If you agree that universal responsibility is fundamental
to both personal happiness and the creation of a better world,
it is essential to begin to employ compassion in your everyday
life, to put principles into practice. But
how? Where to begin? How much is enough?
The Dalai Lama is not suggesting that one radically
change one's life situation. We are not being called upon to
adopt an entirely new way of life — to live like Gandhi
or to become a doctor, teacher or monk. Each of us can
begin with our current life situation and begin to bring more
compassion into our every day living.
With motivation and humility
The Dalai Lama notes that
this requires doing our work with the intention to benefit
others. Remember the importance of motivation.
Dalai Lama suggests:
So long as we carry out our
work with good motivation, thinking, "My work
is for others," it will be of benefit to the
If you find this difficult, it can be helpful to
reflect on all the benefits you accrue in your life
from others working for you. You needn't think of
the Gandhis and Martin Luther Kings (and Dalai Lamas).
Each day we are graced by innumerable acts that benefit
us. Because we take these for granted, reflecting
on just one day's experience can be eye-opening.
It can also be helpful to
remember the value of humility. We can to live our principles
in small ways, such as turning off a dripping faucet or helping
someone who needs assistance getting on the subway. Or, we can live our principles in
large ways; if we realize that our work can cause harm
to others then we may choose to change our work out of a sense
of responsibility. In living our life, have the courage to be
the responsible, honest politician, the businessman who considers
the waste produced by their production facilities, the lawyer
who fights for justice, the plumber who installs low-flow toilets,
the Muslim who respects Jews (and vice versa!)
As much as you can,
of your own volition
Whatever we do for others, whatever sacrifices
we make, should be voluntary and with a conscious understanding
of the benefit of such action. The Dalai Lama strongly encourages
those with wealth to view their resources as a tremendous opportunity
to help others; sharing their wealth to alleviate suffering. At
the same time, everyone cannot and should not divest themselves
of all their belongings or live the life of a monk; rather we
should move from where we are with moderation.
that he owns several expensive time pieces that he could sell
and build dwellings for the poor, but he has not yet chosen
to do this. In sharing this story from his own
life, the Dalai Lama shows how we can each start from our current
life situation and make the changes we are able to in the moment,
and how we can have compassion for ourselves as we recognize
where our principles and actions are not yet aligned.
We don't need to try to become infinitely compassionate
in one day or one week or one year; we take the steps we can,
moving forward in moderation.
Some people from the West, where
technology is so good, think that everything is automatic. You
should not expect this spiritual transformation to take place
within a short period; that is impossible. Keep it in your
mind and make a constant effort, then after 1 year, 5 years,
10 years, 15 years, you will eventually find
some change. I still sometimes find it very difficult to practice
these things. However, I really do believe that these practices
are extremely useful.
Making a commitment
Why, then, if the path to happiness is so clear, do we find
it so hard? Alas, we shrink from facing our negative thoughts
and emotions, thus allowing them to control our lives.
We waste so much of our time on meaningless activity
and feel deep regret over trivial matters. We use our abilities
too often to deceive our neighbors, take advantage of them and
better ourselves at their expense. We take our pleasures
where we can and shrink from considering others' well being on
the grounds we are too busy. Inevitably, by being inattentive
to the needs of others, we end up harming them. When things
don't work out, full of self-righteousness, we blame others for