Some of the greatest treasures in a used bookstore are often found in the most unlikely places. These books are easy to miss because they have been misplaced or are tucked away behind a dusty stack of books — forlorn or forgotten for months, years, even decades. Recently, I came across a copy of The Dalai Lama, A Policy of Kindness: An Anthology of Writings by and About the Dalai Lama in mint condition — something rare for paperback books of this age. According to the bookseller’s penciled notation, the book was acquired in 2012. This amazingly brilliant and insightful book had been lurking in the shadows for more than 7 years. Hard to believe. But now that book found a home, and with this post, a wider audience. Although the book was published in 1990, it as relevant today as it was almost two decades ago. In his speech titled “Kindness and Compassion, the Dalai Lama, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, challenges us to overlook our differences in religion, ideology, race, politics, economics, and embrace what we all share as human beings: the pursuit of happiness, and need for kindness, and compassion. He offers us hope in a new religion — one that doesn’t require temples and complex history, but simply the philosophy of kindness, straight from the heart. Here are some highlights of that memorable and inspiring speech.”
“I want to speak to you this evening about the importance of kindness and compassion. When I speak about this, I regard myself not as a Buddhist, not as the Dalai Lama, not as a Tibetan, but rather as one human being. And, I hope that you in the audience will, at this moment, think of yourselves as human beings rather than as Americans, or Westerners, or members of any particular group. These things are secondary. If from my side and from the listeners’ side we interact as human beings, we can reach this basic level. If I say, ‘I am a monk;’ or ‘I am a Buddhist;’ these are, in comparison to my nature as a human being, temporary. To be a human is basic. Once you are born as a human being, that cannot change until death. Other things — whether you are educated or uneducated, rich or poor — are secondary.
Today we face many problems. Some are created essentially by ourselves based on divisions due to ideology, religion, race, economic status, or other factors. Therefore, the time has come for us to think on a deeper level, onthe human level, and from that level we should appreciate and respect the sameness of others as human beings. We must build closer relationships of mutual trust, understanding, respect, and help, irrespective of differences of culture, philosophy, religion, or faith.
After all, all human beings are the same — made of human flesh, bones, and blood. We all want happiness and want to avoid suffering. Further, we all have an equal right to be happy. In other words, it is important to realize our sameness as human beings. We all belong to one human family. That we quarrel with each other is due to secondary reasons, and all of this arguing with each other, cheating each other, suppressing each other is of no use.
Unfortunately, for many centuries, human beings have used all sorts of methods to suppress and hurt one another. Many terrible things have been done. It has meant more problems, more suffering, and more mistrust,resulting in more feelings of hatred and more divisions…
All of us want happiness. In cities, on farms, even in remote places, people are busy and active. What is the main purpose of this activity? Everyone is trying to create happiness. To do so is right. However, it is very important to follow a correct method in seeking happiness. We must keep in mind that too much involvement on a superficial level will not solve the larger problems.
There are all about us many crises, many fears. Through highly developed science and technology, we have reached an advanced level of material progress that is both useful and necessary. Yet, if you compare the external progress with our internal progress, it is quite clear that our internal progress is inadequate. In many countries, crises — murders, wars and terrorism — are chronic. People complain about the decline in morality and the rise in criminal activity. Although in external matters we are highly developed and continue to progress, at the same time it is equally important to develop and progress in terms of inner development….
Anger cannot be overcome by anger. If a person shows anger to you, and you respond with anger, the result is disastrous. In contrast, if you control anger and show opposite attitudes — compassion, tolerance, and patience — then not only do you yourself remain in peace, but the other’s anger will gradually diminish.
World problems similarly cannot be challenged by anger or hatred. They must be faced with compassion, love, and true kindness. Look at all the terrible weapons there are. Yet, the weapons themselves cannot start a war. The button to trigger them is under a human finger, which moves by thought, not under its own power. The responsibility rests in our thought.
If you look deeply into such things, the blueprint is found within — in the mind — out of which actions come. Thus, first controlling the mind is very important. I am not talking here about controlling the mind in the sense of deep meditation, but just about cultivating less anger, more respect for others’ rights, more concern for other people, more clear realization of our sameness as human beings… Rather than just advertising to make money for ourselves, we need to use these media for something meaningful, something seriously directed towards the welfare of humankind. Not money alone. Money is necessary, but the actual purpose of money is for human beings. Sometimes we lose interest in the human and are just concerned about money. This is not sensible.
After all, we all want happiness, and no one will disagree with the fact that with anger, peace is impossible. With kindness and love, peace of mind can be achieved. No one wants anger, no one wants mental unrest, yet because of ignorance, they occur. Bad attitudes, such as depression, arise from the power of ignorance, not of their own accord.
Through anger we lose one of the best human qualities — the power of judgement. We have a good brain, which other mammals do not have, allowing us to judge what is right and what is wrong, not only in terms of today’s concerns, but considering ten, twenty, or even a hundred years in the future. Without any precognition, we can use our normal common sense to determine if something is a right or wrong method; we can decide that if we do such and such, it will lead to such and such — effect. However, once our mind is occupied by anger we lose this power of judgement, and once lost, it is very sad. Physically you are a human being, but mentally you are incomplete. Given that we have this physical human form, we must safeguard our mental capacity for judgement. For that, we cannot take out insurance; the insurance company is within: self-discipline, self-awareness, and a clear realization of the disadvantages of anger and the positive effects of kindness. Thinking about this again and again, we can become convinced of it, and then with self-awareness, we can control the mind.
For instance, at present you may be a person who gets quickly and easily irritated by small things. With clear understanding and awareness, this can be controlled. If you usually remain angry for ten minutes, try to reduce it to eight. Next week make it five minutes and the next month two. Then make it zero. That is how to develop and train our minds.
This is my feeling and also the sort of practice I myself do. It is quite clear that everyone needs peace of mind. The question, then, is how to achieve it. Through anger we cannot; through kindness, through love, through compassion, we can achieve one individual’s peace of mind. The result of this is a peaceful family — happiness between parents and children, fewer quarrels between husband and wife; no worry about divorce. Extended to the national level, this attitude can bring unity, harmony, and cooperation with genuine motivation. On the international level, we need mutual trust, mutual respect, frank and friendly discussion with sincere motivation, and joint effort to solve world problems. All these are possible.
But first we must change within ourselves. Our national leaders try their best to solve our problems, but when one problern is solved, another one crops up; trying to solve that, again there is another somewhere else. The time has come to try a different approach. Of course, it is very diffiicult to achieve such a worldwide movement for peace of mind, but it is the only alternative. If there were another method that was easier and more practical, it would be better, but there is none….
Therefore, although it is difficult to attempt to bring about peace through internal transformation, this is the only way to achieve lasting world peace. Even if during my own lifetime it is not achieved, it is all right. More human beings will come, the next generation and the one after that, and progress can continue. I feel that despite the practical difficulties and the sense that this is regarded as an unrealistic view, it is worthwhile to make the attempt. Therefore, wherever I go, I express these things. I am encouraged that peoplefrom different walks of life generally receive it well.
Each of us has a responsibility for all humankind. It is time for us to think of other people as true brothers and sisters and to be concerned with their welfare, with lessening their suffering. Even if you cannot sacrifice your own benefit entirely, you should not forget the concerns of others. We should think more about the future and benefit of all humanity.
Also, if you try to subdue your selfish motives — anger, and so forth — and develop more kindness and compassion for others, ultimately you yourself will benefit more than you would otherwise. So sometimes I say that the wise selfish person should practice this way. Foolish selfish people are always thinking of themselves, and the result is negative. Wise selfish people think of others, help others as much as they can, and the result is that they too receive benefit.
This is my simple religion — there is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”
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