Lama on improving life

Everyday life is so competitive, it seems: at the workplace, on the playing field, in schools and universities. The need to ‘win’ still prompts us, rather than the idea of cooperation and team effort.

The Dalai of Tibet enjoins us, “To help us bring benefit to others through our words and actions, it is useful to cultivate an attitude of sympathetic joy in others’ achievements and good fortune. This attitude is a powerful antidote against envy, which is not only a source of unnecessary suffering on the individual level but also an obstacle to our ability to reach out and engage with others.”

There is an antidote for the disease of extreme self-centeredness. According to His Holiness, “As outlined in some classical Buddhist texts, these are as follows: an ethic of restraint - deliberately refraining from doing actual or potential harm to others; an ethic of virtue - actively cultivating and enhancing our positive behaviour and inner values; and an ethic of  altruism - dedicating our lives, genuinely and selflessly, to the welfare of others.”
We already know that we cannot change others, but we can change ourselves. At best, we might influence others by improving our own lives. Happiness could be contagious. It is not enough to simply want to change, we must do it.

The King of Tibet teaches, “Obviously harmful behaviour must be abandoned. But the ethic of restraint calls for more than this. Before we can contemplate actively benefiting others, we must first of all ensure that we do them no harm, even by our actions which are not immediately violent.”

Shunning others, avoiding them, turning away when we see them coming near - these are some of the ways we harm people we might have legitimate complaints about. However, this type of avoidance is not a lasting remedy and it may not seem violent, but it is. It’s one thing to avoid. It’s another to confront.

His Holiness prescribes that we confront our own mistakes. He suggests, “If through mindfulness, awareness, and heedfulness, we can manage to refrain from harming others in our every day actions and words, we can start to give more serious attention to actively doing good, and this can be a source of great joy and inner confidence. We can benefit others through our actions by being warm and generous toward them, by being charitable, and by helping those in need.”

One of the best ways to benefit others is to give up lying, slandering, and gossiping about them. This negative habit can be overcome. For example, by remembering what we do to another comes back to roost on us.

“While harm inflicted by outward actions can normally be seen, the suffering we inflict on others with words can be more hidden but is often no less damaging.” Dalai Tenzin Gyatso, insists, “This is particularly the case in our closest, most intimate relationships. We humans are quite sensitive, and it is easy to inflict suffering on those around us through our careless use of harsh words.”

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