source of happiness

Compassion is the source of happiness: The causes of happiness

"Compassion has two functions: it causes our brain to function better and it brings inner strength." - The 14th Dalai Lama

What are the causes of happiness? I think that since this body element goes well with a calm mind, not with a disturbed mind, therefore a calm mind is very important. It doesn’t matter our physical situation, mental calmness is most important. So, how can we bring about a calm mind?

Now, to get rid of all problems, that would be impractical; and to make the mind dull and forget about our problems, that doesn’t work either. We have to look clearly at our problems and deal with them, but at the same time keep a calm mind so that we have a realistic attitude and we are able to treat them well, deal with them well.

As for those who take tranquillisers—well, I have no experience. I don’t know if, at the time when people take tranquillisers, their intelligence is sharp or dull; I have to ask. For example, in 1959, when I was in Mussoorie, my mother or maybe it was somebody else who was disturbed and had a lot of anxiety: the sleep was disturbed. The doctor explained that there were some drugs that they could take, but this would make the mind a little dull. I thought at that time that that’s not good. On one side, you have a little calmness of mind, but on the other side, if the effect is dullness, this is no good. I prefer another way. I prefer having the intelligence fully functional and attentive and alert, but not disturbed. Undisturbed mental calmness is best.

For this, compassionate human affection is really important: the more compassionate our mind is, the better our brain functions. If our mind develops fear and anger, then when that happens, our brain functions more poorly. On one occasion I met a scientist who was over eighty years old. He gave me one of his books. I think it was called We Are Prisoners of Anger, something like that. While discussing his experience, he said that when we develop anger toward an object, the object appears very negatively. But ninety percent of that negativity is in our mental projection. This was from his own experience.

Buddhism says the same. When negative emotion develops, we can’t see reality. When we need to make a decision and the mind is dominated by anger; then chances are, we will make the wrong decision. No one wants to make a wrong decision, but at that moment, the part of our intelligence and brain that functions to differentiate right from wrong and make the best decision, that works very poorly. Even great leaders experience it like that.

The seed of compassion and affection is not something that comes from religion: it comes from biology

Therefore, compassion and affection help the brain to function more smoothly. Secondly, compassion gives us inner strength; it gives us self-confidence and that reduces fear, which, in turn, keeps our mind calm. Therefore, compassion has two functions: it causes our brain to function better and it brings inner strength. These, then, are the causes of happiness. I feel it is like that.

Now other faculties, of course, are also good for happiness. Everybody likes money, for example. If we have money, then we can enjoy good facilities. Usually, we consider these the topmost important things, but I think it’s not like that. Material comfort can come through physical effort, but mental comfort has to come through mental effort. If we go to a shop and offer money to the shopkeeper and say that we want to buy peace of mind, they will say they have nothing to sell. Many shopkeepers will feel that this is something mad and they will laugh at us. Some injections or pills can maybe bring temporary happiness or calmness of mind, but not at the fullest level. We can see with the example of counselling that we need to tackle emotions through discussion and reasoning. Thus, we must use a mental approach. Therefore, whenever I give talks, I say that we modern people think too much of external development. If we pay attention only to that level, that’s not enough. Genuine happiness and satisfaction must come from within.

The basic elements for that are compassion and human affection, and these come from biology. As an infant, our survival depends solely on affection. If affection is there, we feel safe. If it’s not there, we feel anxiety and insecurity. If we become separated from our mother, we cry. If we are in our mother’s arms and held tight, warmly, then we feel happy and we’re quiet. As a baby, this is a biological factor. One scientist, for instance, my teacher, a biologist who is involved with anti-nuclear violence – he told me that after birth, a mother’s physical touch for several weeks is very important for enlarging the baby’s brain and development. It brings a feeling of safety and comfort and this leads to the proper development of physical growth, including the brain.

So, the seed of compassion and affection is not something that comes from religion: it comes from biology. We each came from our mother’s womb and each of us survived due to our mother’s care and affection. In the Indian tradition, we consider birth from a lotus in a pure land. That sounds very nice, but perhaps the people there have more affection for lotuses than for people. So being born from a mother’s womb is better. Then we are already equipped with the seed of compassion. So, those are the causes of happiness.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso is the spiritual leader of Tibet. Since taking asylum in India in 1959, His Holiness has become a global advocator of peace, compassion and happiness. He is the first Nobel Laureate to be recognised for his concern for global environmental problems.


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