Desire for happiness is a force that drives everyone in the world. But while most people reach for outward possessions for fulfillment, His Holiness the Dalai Lama tells us that internal happiness is the key, and that it starts with peace of mind. In his book, The Dalai Lama’s Big Book of Happiness (Hampton Roads Publishing, 2016), readers are reminded that to live in a world of joy and harmony, you have to start with yourself. Only then can you reach out to others with warmth and make a difference in their lives.
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Our first aim is to create a happy world, which is based on a happy community, which in turn is based on a happy family and a happy individual. So, without the happy individual, a happy world cannot be created. Of course, I am a Buddhist and fasting and praying is a part of my life. But one cannot achieve a happy world through prayers. Prayer brings limited benefit to the individual, but none to the world. For a happy world, an individual should be a sensible person and spread the happiness within the family, the community, and then on a national and a global level.
A happy human being does not have to be religious, but should include meditation in his daily life to become a sensible human being. Global level peace cannot be attained through religion because of the existence of a large number of nonbelievers. The main aim is to find a secular way of attaining peace, without touching religion. In the West, my friends who are Christians and Muslims believe that secularism is about disrespecting their religion. But in India, secularism is about respecting all religions and does not give any preference to any religion.
According to my Indian friend, the former deputy prime minister of India, secularism gives respect to nonbelievers too. For more than two thousand years, a small section of philosophers have denied the existence of the next life or the concept of karma. He told me that the section of believers had to face criticism for that view, but they were not disrespected in any manner. So, when I say secular, I don’t mean any disrespect to any religion. I am a Buddhist and I believe in religion, but I respect all religions and talk about secularism. With my limited understanding and vocabulary in English, I will try to explain the meaning of secular ethics.
According to me, value means something useful and helpful for our existence. We have a body and a mind, but we need to have a healthy body and a healthy mind. A healthy mind is a phenomenon which involves a subjective way of viewing things. The world of the mind is made of neurons but has different levels, according to Indian psychology. The more subtle-level emotions are based on the sensorial level of the mind; whereas the dream state is the deeper level of mind which does not depend on senses, but depends on five kinds of mental objects.
Dreams, which are the other level of consciousness, are based on experiences or perceptions. Further, the brain function seeks subtle level of consciousness. Some people in India believe that after death, brain function stops but body remains fresh. Scientifically speaking, there are no explanations. But now some research is being conducted regarding this issue. Consciousness of mind in some area has become the subject of discussion. Mind can only have subjective experience which does not have any color or form, but one can only feel. That energy which accompanies the mental process within the technology of reality is part of mantra, not the mind.
In order to achieve a happy life, we need to take care of the body and mind both. Physically, one may be fit but may not be happy. If one takes tranquilizers or alcohol as a medicine for stress then they would feel like animals and will not be able to use human intelligence. The potential of our mind has to be utilized to make sure that education does not go waste. Even though animals have stronger senses than humans as their survival depends on it, we have brains and our thinking power is much more. It is wise to utilize our unique quality in order to attain a calm mind.
The main element, which is needed by people, is warmheartedness. The mind is divided in two categories — the first is the cognitive level, based on intelligence and emotions, which are linked to motivations. Modern education seems to pay more attention to intelligence and not enough to emotions. Religion emphasizes the development of the other side, the one which is dependent on motivations. Indian tradition has a concept which combines both the categories of mind. The Pope has also emphasized that faith and reason should go together.
Intelligence alone creates more vision, desire and ambition but also brings more fear, suspicion, and distrust. Thus, a balance has to be struck between both the sides of the mind by motivating the emotional side of the mind through warm-heartedness, which will dispel any feeling of distrust. As social animals, humans need an open heart to become a happy individual, family, and community. Within the family, even a little distrust brings fear and loneliness. The emotional experience with the help of intelligence can help a person become happy. If faced with a tragic situation, a person with a balanced mind will be able to overcome the tragic situation easily.
Animals have limited intelligence, so they can’t develop good qualities. Humans can inculcate emotions like compassion and warm-heartedness. One form of compassion is biological, which is biased, but the other form of compassion can be cultivated. The cultivated compassion is oriented toward others. Through training, the cherished feeling, compassion for others, forgiveness and genuine concern, with the help of intelligence, can be given to all.
Reprinted with permission from Hampton Roads Publishing. The Dalai Lama’s Big Book of Happiness © 2016 by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and edited by Renuka Singh is available wherever books are sold, directly from the publisher at 1-800-423-7087, or at Red Wheel Weiser.