Paul Ekman

Emotion and Compassion + Darwin, the Dalai Lama and the Nature of Compassion

Dr Paul Ekman has many claims to fame. He’s been an emotional expression consultant with groups as far ranging as the CIA and the Pixar animation studio. He’s inspired a television series and written over a dozen books. However, perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Dr Ekman is his close relationship with the Dalai Lama.

They met during the writing of his book Emotions Revealed and they have since had several conversations on compassion and its place within human nature. Through this close relationship, Dr Ekman has developed his own theory on the nature of empathy, compassion, altruism and heroism.

On two separate occasions, Dr Ekman has visited Vancouver to share some of this wisdom. First, in July 2007 for "Emotion and Compassion" and, most recently, in March 2010 for "Darwin, the Dalai Lama and the Nature of Compassion"

In this talk, Dr Ekman pointed out that although they both arrived to their conclusions independently, Darwin and Buddhism have similar ideas when it comes to human nature. According to Dr Ekman, both Darwin and Buddhists believe that the highest moral virtue is having compassion for “all sentient beings”, or rather a concern for all living things.

Further, both Darwin and Buddhism hold the relationship between mother and infant as the heart of compassion, or, as the Dalai Lama refers to it, the “seed of compassion”. Dr Ekman suggests this compassionate side of Darwin, a stark contrast to his “survival of the fittest” mantra, is unknown to most.

If you’d like to hear more from this talk, check out the trailer and the complete audio podcast in the Event section below.