In the first module of this course we explored the Dalai Lama's foundations of an ethical life. The base of this foundation is the observation that we all naturally desire happiness and freedom from suffering. From this basic understanding the Dalai Lama observes that ethical actions are those that do not harm another's seeking of happiness. In this context, the Dalai Lama introduces an understanding of reality which emphasizes the common interest of self and other. Finally we looked at the nature of happiness — what is genuine happiness, what is inner peace, and the relationship of inner peace and happiness to ethics and spirituality.
Having laid the foundation and described the goal — spiritual action based on a concern for others — we now look at the process of developing inner peace and compassion. The process is one of learning to identify compassion's causes and conditions — qualities such as patience, tolerance, forgiveness, humility — and then learning to cultivating them.
In this module you look more closely at the qualities of a ethical life and how to begin to cultivate these spiritual qualities:
If we wish to overcome the suffering which arises when negative thoughts and emotions are allowed to develop, cultivating virtue should not be seen as separate from restraining our response to them. They go hand in hand. This is why ethical discipline cannot be confined either to mere restraint or to mere affirmation of positive qualities.
It's a training program
The Dalai Lama is not offering a to-do list for becoming happy and compassionate. Rather he is teaching us how we ourselves can learn how mental factors affect our happiness and how to examine and know our own mental states.
While not ignoring the basic physical needs — food, shelter, etc. — the Dalai Lama emphasizes the critical role mental factors play in inner transformation. And because we are uneducated about our own mental processes, the first step is learning.
In this module we discover the two-pronged approach of:
There is a way
This process of inner transformation — selecting and focusing on positive mental states and challenging negative mental states — is liberating.
Through this process of learning, of analyzing which thoughts and emotions are beneficial and which are harmful, we gradually develop a firm determination to change. Now the secret to my own happiness, my own good future, is within my own hands. I must not miss that opportunity!
Changing how we perceive ourselves, through learning and understanding, can have a very real impact on how we interact with others and how we conduct our daily lives.