Compassion For Our Fellow Human Beings Is The Key To Happiness

September 26th 2009

Vancouver, BC, Canada, 26 September 2009 (By The Dalai Lama, Special to The Vancouver Sun) - One great question underlies our experience, whether we think about it consciously or not: What is the purpose of life?

I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. From the moment of birth, every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering. Neither social conditioning nor education nor ideology affects this.

Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness.

For a start, it is possible to divide every kind of happiness and suffering into two main categories: mental and physical.

Of the two, the mind exerts the greatest influence on most of us. Unless we are gravely ill or deprived of basic necessities, our physical condition plays a secondary role in life.

Hence, we should devote our most serious efforts to bringing about mental peace.

From my own limited experience, I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquillity comes from the development of love and compassion.

The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others puts the mind at ease. This gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter.

It is the ultimate source of success in life.

We can strive gradually to become more compassionate, we can develop both genuine sympathy for others' suffering and the will to help remove their pain.

As a result, our own serenity and inner strength will increase.

The need for love lies at the very foundation of human existence. It results from the profound interdependence we all share with one another.

Some of my friends have told me that, while love and compassion are marvellous and good, they are not really very relevant. Our world, they say, is not a place where such beliefs have much influence or power. They claim that anger and hatred are so much a part of human nature that humanity will always be dominated by them. I do not agree.

We humans have existed in our present form for about 100,000 years. I believe that if during this time the human mind had been primarily controlled by anger and hatred, our population would have decreased. But today, despite all our wars, we find that the human population is greater than ever.

This clearly indicates to me that love and compassion predominate in the world.

True compassion is not just an emotional response but a firm commitment founded on reason.Therefore, a truly compassionate attitude towards others does not change even if they behave negatively.

Of course, developing this kind of compassion is not at all easy! As a start, let us consider the following facts:

Whether people are beautiful and friendly or unattractive and disruptive, ultimately they are human beings, just like one's self. Like one's self, they want happiness and do not want suffering.

Now, when you recognize that all beings are equal in both their desire for happiness and their right to obtain it, you automatically feel empathy and closeness for them. Through accustoming your mind to this sense of universal altruism, you develop a feeling of responsibility for others: the wish to help them actively overcome their problems.

Let me emphasize that it is within your power, given patience and time, to develop this kind of compassion. We should begin by removing the greatest hindrances to compassion: anger and hatred.

As we all know, these are extremely powerful emotions and they can overwhelm our entire mind. Nevertheless, they can be controlled and replaced by an equally forceful energy that stems from compassion, reason and patience.

I must also emphasize that merely thinking about compassion and reason and patience will not be enough to develop them. We must wait for difficulties to arise and then attempt to practise them.

And who creates such opportunities? Not our friends, of course, but our enemies. They are the ones who give us the most trouble.

So if we truly wish to learn, we should consider enemies to be our best teachers.

For a person who cherishes compassion and love, the practice of tolerance is essential, and for that, an enemy is indispensable.

So we should feel grateful to our enemies, for it is they who can best help us develop a tranquil mind. Also, it is often the case in both personal and public life, that with a change in circumstances, enemies become friends.

So anger and hatred are our real enemies. These are the forces we most need to confront and defeat, not the temporary enemies who appear intermittently throughout life.

In conclusion, I would like briefly to expand my thoughts beyond the topic of this short editorial and make a wider point: Individual happiness can contribute in a profound and effective way to the overall improvement of our entire human community.

Because we all share an identical need for love, it is possible to feel that anybody we meet, in whatever circumstances, is a brother or sister.

It is foolish to dwell on external differences, because our basic natures are the same.

I believe that at every level of society

 

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