The Dalai Lama XIV, spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, can often be seen laughing, smiling and expressing his compassion to the world. He has three main commitments in life. One of which is to promote values (or virtues) such as compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment and self-discipline and their impact on personal happiness. As he says, “The purpose of our lives is to be happy.” What an uplifting declaration! We are on this earth to be happy―to do things that make us happy and have a mental state that exudes happiness. Let’s explore some quotes by the Dalai Lama, which speak to these values above and how they affect our happiness.
1. You become happier when you help others (Compassion): “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
How can we be happy when so many things in life cause us to be angry, anxious, discouraged, and doubtful? Of course, experiencing a range of emotions is normal and healthy, but sustained happiness seems unattainable. Being compassionate towards others is one way to lessen our negative emotions because we are taking the attention off ourselves and placing it on someone else, making us less self-involved. The less we focus on ourselves and our worries and obsessions, the more we feel good and make other’s feel good too.
2. Discover what makes you happy (Purpose): “I don’t know whether the universe, with its countless galaxies, stars and planets, has a deeper meaning or not, but at the very least, it is clear that we humans who live on this earth face the task of making a happy life for ourselves. Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness.”
Losing jobs, divorces, health problems, all affect our happiness. However, if we can find what brings us the “greatest degree of happiness” at least we are taking a more proactive approach in our quest for happiness. This can mean just making a list of the things that make you happy (small and large) and including at least one of them into your day. Alternatively, it could be finding a passion that you commit to having in your life and not waiting to work it into your schedule someday as years float by. Finding a purpose, whether it be to live each day to the fullest or to be the best parent possible or creating something, makes our life more joyful and meaningful.
3. You have all that you need (Contentment): “When you are discontent, you always want more, more, more. Your desire can never be satisfied. But when you practice contentment, you can say to yourself, ‘Oh yes — I already have everything that I really need.”
Changing a thought from “I’m not happy with the house I live in and want to move” to “I appreciate all that I have including this house I live in” can mean all the difference in how you feel day-to-day, less frustrated and anxious. Being unhappy with something means not accepting the situation as is and looking ahead for something better, causing anxiety and frustration. Shifting to thoughts of gratefulness for all we have instead of what we don’t have, helps us feel more contented.
4. Your enemy will make you stronger (Tolerance): “In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.”
How do we accept our enemy as a great teacher? When someone hurts us, it’s natural to feel anger and disappointment. This is the ultimate test of our mental strength in first recognizing that we are feeling these emotions and then making a conscious shift to think differently, especially in the long term. When we carry the hurt around for years, we build resentment and bad feelings. If we can forgive those who have hurt us, we can live a better life.
5. We have can retrain our minds (Self-discipline): “A disciplined mind leads to happiness, and an undisciplined mind leads to suffering.”
The Dalai Lama in his book, The Art of Happiness, explains that the first step in seeking happiness is learning. He says:
“We first have to learn how negative emotions and behaviors are harmful to us and how positive emotions are helpful. And we must realize how these negative emotions are not only very bad and harmful to one personally but harmful to society and the future of the whole world as well. That kind of realization enhances our determination to face and overcome them.”
This is where the self-discipline comes in by learning to retrain our mind to think more positively for our own sake and, as the Dalai Lama says, for the sake of the world. This is no easy task and it takes time and determination. We must first know and understand that we have the power to create a more positive mind. Then, with practice, like any other skill we want to develop, we can transform our thinking over time and achieve true happiness.