Happiness and compassion

Happiness and compassion

There’s little doubt that compassion is a key contributor to happiness and there’s also little doubt that when it comes to happiness and compassion, who better to turn to than His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

I’m pleased to bring you this happiness related story published today in the Sydney Morning Herald and written by one of the world’s greatest thinkers on happiness…

Compassion key to a peaceful world

The Dalai Lama

October 22, 2007

Brute force can never subdue the basic human desire for freedom. The thousands of people who marched in the cities of Eastern Europe in recent decades, the unwavering determination of the people in my homeland of Tibet and the recent demonstrations in Burma are powerful reminders of this truth. Freedom is the very source of creativity and human development. It is not enough, as communist systems assumed, to provide people with food, shelter and clothing.

In the past, oppressed peoples often resorted to violence in their struggle to be free. But visionaries such as Mahatma Gandhi and the Reverend Martin Luther King jnr have shown us that changes can be brought about non-violently.

Many people today agree that we need to reduce violence in our society. If we are serious about this, we must deal with the roots of violence, particularly those that exist within each of us. We need to embrace “inner disarmament”, reducing our own emotions of suspicion, hatred and hostility towards others.

Furthermore, we must re-examine how we relate to the use of violence in today’s profoundly interconnected world. One may sometimes feel that one can solve a problem quickly with force, but this is often achieved at the expense of the rights and welfare of others. One problem may have been solved, but the seed of another is planted. The only viable solution to human conflicts will come through dialogue and reconciliation based on the spirit of compromise.

Many of the problems we confront today are our own creation. I believe that one of the root causes of these problems is the inability of humans to control their agitated minds and hearts – an area in which the teachings of the world’s great religions have much to offer.

A scientist from Chile once told me that it is inappropriate for a scientist to be attached to his particular field of study, because that would undermine his objectivity. I am a Buddhist practitioner, but if I mix up my devotion for Buddhism with an attachment to it, my mind will be biased towards it. A biased mind never sees the complete picture. If religious practitioners can heed this scientist’s advice and refrain from being attached to their own faith traditions, it could prevent the growth of fundamentalism. Whether one is a believer or a non-believer, what matters is that one be a good, kind and a warm-hearted person.

From the dangerous rate of global warming to the widening gap between rich and poor, from the rise of global terrorism to regional conflicts, we need a fundamental shift in our attitudes and our consciousness – a wider, more holistic outlook.

We need to shift our basic attitude about how we educate our younger generation. Something is fundamentally lacking in our modern education when it comes to educating the human heart.

To promote greater compassion, we must pay special attention to the role of women. My first teacher of love and compassion was my mother, who provided me with maximum love. By speaking of mothers’ role in teaching compassion, I do not mean to reinforce in any way the traditional view that a woman’s place is confined to the home. I believe that the time has come for women to take more active roles in all domains of human society, in an age in which education and the capacities of the mind, not physical strength, define leadership.

In general, I feel optimistic about the future. Despite ongoing conflicts and the threat of terrorism, most people are genuinely concerned about world peace.

The rapid changes in our attitude towards the Earth are also a source of hope. Until recently, we thoughtlessly consumed its resources as if there were no end to them. Now not only individuals but also governments are seeking a new ecological order.

Despite its faltering start, the 21st century could become one of dialogue, one in which compassion, the seed of non-violence, will be able to flourish. But good wishes are not enough. We must seriously address the urgent question of the proliferation of weapons and make worldwide efforts toward greater external disarmament.

Large human movements spring from individual human initiatives. If you feel that you cannot have much of an effect, the next person may also become discouraged, and a great opportunity will have been lost. On the other hand, each of us can inspire others simply by working to develop our own altruistic motivations – and engaging the world with a compassion-tempered heart and mind.

This is an edited extract of a column that first appeared in The Washington Post.