The creation of a more peaceful and happier society has to begin from the level of the individual, and from there it can expand to one’s family, to one’s neighborhood, to one’s community and so on.
When we are angry we are blind to reality. Anger may bring us a temporary burst of energy, but that energy is blind and it blocks the part of our brain that distinguishes right from wrong. To deal with our problems, we need to be practical and realistic. If we are to be realistic, we need to use our human intelligence properly, which means we need a calm mind.
Generosity is the most natural outward expression of an inner attitude of compassion and loving-kindness. When one desires to alleviate the suffering of others and to promote their well-being, then generosity – in action, word, and thought – is this desire put into practice. It is important to recognize the “generosity” here refers not just to giving in a material sense, but to generosity of the heart.
In the face of all the challenges we face today, is my optimism about the future of humanity idealistic? Perhaps it is. Is it unrealistic? Certainly not. To remain indifferent to the challenges we face is indefensible. If the goal is noble, whether or not it is realized within our lifetime is largely irrelevant. What we must do therefore is to strive and persevere and never give up.
Compassion is something really worthwhile. It is not just a religious or spiritual subject, not a matter of ideology. It is not a luxury, it is a necessity.
In an increasingly interdependent world our own welfare and happiness depend on many other people. Other human beings have a right to peace and happiness that is equal to our own; therefore we have a responsibility to help those in need. Many of our world’s problems and conflicts arise because we have lost sight of the basic humanity that binds us all together as a human family.
The first beneficiary of compassion is always oneself. When compassion, or warmheartedness, arises in us and our focus shifts away from our own narrow self-interest, it is as if we open an inner door. It reduces fear, boosts confidence and brings us inner strength. By reducing distrust, it opens us to others and brings us a sense of connection to others, and sense of purpose and meaning in life.
My hope and wish is that one day, formal education will pay attention to what I call “education of the heart.” Just as we take for granted the need to acquire proficiency in the basic academic subjects, I am hopeful that a time will come when we can take it for granted that children will learn, as part of the curriculum, the indispensability of inner values: love, compassion, justice, and forgiveness.
Even more important than the warmth and affection we receive, is the warmth and affection we give. It is by giving warmth and affection, by having a genuine sense of concern for others, in other words through compassion, that we gain the conditions for genuine happiness. More important than being loved, therefore, is to love.