Competition or Compassion?
In the evening of October 18, 1999, four hundred people gathered in the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam to attend a forum titled “Enterprise and Development in the 21st Century; Compassion or Competition?” This forum was centered around the visit to the Netherlands of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the forum’s main speaker. It was the last part of his four-day visit, which had drawn more than 10,000 people to attend his lectures and Buddhist teachings in The Hague.
The forum was an initiative of the main Tibetan Buddhist groups in the Netherlands, including Maitreya Instituut/FPMT Netherlands, jointly with Progressio Foundation. Other forum speakers were Jermyn Brooks (managing director PriceWaterhouseCoopers), Hazel Henderson (leading thinker on sustainable economics) and Ruud Lubbers (former prime minister of the Netherlands and chairman of WWF).
The moderator was Geoff Mulgan, key policy advisor to UK premier Tony Blair. Distinguished representatives from Dutch business, government and academic circles were invited to pose questions to the forum. The Crown Prince of Orange, Willem Alexander, was among the exclusive audience with leaders from business, government and the not-for-profit sector.
Sogyal Rinpoche and Rabbi Soetendorp, highly respected spokesmen for their respective spiritual traditions, concluded the evening of the forum with thoughtful and spirited remarks.
This unusual group of people came together in an equally unusual setting. The Nieuwe Kerk is an awesome venue, which is the traditional host of crowning ceremonies of Dutch Royalty. At the very time of the forum, the former church building was displaying a wonderful exhibition “The Dancing Demons of Mongolia,” with stunning Buddhist relics and artifacts from Mongolia, along with Mongolian musicians playing live before and after the forum. The atmosphere, which may have reminded His Holiness the Dalai Lama of his beloved Tibet, transported the minds of the participants into a realm where reflection and appreciation seemed to almost flow naturally.
The topic of the forum was no less unique (see page ). Finally, the timing of the event — on the eve of the 20th century — was extraordinary. With the challenges that lie head for us in the new millennium, the forum was extremely well timed. As one of the organizers stated, “It not only focused our thoughts on how we should shape our economies in the new millennium, but also, for many of us, the memory of the Amsterdam forum has become a source of inspiration in our personal lives. The discussion helped us in distinguishing the positive from the negative.”