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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

Krista’s TED Talk at the United Nations and the Charter for Compassion (Live Video)

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Live Video with chef Dan Barber and Krista Tippett

when: Thursday, November 18th, 2010 
time: 11:00 a.m. ET
where: United Nations (New York, New York)

Well, we’re live streaming another event, and this one should be a must-see simply because of the line-up of speakers, including Karen Armstrong and Krista. Oh, and it’s a TED event, which almost always means great speakers! The topic? Creating a compassionate world.

Words matter. They shape the way we see ourselves, interpret the world, and treat others. And as essential as compassion is across our traditions, as vivid as many of us know it to be in particular lives, the word “compassion” is a problem — watered down in culture, suspect in the field of journalism, too safe and too sweet for the power that the 21st century needs unleashed in this virtue. Krista will name that — break “compassion” open into its kindred and component qualities and describe its universe of attendant virtues. In ideas and images drawn from her conversation partners across the years, she will suggest an expanded definition of “compassion” as vital, visible, and embodied.

Also watch talks on compassion from Karen Armstrong, Rev. Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, Matthieu Ricard, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Chade-Meng Tan, and Fred Luskin.
tedun-guests

Please join us here or on our live events page and watch our stream from the United Nations. We’ll continue to send real-time updates when the stream goes live on our Facebook page and through our Twitter stream. Keep an eye out!

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Understanding Happiness with the Dalai Lama, a British Rabbi, an Episcopal Bishop, a Muslim Scholar: A Twitterscript

by Shubha Bala, associate producer

His Holiness the Dalai Lama

On October 17 of this year, Krista led a lively conversation with four dynamic religious leaders: the His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama, Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, and Seyyed Hossein Nasr on “Understanding and Promoting Happiness in Today’s Society.”

Trent and I sat in the media section of the Woodruff Physical Education Center at Emory University and our live-tweeted some of the special gems from discussion. You can also listen to the event’s full audio.

  1. We’ll be live-tweeting Krista’s panel w/ @, @RabbiSacks, Rev. Schori, + Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Intros are beginning; discussion to start soon.
    17 Oct
  2. Krista and religious leaders have taken the stage, followed by the @DalaiLama. All are standing in silence with one pair of hands clapping. 
    17 Oct
  3. The topic of this session: understanding and promoting happiness in today’s society. Smiles everyone! 
    17 Oct
  4. "The reason different religious traditions developed is not for misery but for deep satisfaction (happiness). That’s very clear."-@DalaiLama 
    17 Oct
  5. The @DalaiLama finally put on his classic deep red visor. He said to Krista - “Now I can see you clearer. There is a bright light in here.” 
    17 Oct
  6. "If we could learn 1 thing from you - how to laugh the way you do - it would increase the happiness in the world." @rabbisacks to @dalailama 
    17 Oct
  7. "Simha tells us that happiness is part of the tenure and texture of relationships." @rabbisacks on Jewish definition of a shared happiness 
    17 Oct
      
  8. "Consumerism making us feel bad for what we lack is the most efficient system for the manufacturing+distribution of unhappiness" @rabbisacks 
    17 Oct
  9. "The paradox of the world is that to listen to a lecture on #happiness people have to stand in line unhappily for 2 hours to get in.” -Nasr 
    17 Oct
  10. #Happiness comes from this right relationship - from knowing you are not God and therefore not putting yourself in the center.” -Rev Schori 
    17 Oct
  11. Some people have the idea that just following the truth is enough. #Islambelieves what’s important is to attain #happiness.”-Seyyed H. Nasr 
    17 Oct
  12. "The environmental crisis is due to this substitution - believing #happiness is to have, want more and more.” - Seyyed Hossein Nasr 
    17 Oct
  13. "Once it was asked to a great #Sufi master ‘What do you want?’ He said ‘I want not to want?’ That’s the epitome of #happiness.” -Seyyed Nasr 
    17 Oct
  14. "Happiness is a permanent state of the soul, and we are here to attain it." -Seyyed H. Nasr to the @DalaiLama 
    17 Oct
  15. "That’s why all the pain can lead to #happiness when you say to the bad times: I will not let you go until you bless me.” - @rabbisacks 
    17 Oct
  16. "Happiness is not finding joy in death. It’s taking what is, and insisting that great happiness for all is possible." - Rev. Schori 
    17 Oct
  17. RT @EmoryUniversity ”Say to the bad times, I will not let you go until you bless me.”—-Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks 
    17 Oct
  18. "In Arabic, beauty and virtue — and the word goodness — are all the same word." -Seyyed H. Nasr 
    17 Oct
  19. "The #Arabic word for beauty, virtue, and goodness is the same. Beauty drives us to the divine…Beauty makes the soul happy.” - Seyyed Nasr 
    17 Oct
  20. "Just by existing, we’re responsible towards other creatures, humans, nature, and God himself." -Seyyed Hossein Nasr 
    17 Oct
  21. "Buddhism is in some ways atheist, but some say atheism means anti-God. In that sense, #Buddhism has respect for all traditions.” @DalaiLama 
    17 Oct
  22. "Sometimes we don’t have to pursue happiness, we have to pause and let it catch up to us." - @rabbisacks 
    17 Oct
  23. "There is a religious challenge in things that don’t look beautiful." -@RabbiSacks 
    17 Oct
  24. "Happiness is a right. The purpose of our life is happiness. It may be simple but it’s what I think!" @DalaiLama 
    17 Oct
  25. "When a person lives with hopelessness, they commit suicide. So our life depends on hope for happiness." @DalaiLama 
    17 Oct
  26. A nice segue by Krista from @RabbiSacks' fabulous point about slowing down for happiness to the @DalaiLama's teachings on meditation. 
    17 Oct
  27. "I almost drowned on my honeymoon, so when I wake up, I know what it means to pray: Thank you #God for giving me back my life.” @RabbiSacks 
    17 Oct
  28. "We can face the future of fear if we know we do not face it alone." @RabbiSackson praying to #God and knowing God is with you 
    17 Oct
  29. Just realized there’s a person signing this wonderful discussion at Emory. Her just to hear + translate must be incredibly difficult. Kudos. 
    17 Oct
  30. "Our modern culture makes it very hard to fail." -@RabbiSacks at The Interfaith Summit on Happiness 
    17 Oct
  31. "Train the body so the mind, the self, and the soul can do it’s job more effectively." - Rev. Schori on #running as body meditation 
    17 Oct
     
  32. #Judaism has a whole approach on the physical dimension of the spiritual life - it’s called food.” @RabbiSacks on #happiness and the body 
    17 Oct
  33. "If you want a summary of all the #Jewish holidays it can be done in 3 sentences: they tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat” @RabbiSacks 
    17 Oct
  34. "Someone elses’ material needs, are my spiritual duty" @RabbiSacks on the responsibility to help others who are lacking 
    17 Oct
  35. @DalaiLama is asked: Where does body fit into happiness? HHDL: Without a body, there’s no longer a brain. Then it’s difficult to think. 
    17 Oct
  36. "You have to let go of hate if you want to be free" - @RabbiSacks 
    17 Oct
  37. "A #Muslim friend said ‘jihad’ is combating the negative forces within yourself. So then, the whole Buddhist philosophy is Jihad” @DalaiLama 
    17 Oct
  38. "After Buddhism there is no religion that speaks more of compassion than #Islamdoes.” - Seyyed Hossein Nasr 
    17 Oct
  39. "I’m out of my medium. I’m used to being in a recording studio where people aren’t applauding after comments" - Krista Tippett 
    17 Oct
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LIVE Video: One-on-One with Geshe Thupten Jinpa, the Man Beside the Dalai Lama

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

date: Monday, October 18th, 2010
time: 4:15 p.m. EDT
duration: 60 minutes

Geshe Thupten Jinpa and the Dalai LamaWe’ve had an incredible few days down here in Atlanta at the summit with the Dalai Lama. And we’ve got Krista working hard, and we’re streaming real-time video of it all.

On Friday, she interviewed the chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, Lord Jonathan Sacks. On Sunday, Krista led an absolutely invigorating discussion with Dalai Lama (listen to audio) and other great religious leaders from the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian traditions. And, this afternoon, an intimate conversation with the Dalai Lama’s right-hand man, so to speak.

Watching the Dalai Lama with his English translator Thupten Jinpa is more like observing an intimate conversation than an interpretation of words. This former monk, now married with children, is also a scholar in his own right. With him, Krista will explore some of the intricacies of Tibetan understandings of the mind and meditation, as well as his front row seat on the Dalai Lama’s teachings and charisma.

We’re continuing to bring you as many behind-the-scenes perspectives as we can, and this live video stream is one more step in that effort. When you can, join us here or on our  live events page for real-time conversation with other viewers. You can leave comments and bounce ideas off of others with our Facebook chat module. Check it out! And, we’ll continue to send real-time updates when the stream goes live on our Facebook page and through our Twitter stream. Keep an eye out!

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LIVE Video: A Sold Out Event with the Dalai Lama. A Front Row Seat for You!

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

*UPDATE: Listen to our recording of this magnificent discussion (mp3, 113:52).

"Understanding and Promoting Happiness in Today’s Society"
date: Sunday, October 17th, 2010
time: 1:30 p.m. EDT

» What do Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam teach us about the concept of happiness?
» What do these ancient traditions hold in common about this often elusive state of being, and what are their greatest points of difference?
» How do they define happiness?
» Is happiness the purpose of life, or is it a reward only available after life?

These questions are just the start of a dynamic conversation Krista will be having with the Dalai Lama and other leading religious leaders. We want you to be a part of it. Join us this afternoon and watch our exclusive live video stream from the campus of Emory University with His Holiness and Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, and Seyyed Hossein Nasr.

And here’s a rundown of other events that are part of the summit that don’t include Krista, but we’ll be streaming in case you wish to attend:

"The Nature and Practice of Compassion"
date: Sunday, October 17th, 2010 
time: 9:45 a.m. EDT

In this teaching for the Buddhist communities of Atlanta and the southeastern U.S., His Holiness will explain the nature of compassion and the practices for cultivating it as understood in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition — something to which His Holiness has dedicated his entire life. By explaining the essential role of compassion in the flourishing of human life, this teaching will provide a backdrop for all the subsequent events of the visit.

Dalai Lama, Alice Walker, and Richard-Gere"Richard Gere and Alice Walker in Conversation with the Dalai Lama about Spirituality and Creativity"
date: Tuesday, October 19th, 2010 
time: 1:30 p.m. EDT

How do the arts help us to express, or indeed to uncover, our spiritual yearnings and questions or certainties? What do the artist and the spiritual master have to teach each other from their respective disciplines? What is the role of tradition (or, conversely, iconoclasm) in maintaining or renewing art and spiritual life? Is the human being innately spiritual, innately artistic?

And, for the next several days, be sure to watch more of our one-on-one conversations with wise voices and religious leaders from The Interfaith Summit on Happiness in Atlanta, Georgia. Krista will be conducting on-the-ground interviews, and we’ll be live-streaming video of each one. We had an incredible conversation with Rabbi Sacks yesterday (archived video here) and more are on the way, including one with the Dalai Lama’s chief translator, Geshe Thupten Jinpa. We’ll be sending out real-time updates when the stream goes live on our Facebook page and through our Twitter stream. Keep an eye out and let us know how we’re doing!

Please join us for this real-time dialogue. You can leave comments here. If you’re interested in bouncing ideas off of others during this interview, check out our Being LIVE page that contains a real-time Facebook chat module. It’s quite enjoyable hearing what other viewers are thinking and responding to. Check it out!

(photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

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Our humanity is not an attribute that we have received once and forever with our conception. It is a potentiality that we have to discover within us and progressively develop or destroy through our confrontation with the different experiences of suffering that will meet us through our life.
-

Xavier Le Pichon

Thanks for reminding us of this powerful quotation from our interview with the great French geophysicist.

Trent Gilliss, senior editor

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Transforming Journalism by Moving and Mobilizing Readers

by Krista Tippett, host

Nicholas Kristof on Journalism and CompassionI wasn’t always a fan of Nicholas Kristof’s columns in The New York Times. I’d found them at times simplistic — seeming to reduce the dramas of entire nations to individual stories of despair and/or hope. But I’ve discovered that there is an art and science to this approach. It was fascinating — and quite inspiring — to sit down and get inside his head on all of this.

Nicholas Kristof has lived on four, and reported on six, continents, including spending formative years based in China and Japan, before he took his place on the Op-Ed pages of the Times in the cathartic year of 2001. And as he tells us in the audio above, he soon realized that opining, however brilliantly, left him preaching to the choir. People who already shared his perspective would cheer him on; those who didn’t would not take in what he had to say. The true power of his editorial platform, he realized, was its capacity to bring lesser-publicized events and ideas into the light.

He is credited, most famously perhaps, for bringing the unfolding genocide in Darfur to the world’s attention. But even that “success,” which brought him a second Pulitzer Prize, left Nicholas Kristof wondering and wanting. The world’s reaction to Darfur, in his mind, did not match the tragedy at hand or the moral responsibility it should have engendered. He wanted to understand the fact — as I’ve pondered with many guests on Being across the years — that horrific images and facts are as likely to paralyze and overwhelm as to mobilize us.

And so he started reading research on brain science and the biological basis for compassion, to explore what makes the difference between moral paralysis and compassionate mobilization. We are hard-wired as humans, it seems, to respond powerfully to a single individual’s story and face. But add a second face, and that response diminishes. Add facts, and multiply that story by hundreds or millions, and empathy withers altogether.

Nicholas Kristof reframed his journalistic approach accordingly. It is fascinating to hear him talk about this, and about his own enduring worries about its manipulative connotations. He works to balance the riveting story with the big picture. An empathetic response to a single human story, he’s also learned by way of science and his own experience, can become a portal to a larger awareness. Facts and context can then begin to play a meaningful supporting role.

In the early 2000s, I felt that Nicholas Kristof was simplistic about religion too. Granted, most Western journalists were on a new kind of learning curve with regard to religion. Over the years, I have been deeply impressed by his unusual willingness to learn in public — to admit that he did not understand something, to publish his surprise and self-reversals. He’s gained a very complex and contradictory view of religion as a force in the world — capable of nurturing the worst of violence and the best of care.

He also offers a penetrating view of the self-defeating liberal-conservative/secular-religious divide on global issues as in our domestic political life. He is one of the voices waking up the world to the global scourge of sex trafficking. He believes that this will ultimately galvanize the moral consciousness of this century as slavery galvanized the 19th century. But he is watching with dismay as, for now, the two most effective activists on this issue — liberal feminists and conservative Christians — cannot agree on a shared vocabulary for describing the problem, much less join their energies.

We spend a lot of words these days on the way journalism is changing — usually with an eye to the technological and financial pressures that are changing it. Nicholas Kristof embodies deep cultural shifts that are also transforming journalism as we have known it. His journalism is a new paradigm, I think, one I’m now grateful for. I’ll call it journalism as a humanitarian art. And I look forward to seeing how it continues to evolve.

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Writing as Compassion

Kate Moos, managing producer

William Maxwell treats his personal material as if it were history. It is one part memory, one part research and one part hearsay but one hundred percent compassion. Compassion in my mind is an admixture of feeling and sustained attention with regard to others. Compassion is the absence of cruelty. Compassion is steady and relaxed—allowing patience where we may not have any for ourselves. Compassion is acceptance of what you didn’t realize or can’t understand. Compassion is not attainable without process—going through the various methods of drafting. Each one provides you with another perspective, another point of focus. Each method provides more ingredients to the approach that helps the content to stand on its own so that the writer can leave it behind them.
—Nancy Beckett

Skyping into a Writing GroupMost Wednesday nights I’m at the kitchen table staring into my laptop screen at a living room full of women. It’s my writing group, which is presided over by Nancy Beckett, an incredible playwright and writing teacher in Chicago. My admiration for her insight, depth, and crazy, mordant Irish wit never evaporates.

Everyone else assembles in her apartment for our three-hour sessions; I Skype in from St. Paul.

This week we read an excerpt from the great editor and writer William Maxwell’s creative nonfiction, and, as is the drill each week, Nancy gave us her deeply insightful lesson, a portion of which I cite above.

What I love about this work is that it goes past how to string sentences together, though there is that. It reminds me why I write. As Nancy would say, “People write because they can’t help themselves.” I write in order to know. I write in order to be changed.

(photo above: Tina, one of the group members, reads from her novel-in-progress.)

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Countdown to Compassion
Andy Dayton, associate web producer

Last time we put out our program with Karen Armstrong, one of our producers wrote about Karen Armstrong’s call to build an international "Charter for Compassion." In her speech, Armstrong states that “I think it’s time that we moved beyond the idea of toleration, and moved toward appreciation of the other.”

Now, we are once again replaying "The Freelance Monotheism of Karen Armstrong" one week before the Charter for Compassion itself is unveiled. In some ways, the charter’s mission is surprisingly simple — it’s essentially a call for everyone around the world to follow the Golden Rule. Less than a month ago, Armstrong articulated this mission in a letter co-signed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

"It is not simply a statement of principle; it is above all a summons to creative, practical and sustained action to meet the political, moral, religious, social and cultural problems of our time. In addition to participating in one of the many launch events, we invite each individual to adopt the charter as their own, to make a lifelong commitment to live with compassion."

It seems a little serendipitous to me that the charter is being released on November 12, the same day we’re releasing our program with Buddhist thinker Matthieu Ricard to podcasters. Ricard is another person very interested in the idea of compassion. In his conversation with Krista, he offers the idea that compassion is a skill that we develop with practice: “You don’t learn to play the piano by playing 20 seconds a week,” he says, and much like we exercise to keep our bodies fit, we should also be practicing compassionate thinking to remain spiritually fit.

While the charter’s mission is to tell the world why we should be compassionate, Ricard is teaching how we can be compassionate.

I’m interested to see what happens after the charter is officially revealed. How will it be received? On what terms will it put forth its mission? Will anyone notice?

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One Man Standing
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor

On the social matrix of the Web, one meets all types of interesting people and finds interesting stories through these happenstance relationships. Take, for instance, Sinan İpek. In a random checkup on the status of SOF videos, I found this Turkish filmmaker had commented on two SOF videos with themes of women’s rights: one about Kenyan women striving for a more verdant future and another about Diana Matar’s exploration of women and the veil in Egypt.

This documentary is too long for me to consider it a video snack, but it’s a compelling 25 minutes of narrative that grips you from a tender, darkly lit opening scene. İpek could have told the story of a paralyzed son and his mother’s love in an exotic land and made it feel foreign to this Midwestern American’s eyes. Instead I felt united in their fight for decency — as a journalist, as a father, as a compassionate bystander, as a citizen of the world, as a kid who used to throw snowballs at my neighbors never noticing the person behind the glass watching with eagerness.

Watch it over your lunch break, in the wee hours of the morning or in the still of night. You won’t regret it.

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