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Lions Roar : July 2019
be happy, ser ve and have compassion for others. And if one wishes oneself to be happy, then serve and have compassion for others.” He sometimes adds, with a chuckle, “I call this selfish wisdom; selfish compassion.” In a wonderful conversation chronicled in The Book of Joy, Archbishop Desmond Tutu asks His Holiness, “Why are you not morose?” “One of my practices comes from an ancient Indian teacher,” the Dalai Lama responds. “He taught that when you experience some tragic situation, think about it. If there’s no way to overcome the tragedy, then there is no use worrying too much. So I practice that.” As Shantideva wrote, “If something can be done about the situation, what need is there for dejection? And if nothing can be done about it, what use is there for being dejected?” WE ARE ALL BROTHERS AND SISTERS The Dalai Lama sees no reason to single himself out from the billions of other human beings who inhabit our small planet. He has said that whenever he meets another person, from the very beginning, he does not think of himself as anyone spe- cial—not the Dalai Lama, not a Buddhist monk, but simply as another human being. This gives him, he says, an immediate sense of comradeship and closeness with that person. This is further proof of the Dalai Lama’s belief that we are all fundamentally the same. By extension, he contends, being in the same boat compels us to love and to care for each other. From His Holiness’ 1989 Nobel Peace Prize accep- tance speech: We all seek happiness and want to avoid suffering. We all have essentially the same needs and similar concerns. As human beings, we all want to be free, to have the right to decide our own destiny as individuals as well as the destiny of our people. This is huma n nature. The problems that confront us today are created by man, whether they are violent conflicts, destruction of the environ- ment, pover ty, or hunger. These problems can be resolved thanks to human efforts, by understanding that we are brothers and sisters. COMPASSION “It is my fundamental conviction,” His Holiness wrote, “that compassion—the natural capacity of the human heart to feel concern for and connection with another being—constitutes a basic aspect of our nature shared by all human beings, as well as being the foundation of our happiness.” In his dialogue with Archbishop Tutu, His Holiness talked about the perspective that is the key to his worldview. “When I look at the world, there are a lot of problems, even within the People’s Republic of China. When we see these things, we realize that not only do we suffer, but so do many of our human brothers and sisters. So when we look at the same event from a wider perspective, we will reduce the worrying and our own suffering.” Recognizing that others suffer also lets us know, simultane- ously, that we are not alone and that we are all connected. This knowledge is the birth of empathy, which is the doorway of compassion. In the Black community from which I come, this ability to touch joy even while in the midst of suffering is shown through the musical art form known as the “blues.” Though in different cultures in different parts of the world, both His Holiness and Archbishop Tutu have known personally the heart-wrenching sufferings of an entire people. And having been there, having touched that depth of suffering, their joy emanates from the very depths of their spiritual being. UNIVERSAL RESPONSIBILITY From the time he first set foot on Indian soil after his escape from Tibet, His Holiness has espoused the notion of “universal responsibility.” There are now more than seven billion human beings on earth. They all wish, and deserve, to live a life of peace and nonscarcity, and the freedom to determine their own destiny. To the extent that we are able, it is our responsibility, as human beings, to help them achieve these things. A NEW ETHICS OF KINDNESS To make this sense of universal responsibility a reality, His Holiness has long advocated a new ethical model that tran- scends religious creeds and gets to the heart of who we truly are as human beings. He calls this an “ethics for the new millennium.” This would transcend our outer, temporary differences and reflect our innermost nature, which is love and compassion. “At the simple human level,” he explains, “we all have the capacity to empathize with one another ... and to arrive at the inability to bear the sight of another’s suffering.” “In this respect,” he says, “there is not an iota of difference between a believer and a nonbeliever, nor between people of one race or another. All ethical teachings, whether religious or nonreligious, aim to nurture this innate and precious quality, to develop it and to perfect it. LION’S ROAR | JULY 2019 51