In its announcement of the award, which is worth about $1.7 million this year, the Templeton Award noted how the Dalai Lama has focused on the connections between the investigative traditions of science and Buddhism “as a way to better understand and advance what both disciplines might offer the world.”
A key question the Dalai Lama asks, says the Templeton Foundation in its press release, is “Can compassion be trained or taught?”
Compassion is a major focus for the Dalai Lama.
People who have spent time with him say it is a life-changing experience. Richard Davidson, a professor at the University of Wisconsin who has spent extended time with the Dalai Lama, told the Wisconsin State Journal, "These are private meetings where he literally spends five days with us. It is very hard to go back and be the same person you were before the conference. It really is a very precious opportunity."
According to biographer Pico Iyer in his book "The Open Road," the Dalai Lama begins five hours of meditation at 3:30 a.m. “on the roots of compassion and what he can do for his people, the ‘Chinese brothers and sisters’ who are holding his people hostage and the rest of us, while also preparing himself for his death.”
The Dalai Lama's concern over the Tibetans has led him to walk a tightrope. He does not talk about independence but instead autonomy. On his official website, he writes, “Yes, I remain optimistic that I will be able to return to Tibet. China is in the process of changing. Besides, I am not seeking separation from China.”
“He is resolute not to have any violence against the Chinese, who he views as fellow sentient beings,” says Mr. Berthrong. “He tells his people to respond with patience.”