Altruism is the most effective means of self-realization and self-perfection. Doing good for others is the best way to develop one’s own character and find greater happiness for oneself.
An attitude of compassion does not mean looking down on someone, pitying them in their misery. Compassion is based on respect. We discuss life as equals, learn from each other and strive together to improve our lives.
Compassion is the very soul of Buddhism. To pray for others, making their problems and anguish our own; to embrace those who are suffering, becoming their greatest ally; to continue giving them our support and encouragement until they become truly happy―it is in such humanistic actions that Buddhism lives and breathes.
Courage and compassion are two sides of the same coin. Compassion without courage is not genuine. You may have a compassionate thought or impulse, but if you don’t do or say anything, it’s not real compassion.
Encouragement means to plant the seed of courage in the lives of others. It is an act of regeneration.
Even when someone finds themselves in a vulnerable position, if they are surrounded by people who are prepared to share that challenge with them, it becomes possible to find a way forward. The way in which we experience even such conditions as poverty or illness can be profoundly transformed simply by the knowledge that we have the support of others. This is a core tenet of Buddhist philosophy.
However difficult our situation or profound our anguish, we always retain the capacity to light the flame of encouragement. This light dispels not only the darkness of others’ suffering, but also that which envelops our own heart.
Humanity’s collective mission in the cosmos lies in the practice of compassion.
In order to relieve another person of suffering one must identify with that person and share their suffering. This very identification is the means of practicing compassion, and the act of relieving others of suffering and giving them happiness is the path of self-perfection.
It is often enough for a person in anguish simply to know that there is someone thinking of them, sharing in their pain and plight, even though that person may be unable to actually help.
It is our refusal to dismiss any form of suffering as unrelated to us that brings our humanity to its true luster.
Our true selves shine and the inherent strength of our lives wells forth when we exert ourselves for others. This is human nature. And this is the way of life Buddhism teaches.
Sincerity knows no barriers of age or nationality. Words spoken out of genuine concern for others strike a powerful chord in people’s hearts.
Supporting, encouraging and reinvigorating each suffering individual we encounter is the first sure step to realizing a society that respects the dignity of life; it is the starting point for building peace.
The fact is, when we support others, we ourselves are actually being supported; when we help others, we ourselves are actually being helped. This is the worldview of “dependent origination” taught in Buddhism.
There are countless people in the world whose hearts have been wounded in some way. We need to extend a healing hand to such individuals. Through such efforts, we in fact heal ourselves.
To “love people” or “love humanity” in the abstract is easy, whereas to feel compassion toward actual individuals is difficult.
To have compassion means to feel the sufferings of others as one’s own. Because the Buddha has a deep desire to save others, he agonizes over what to do to achieve this. Such compassion gives rise to wisdom.
We are often highly sensitive to our own sufferings but oblivious to the pain of others. Buddhism teaches the importance of empathy, feeling the suffering of others as your own. A century based on respect for life will not be realized as long as this spirit is disregarded.
What our society today needs more than anything is the spirit of empathy—the ability to put ourselves in the shoes of those who are facing hardship and suffering, to understand and share what they are going through. When the spirit of compassion becomes the bedrock of society, and is embodied by society’s leaders, the future will be bright with hope.
When we care for others our own strength to live increases. When we help people expand their state of life, our lives also expand. Actions to benefit others are not separate from actions to benefit oneself. Our lives and the lives of others are ultimately inseparable.
When we light a lantern for others, our own way forward is lit. The source of illumination needed to dispel the chaos and darkness of the age is to be found in actions that bring forth our own inner light through committed action on behalf of others.
Words of encouragement motivated by the wish for someone’s happiness can function as a source of revitalizing light, rousing courage and strength.