beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering;

May all sentient beings never be separated from the happiness that knows no suffering;

May all sentient beings live in equanimity, free from attachment and aversion.

Actually even contemplating on the above words has a powerful experience.  Generating positive emotions helps reduce negative emotions. This automatically calms one's mind.  If we use the flag as an analogy for the mind and negative emotions as the wind, just as blocking the wind calms the flag, the same happens to the mind ones we reduce our negative emotions. 

Having a background in the very different worlds that emphasize compassion and self-interest seems to give you a unique perspective. Do you think this is a strength?

I feel very fortunate to have been exposed and lived in two different worlds.  Dickinson has helped play an important role to help me bridge it and benefit from both.  Personally, I feel they complement each other if incorporated properly.  Today, I always try to have a compassionate motivation for my own peace of mind but also place emphasis on achieving results on the projects I work on. 

Read more from the winter 2014 issue of Dickinson Magazine.

Published Jan. 12, 2014