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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Compassion is the key to happiness

October 2, 2009

By The Dalai Lama, For The Calgary Herald
September 30, 2009

The Following Column Was Written By The Dalai Lama For The Vancouver Sun,
Where He Acted As Editor For The Day On Satur-Day. We Are Running It In
Honour Of The Dalai Lama's Visit To Calgary, Which Begins Today Before He
Departs Friday Morning.

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

>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, warmhearted feeling for others puts
the mind at ease. This gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we

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

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

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.
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