By His Holiness the Dalai Lama
The basic source of all happiness is a sense of kindness and warm-heartedness towards others. We are all the same as human beings. We are born the same way, we die the same way, and we all want to lead happy lives.
The key to happiness is peace of mind. This is not something that can be bought. Inner peace has to be cultivated by each of us from within. All our religious traditions, despite whatever philosophical differences there may be among them, carry the same message of love and warm-heartedness that is the foundation of such peace of mind.
I sometimes wish that we were more like children, who are naturally open and accepting of others. Instead, as we grow up, we fail to nurture our natural potential and our sense of fundamental human values. We get caught up in secondary differences and tend to think in terms of 'us' and 'them'. Education can change this. We need to learn to distinguish the destructive nature of emotions like anger, fear and attachment, which disturb our peace of mind, from the positive qualities of compassion that are genuine sources of happiness.
I often ask myself what the purpose of life is. I conclude that it is to be happy. We have no guarantee of what will happen in the future, but we live in hope, which is what keeps us going. There is sometimes insufficient understanding of the difference between sensory consciousness and mental consciousness. The ultimate source of happiness a mental feeling of joy, and not a wealth of material goods. The sensory pleasure material things provide is generally short-lived. Such satisfaction does little to allay anxiety and fear. On the other hand, mental joy sustains itself.
Nowadays scientists too agree that our basic human nature is compassionate and warm-hearted because that is the way our lives begin. Without our mother's love and affection we would not have survived. Since we depend on other human beings for our own happiness, it is natural to feel warm-hearted towards them. Human beings are responsive. No matter how beautiful a flower may be, it won't react to my smile. But if I smile at another human being, she or he generally smiles in return, and even animals react positively.
Today, the world is mostly focussed on external development. However, ancient Indian traditions emphasize looking within to find the real source of joy. To be happy it is our minds we must transform. This is the basis of the longstanding traditions of ahimsa, doing no harm, and karuna, wishing others to be free from suffering.
Compassion, an active concern for others' well-being, is not only part of religion, it also belongs to our lives as human beings. From compassion we develop self-confidence; that brings inner strength, allowing us to act with transparency and candour. If a person is happier, his or her family is happier; if families are happy, neighbourhoods and nations will be happy. By each of us working to transform ourselves, we can change our human way of life and make this a century of compassion.
We must continually consider the oneness of humanity, remembering that we all want to be happy. And indeed, everyone has a right to a happy life. Along the way we may be faced with problems, but we must not lose hope. We must keep up our determination without being impatient to achieve quick results.
If you agree with anything I have written here, I hope you will follow it up in your day to day lives. As I have said before, if you want others to be happy, practise compassion, if you want to be happy, practise compassion.
Originally published by India Today, September 30, 2021