How Tibetan Buddhism Can Contribute To SDG3
9 May 2018 - Impact Hub

The importance of well-being learnt through a woman’s amazing spiritual journey.

The Impact Hub network is a dedicated contributor to the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and here at Impact Hub Budapest we thought to consider how SDG3, “Good Health and Well-being”, can be achieved through spirituality and inner peace. Last month we had the amazing opportunity to host a pre-premiere press-screening of the documentary “Hannah: Buddhism’s Untold Journey”. The film shows the metaphorical journey of Buddhism from East to West, and offers a thought-provoking atmosphere to ask ourselves some questions: what is it that makes us ‘well’? How are health and mind connected? How is Buddhism related to the general definition of health?

After the screening we held a discussion with Buddhist community members and active Buddhist teachers in Hungary, to get their take on SDG3 and what it means to them. Our special guest was a Buddhist teacher from the Diamond Way community in Copenhagen, a space that was founded by Hannah Nydahl.

Hannah is a Buddhist pioneer, and has had an incredible lifelong experience with Buddhism. She was a truly exceptional woman whose story is an amazing example of how women and strength can lead to outstanding spiritual, social, and human changes. She came from Denmark during the hippies’ sixties, and her calling in life became bringing Tibetan Buddhism to the West. She and her husband, Lama Ole, were the very first Western students of His Holiness the 16th Karmapa – the first consciously reincarnated lama of Tibet in 1110. Hannah went on to become an assistant and translator for some of the most powerful Tibetan lamas and eventually she transformed to be the living bridge between Buddhism in the East and the West.

After a revolutionary lifetime spent spreading the thoughts of Tibetan Buddhism, Hannah died of cancer, and spent her last weeks in her community house in Copenhagen. Our guest Daniella Csizmadia lived in the community house during that time as well. Her stories about Hannah, along with the beautiful movie truly made us as listeners think about SDG3 in a slightly different way.

Tibetan Buddhism found its atypical path to the west only in the last fifty years of the twentieth century. It came into view from the idealism of the 1960-70s, when people were exploring their minds and finding that drugs were not providing the answers they sought. A group of Danish hippies met with a handful of Tibetan refugees in India, and cognized that through ancient practices they had the methods to conquer spiritual well being. With this new knowledge they took Buddhism with them from the hearts of Asia to the minds of the West.

Today, many believe we are facing humanitarian insecurity, a lack of peace, all over the world. Buddhism is regarded as one of the most peaceful religions of the world, and the most powerful in terms of humanism. According to the Buddha’s teachings, the concepts of peace, justice, and freedom are central to the religion, and conflict, intolerance and disharmony arise from desires, hatred and ignorance. They believe in the importance of cultivating common values or universal ethics, and encouraging dialogue. Perhaps social and economic development could benefit from this outlook, leading to sustainable peace around the world.

After living for five years in the Buddhist community in Tibet, Hannah and her husband decided to dedicate their lives to these teachings and to bring the Buddhist mindset to Europe. There was something magical about the determination and power they had. Hannah and Ole started founding buddhist communities in Denmark with the idea of changing people’s thinking, helping them realize their true selves, and learning to be true to themselves.

One of the main teachings of Buddhism is that concentrating on the present helps us manage the past and design the future. Buddhists try to live their lives in the now. The members of the communities we spoke to at the event told us that if we harnessed the power of awareness and focused on the here and now, then everything can become a gift: life, health, illness, and even death. In the words of Buddha himself, “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.” Isn’t this a precise definition for well-being? I think it truly is. Buddhism, one of the most complex yet simple philosophies in the world, contributes to the spirituality of humanity. It has always focused its energy inward in an attempt to train the mind to understand not only mental issues and states of mind, but also the condition of happiness and well-being.

The Sustainable Development Goals describe goal number 3 as “The health and well being of people at all ages lies at the heart of sustainable development. Protection from disease is not only fundamental to survival, but it enables opportunity for everyone and strengthens economic growth and prosperity”. Hannah’s story has convinced me that inner peace helps us maintain general health, and our thoughts can define the power we have to deal with difficult issues across all parts of life. Whether it be health, economic, or social, this concept of Tibetan Buddhism can contribute to SDG 3 by helping us to all find inner peace and well being.

Impact Hub Budapest events to bring awareness on well-being are contributing to the following Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):


Written by: Dominika Szabo

Dominika is a communications specialist with experience across diverse sectors. She is an experienced humanitarian advocate and a bulldog fundraiser, focused on strong communication and truthful messages. She’s been working in the non-profit sector because she trusts the power of society, believes great communities are capable of fuelling progress and change in the most important global issues we all must face.