To Be Happy Be Compassionate
The Dalai Lama believes that the purpose of life is to be happy or content. The physical and mental aspects of happiness are separate. If your body is healthy you can ignore it, therefore the physical aspect of your happiness is secondary to the mental aspect. Even though the physical aspect of happiness is secondary, the Dalai Lama believes that anger and agitation make our bodies more susceptible to illness. He says, “From my own limited experience I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion.”
We can cultivate compassion by rationally responding to our enemies. We must try to ease suffering of everyone, regardless of who they are or what they have done to us. True compassion, which helps to bring a calm mind, is characterized by a genuine sympathy for others’ suffering and the will to ease their pain. The Dalai Lama does point out that developing this type of compassion is not easy.
Thank Our Enemies
There were several times I quoted the Dalai Lama while fixing a person’s computer. If the computer was running slow I would jest that I should thank the machine for teaching me patience. It is true that the best teachers we have to help us practice compassion and other virtuous traits are our enemies. The Dalai Lama teaches that we should be grateful for our enemies because they are essential in helping us achieve a tranquil mind. He goes on to say that often in public and personal life, a change in circumstance can turn enemies into friends.
The Real Bad Guys: Anger and Hatred
Anger and hatred are much more disruptive to our happiness than our enemies. To achieve compassion we must train our minds to remove these extremely powerful emotions. The Dalai Lama says, “Sometimes, when we are discouraged by a difficult situation, anger does seem helpful, appearing to bring with it more energy, confidence and determination.” He teaches us that although anger brings energy, that energy is blind and cannot be purposively controlled. An equally powerful energy to evoke when dealing with a difficult situation comes from compassion, reason, and patience. This can be seen as a sign of weakness but having compassion, reason, and patience is really a sign of inner strength.
The Dalai Lama teaches, “So, when a problem first arises, try to remain humble and maintain a sincere attitude and be concerned that the outcome is fair. Of course, others may try to take advantage of you, and if your remaining detached only encourages unjust aggression, adopt a strong stand.” It is important that this be done with compassion and without anger or ill-intent. The Dalai Lama goes on to say, “You should realize that even though your opponents appear to be harming you, in the end, their destructive activity will damage only themselves.”
Compassion and the Individual, by Tenzin Gyatso; The Fourteenth Dalai Lama