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Step 1 — Establishing Equanimity



Kindness is society.

H.H. the Dalai Lama

During a lecture when I was interpreting for the Dalai Lama, he said, in what seemed to me to be broken English, "Kindness is society." At the time, I thought he meant that kindness is important to society. But he was saying that kindness is so important that we cannot have society without it. Kindness is society; society is kindness.
Both capitalist countries and communist countries have tried to have society without kindness, based on some other principle, such as oneself first or the state first. Both approaches have been miserable failures. Controlling people through coercion doesn't work, whatever the technique. Whatever coercion method the government works out, the other side will get around it. As long as the spirit of cooperation, the spirit of wanting to take care of one another, is not there, it is impossible to devise a workable system.

Just as I want happiness and don't want suffering, so you . . .

The Dalai Lama is fond of saying, when beginning to address a group, that he feels he knows each individual just like his own brother or sister. And actually, we all know each other quite well. Sometimes, when the Dalai Lama says that we all want happiness and do not want suffering, it seems to be a platitude, not worth saying. But it is worth saying, contemplating, and making into a meditation, because we don't remain in constant recognition that, just as I want happiness and don't want suffering, so you want happiness and don't want suffering. Rather, we might think: "Oh yes, I want happiness and don't want suffering, and yes, these people want happiness and don't want suffering. Yes of course." But all too often our next thought is "How can they serve me?"

Our usual habits draw us into thinking, "How can you serve my quest for pleasure and my quest to get rid of pain?" However, if I remember that I want happiness and don't want suffering and you equally have the same aspiration, I cannot possibly ask you to serve me.

Reflect on this. If gaining happiness and getting rid of suffering are worthwhile for me, then they're worthwhile for everyone equally.

As you begin this course on cultivating compassion, can you imagine that understanding that others are so much like yourself can create a different perspective, a startlingly changed world-view? That, when this view is internalized, you are no longer confronting another person over a divide but rather meeting them as someone with whom you have much in common? Reflect on the potential to feel you know everyone.