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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

The secret to happiness? The happiness of others

October 13, 2009

the Dalai Lama
The Ottawa Citizen
October 10, 2009

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 toward
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 --
familial, tribal, national and international --
the key to a happier and more successful world is
the growth of compassion. All that is necessary
is for each of us to develop our good human qualities.

The Dalai Lama recently served as guest editor of
the Vancouver Sun, where this first appeared.
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