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An Excerpt from How to See Yourself As You Really Are by His Holiness the Dalai Lama

His Holiness the Dalai Lama challenges us to see ourselves clearly and to move beyond ignorance and troublesome emotions to the practice of love and compassion. Here is an excerpt on the spiritual practice of peace.

"According to Buddhist psychology, most of our troubles stem from attachment to things that we mistakenly see as permanent. Operating from that misconception, we see aggression and competitiveness as helpful in the pursuit of what we imagine and desire. But this only foments belligerence. Such misguided thinking has always been going on in the human mind, but our ability to act on it has become greater, now that we have machines and techniques of enormous power to gather and consume resources. In this way, greed and aggression, spurred on by our ignorance of things as they really are, release more of their poison into the world. If problems are resolved in a humane way, they simply end, whereas if one tries inhumane ways, further problems are added to the previous ones.

"The humane antidote to these problems is love and compassion, which are the essential ingredients of world peace. We are social animals; the main factors keeping us together are love and compassion. When you have love and compassion for a very poor person, your feelings are based on altruism. By contrast, love toward your husband, wife, children, or a close friend is often mixed with attachment, and when your attachment changes, your kindness may disappear. Complete love is based not on attachment but on altruism, which is the most effective response to suffering.

"Love and compassion are what we must strive to cultivate in ourselves, extending their present boundaries all the way to limitlessness. Undiscriminating, spontaneous, unlimited love and compassion are possible even toward someone who has done harm to you — your enemy. And their power is astonishing.

"Buddhism teaches us to view all sentient beings as our dear mothers and to show our gratitude to our mothers by loving all sentient beings. One of the first actions we took in life was to suck milk from our mother's nipple, mother's milk being the very symbol of love and compassion. Scientists have documented through research on monkeys that offspring who are separated from their mothers for a prolonged period are more tense and harsh, lacking the capacity to express friendliness to others, whereas those brought up with their mothers are more playful, which implies happiness. According to the Buddhist outlook, we are born and reborn countless numbers of times, which means it is conceivable that each sentient being has been our parent at one time or another. In this way all beings share family ties. From the moment of our birth, we are under the care and kindness of our parents; later in life, when we face the suffering of disease and old age, we are again dependent on the kindness of others. If at the beginning and end of our lives we depend upon the kindness of others, why in the middle of our lives should we not act kindly toward them? It is the pragmatic choice.

"Developing a kind heart, a feeling of closeness for all beings, does not require following a conventional religious practice. It is not only for those who believe in religion. It is for everyone, regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation. It is for all who consider themselves to be, above all, members of the human family, who can embrace this larger and longer perspective. The basic values of love and compassion are present in us from the time of our birth, whereas racial, ethnic, political, and theological perspectives come later. Violence does not accord with our basic human nature, which may lead you to wonder why all sorts of violence become news but compassionate acts seldom do. The reason is that violence is shocking and not in conformity with our basic human nature, whereas we take compassionate acts for granted because they are closer to our nature.

"Since we all wish to gain happiness and avoid suffering, and since a single person is relatively unimportant in relation to countless others, we can see that it is worthwhile to share our possessions with others. Happiness that is a byproduct of loving and serving others is far superior to what we gain from serving only ourselves.

"Our lives are in constant flux, which generates many predicaments. But when these are faced with a calm and clear mind supported by spiritual practice, they can all be successfully resolved. When our minds are clouded by hatred, selfishness, jealousy, and anger, we lose not only control but also our judgment. At those wild moments, anything can happen, including war. Although the practice of compassion and wisdom is useful to us all, it is especially valuable for those responsible for running national affairs, in whose hands lie the power and opportunity to create a framework for world peace."

 


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How to See Yourself As You Really Are
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