Last updated on July 7th, 2018 at 02:09 pm

The basic sources of happiness are a good heart, compassion, and love. If we have these, even if we are surrounded by hostility, we will feel little disturbance. On the other hand, if we lack compassion and our mental state is filled with anger or hatred, no matter what the situation, we will not have peace. We will feel insecure, and, eventually, afraid and lacking in self-confidence. Then even something small can destabilize our inner world. But if we are calm, even if we are confronted by a serious problem, we will know how to handle it.

Start With Calmness

To utilize our human intelligence fully, we need calmness. If we become unstable through anger, it is difficult for us to use our intelligence well. When we are overly influenced by negative thoughts, our intelligence becomes tarnished. Looking at human history over the last few thousand years, and particularly in this century, we see that human tragedies like the holocaust arise from negative emotions such as hatred, anger, fear, and suspicion. And we also see that the many positive developments of human history have all come from good mental states, such as compassion.

In economics today, every nation is dependent on every other nation. Even hostile nations have to cooperate in the use of the world’s resources. In both the global community and in the family, human beings need harmony and cooperation, which comes through mutual respect. Altruism is the most crucial factor.

If an individual has a sense of responsibility for humanity, he or she will naturally take care of the environment, including slowing down industrial growth and population growth. If we think narrow-mindedly and see only our own surroundings, we will not create a positive future. In the past, when we neglected the long-term effects of our actions, it was less consequential. But today, through science and technology, we can create far greater benefits or much more serious damage. The threat of nuclear weapons and the ability to damage our environment through, for example, deforestation, pollution, and ozone layer depletion, are quite alarming. We can all see the dangers of potential tragedies here. But other, barely noticeable changes, such as the loss of natural resources like topsoil, may be even more dangerous because, by the time they begin to affect us, it will be too late. In all respects, we see that genuine cooperation, the real sense of responsibility based on compassion and altruism, require not only that we respect human beings, but also that we respect, take care of, and refrain from interfering with other species and the environment. On every level of work concerning the happiness or satisfaction of the individual, the family, the nation, and the international community, the key is our altruistic mind.

As I travel around the world and meet people from various walks of life, I see that many are now showing real concern about these matters and agree with these views. The fundamental question is how to develop and maintain compassion. Certain religious beliefs, if you have them, can be very helpful, but if you do not have them, you can also survive quite well. Compassion, love, and forgiveness, however, are not luxuries. They are fundamental for our survival.

How to Develop Compassion and Love

Loving couple - How to develop compassion and love

Whenever I speak about the importance of compassion and love, people ask me what is the method for developing them? It is not easy. There is no particular package or method that enables you to develop these qualities instantaneously. You cannot just press a button and wait for them to appear. I know that many people expect things like this from a Dalai Lama, but, really, all I have to offer is my own experience. If you find something useful in this, please use it. But if you don’t find much of interest, I don’t mind if you just leave it.

We must begin by investigating our own daily experience and reading stories about others to see the consequences of anger and the consequences of love and compassion. If we make a comparative study of these two attitudes, we will develop a deeper understanding of the negative results of anger and the positive results of compassion. Once we are convinced of the benefits of compassion and the negative consequences of anger and hatred—that they always cause unhappiness within us—we will make greater efforts to have less anger. We usually think our anger is protecting us from something, but that is a deception. Most important is to realize the negative consequences of anger and hatred. Negative emotions do not help at all.

Anger is Just Blind Energy

Sometimes people feel that when there is a natural disaster or a tragedy brought about by human beings, they will have more energy and boldness to fight back if they are angry. But, in my experience, even though anger gives us energy to act or to speak out, it is blind energy and difficult to control. During that moment, we may not care, but, after a few minutes, we will feel much regret. When we are angry, we use nasty or harsh words, which, once spoken, cannot be withdrawn. Afterwards, when our anger has disappeared and we see the other person again, we feel terrible. During that moment, we lost our judgment and became half-mad.

There are many different levels and forces of anger. When a small anger is about to arise, it is easy to control. But, if a stronger, more forceful anger comes, we have to try different techniques to handle it. Once we see negative mental states as negative, that alone will reduce their strength. Through my own experience, I am convinced that as a result of less anger, we become happier and healthier, smile and laugh more, and have more friends. Mental tranquility, or calmness, is a very important source of happiness. An external enemy, no matter how powerful, cannot strike directly at our mental calmness, because calmness is formless. Our happiness or joy can only be destroyed by our own anger. The real enemy of joy is anger.

Investigating Your Mind

There are many different states of mind, and each directly affects our happiness. When we examine different states of mind within ourselves, we can cultivate and develop those that are positive and beneficial and avoid and eliminate those that are negative and destructive. The basic difference between the investigation of external matter and the investigation of mind is that the former requires large laboratories and a huge budget. In the internal world, you just investigate which thoughts are useful and which ones are harmful, and you keep and develop the ones you like, making constant effort. Over time, your mental state will become much better balanced, and you will find that you are happier and more stable. This is a kind of yoga for the mind.

Each day when we wake up, we can say to ourselves, “Altruistic attitude.” If we have an altruistic attitude, many favourable things will come. I practice these things and I know they are helpful. I try to be sincere to everyone, even the Chinese. If I develop some kind of ill-will, anger, or hatred, who will lose? I will lose my happiness, my sleep, and my appetite, but my ill feelings won’t hurt the Chinese at all. If I am agitated, my physical condition will become weak, and some people I could make happy will not become happy.

Some people may criticize me, but I try to remain joyful. If we want to work effectively for freedom and justice, it is best to do so without anger or ill-will. If we feel calm and have a sincere motivation, we can work hard for thirty or forty years. I believe that because of my firm commitment to nonviolence, based on a genuine sense of brotherhood and sisterhood, some positive results have been produced.

The Dalai Lama is the spiritual and temporal leader of the Tibetan people. His tireless efforts on behalf of human rights and world peace have brought him international recognition. He is a recipient of numerous awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

Reprinted from Engaged Buddhist Reader (1996) edited by Arnold Kotler with permission of Parallax Press, Berkeley, CA © 1996 Parallax Press.

image 1: Pixabay (; image 2: Marx Ilagan (

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