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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."

Countering Stress and Depression

January 6, 2011

Originally published in the Hindustan Times, India, on January 3rd, 2011

At a fundamental level, as human beings, we are all the same; each one
of us aspires to happiness and each one of us does not wish to suffer.
This is why, whenever I have the opportunity, I try to draw people's
attention to what as members of the human family we have in common and
the deeply interconnected nature of our existence and welfare.

Today, there is increasing recognition, as well as a growing body of
scientific evidence, that confirms the close connection between our own
states of mind and our happiness. On the one hand, many of us live in
societies that are very developed materially, yet among us are many
people who are not very happy. Just underneath the beautiful surface of
affluence there is a kind of mental unrest, leading to frustration,
unnecessary quarrels, reliance on drugs or alcohol, and in the worst
case, suicide. There is no guarantee that wealth alone can give you the
joy or fulfilment that you seek. The same can be said of your friends
too. When you are in an intense state of anger or hatred, even a very
close friend appears to you as somehow frosty, or cold, distant, and
annoying.

However, as human beings we are gifted with this wonderful human
intelligence. Besides that, all human beings have the capacity to be
very determined and to direct that strong sense of determination in
whatever direction they like. So long as we remember that we have this
marvellous gift of human intelligence and a capacity to develop
determination and use it in positive ways, we will preserve our
underlying mental health. Realizing we have this great human potential
gives us a fundamental strength. This recognition can act as a mechanism
that enables us to deal with any difficulty, no matter what situation we
are facing, without losing hope or sinking into feelings of low
self-esteem.

I write this as someone who lost his freedom at the age of 16, then lost
his country at the age of 24. Consequently, I have lived in exile for
more than 50 years during which we Tibetans have dedicated ourselves to
keeping the Tibetan identity alive and preserving our culture and
values. On most days the news from Tibet is heartbreaking, and yet none
of these challenges gives grounds for giving up. One of the approaches
that I personally find useful is to cultivate the thought: If the
situation or problem is such that it can be remedied, then there is no
need to worry about it. In other words, if there is a solution or a way
out of the difficulty, you do not need to be overwhelmed by it. The
appropriate action is to seek its solution. Then it is clearly more
sensible to spend your energy focussing on the solution rather than
worrying about the problem. Alternatively, if there is no solution, no
possibility of resolution, then there is also no point in being worried
about it, because you cannot do anything about it anyway. In that case,
the sooner you accept this fact, the easier it will be for you. This
formula, of course, implies directly confronting the problem and taking
a realistic view. Otherwise you will be unable to find out whether or
not there is a resolution to the problem

Taking a realistic view and cultivating a proper motivation can also
shield you against feelings of fear and anxiety. If you develop a pure
and sincere motivation, if you are motivated by a wish to help on the
basis of kindness, compassion, and respect, then you can carry on any
kind of work, in any field, and function more effectively with less fear
or worry, not being afraid of what others think or whether you
ultimately will be successful in reaching your goal. Even if you fail to
achieve your goal, you can feel good about having made the effort. But
with a bad motivation, people can praise you or you can achieve goals,
but you still will not be happy.

Again, we may sometimes feel that our whole lives are unsatisfactory, we
feel on the point of being overwhelmed by the difficulties that confront
us. This happens to us all in varying degrees from time to time. When
this occurs, it is vital that we make every effort to find a way of
lifting our spirits. We can do this by recollecting our good fortune. We
may, for example, be loved by someone; we may have certain talents; we
may have received a good education; we may have our basic needs provided
for - food to eat, clothes to wear, somewhere to live - we may have
performed certain altruistic deeds in the past. We must take into
consideration even the slightest positive aspect of our lives. For if we
fail to find some way of uplifting ourselves, there is every danger of
sinking further into our sense of powerlessness. This can lead us to
believe that we have no capacity for doing good whatsoever. Thus we
create the conditions of despair itself.

As a Buddhist monk I have learned that what principally upsets our inner
peace is what we call disturbing emotions.? All those thoughts,
emotions, and mental events which reflect a negative or uncompassionate
state of mind inevitably undermine our experience of inner peace. All
our negative thoughts and emotions - such as hatred, anger, pride, lust,
greed, envy, and so on - are considered to be sources of difficulty, to
be disturbing. Negative thoughts and emotions are what obstruct our most
basic aspiration - to be happy and to avoid suffering. When we act under
their influence, we become oblivious to the impact our actions have on
others: they are thus the cause of our destructive behaviour both toward
others and to ourselves. Murder, scandal, and deceit all have their
origin in disturbing emotions.

This inevitably gives rise to the question - can we train the mind?
There are many methods by which to do this. Among these, in the Buddhist
tradition, is a special instruction called mind training, which focuses
on cultivating concern for others and turning adversity to advantage. It
is this pattern of thought, transforming problems into happiness that
has enabled the Tibetan people to maintain their dignity and spirit in
the face of great difficulties. Indeed I have found this advice of great
practical benefit in my own life.?

A great Tibetan teacher of mind training once remarked that one of the
mind’s most marvellous qualities is that it can be transformed. I have
no doubt that those who attempt to transform their minds, overcome their
disturbing emotions and achieve a sense of inner peace, will, over a
period of time, notice a change in their mental attitudes and responses
to people and events. Their minds will become more disciplined and
positive. And I am sure they will find their own sense of happiness grow
as they contribute to the greater happiness of others. I offer my
prayers that everyone who makes this their goal will be blessed with
success.


The Dalai Lama

December 31, 2010
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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