Ethics should be part of every person’s education and the role of teaching virtues shouldn’t be limited to religion, the Dalai Lama told a crowd in Boston on Oct. 14.

"Affection, compassion, these are not religious business," said the Dalai Lama to an audience of 2,500 people of varying religious and ethnic backgrounds. "If you have religious faith, wonderful! Practice these things and further increase these things. Even [if you have] no faith or religion, you should not forget these qualities. This is for your own interest."

The Dalai Lama's appearance was part of an event titled ‘‘Beyond Religion: Ethics, Values and Wellbeing’’ that was hosted by The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values, a nonprofit think tank at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was part of a three-day trip to Massachusetts, where the Dalai Lama will be speaking on religion, meditation, economics, peace and the environment.

On Sunday, the 77-year-old Buddhist monk discussed topics such as happiness, compassion and community, which he calls "secular ethics."  

"For your own happy life, the compassionate sort of feeling, the compassionate attitude is the key factor," he said. "We are [a] social animal. Even survival entirely depend[s] on [the] rest of the community. That's reality.  If you develop extreme self-centered attitude, then you isolate from this society." 

The Dalai Lama also stressed the importance of compassionate leadership.  "Now we are [in the] 21st century, so we need promotion of human compassion," he said. "In that respect, biologically, female[s] have more sensitivity about others' suffering, so therefore the female should take [a] more active role in this field."

The discussion on ethics beyond religion included the Rev. Thomas Keating, a Trappist monk from Colorado, and Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Catholic monk from New York City.

In addition to the discussion, James Taylor and Boston Symphony Orchestra cellist Owen Young performed at the event.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.