I think we can all agree that suffering is one of the greatest challenges faced by all members of humanity.
What, then, does the Dalai Lama – the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism – have to say about suffering and how we can defeat it?
I came across a rare speech by the Dalai Lama where he not only explains the human action that is the antidote to suffering. He also gives an incredible explanation for why this is the case.
It gets better:
The reason is so obvious that you’ll likely adopt this as a new part of your perspective on human suffering almost immediately.
That’s at least what happened to me.
To begin, we have to share what the purpose of life is.
The purpose of life is happiness
That’s right, our purpose is to be happy and content.
The Dalai Lama says the following:
“From the moment of birth, every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering…. Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness.”
How can we achieve happiness?
The Dalai Lama divides every kind of happiness and suffering into two main categories: mental and physical.
Of the two, the mind exerts the greatest influence on most of us. This is because unless we’re gravely ill or deprived of basic necessities, we rarely think about our physical condition.
Therefore, we should devote our most serious efforts to bringing about mental peace.
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The Dalai Lama then shares:
“From my own limited experience I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion.”
“The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. This helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the ultimate source of success in life.”
Therefore we can strive to become gradually more compassionate, developing genuine sympathy for others’ suffering and the desire to help remove their pain. The result is that our own serenity and inner strength will increase.
Why we need love
Ultimately, the reason that love and compassion bring the greatest happiness to us is that our nature cherishes them above all else.
The need to love actually lies at the foundation of our human existence. The Dalai Lama explains why:
“It results from the profound interdependence we all share with one another. However capable and skillful an individual may be, left alone, he or she will not survive. However vigorous and independent one may feel during the most prosperous periods of life, when one is sick or very young or very old, one must depend on the support of others.”
The Dalai Lama continues:
“Inter-dependence, of course, is a fundamental law of nature. Not only higher forms of life but also many of the smallest insects are social beings who, without any religion, law or education, survive by mutual cooperation based on an innate recognition of their interconnectedness. The most subtle level of material phenomena is also governed by interdependence. All phenomena from the planet we inhabit to the oceans, clouds, forests and flowers that surround us, arise in dependence upon subtle patterns of energy. Without their proper interaction, they dissolve and decay.”
So there you have it. The ultimate action that is the antidote to suffering is acts of love. The reason is that love lies at the foundation of human existence, because our species and indeed the whole cosmos is completely interconnected.