The Dalai Lama, and My Path to Happiness

Nearly three years ago I was fortunate enough to see the Dalai Lama speak at the University of Washington.  To this day I have remembered his teachings, trying my best to be friendly, compassionate, patient, and tolerant.  Since his talk I’ve read several books by and about him, each as insightful as the next, my favorite being The Art of Happiness.  Today I’m grateful to have been able to see him speak again, this time at Stanford.  I’ve decided to share how I’ve grown the last three years with regard to his teachings with the hope that perhaps I can help some of you to be happier.

I grew up in a fairly wealthy suburb of Los Angeles, desiring to maintain my somewhat material lifestyle.  I even considered an investment banking internship before my senior year of college with the intention of retiring young and teaching.  I believe through traveling in Europe and China, along with truly believing in the Dalai Lama’s teachings, I have found an inner happiness that is stable and constant.  Let’s start with my travels.

Traveling opens one’s eyes to different cultures, each with different values and expectations.  For example, Denmark ranks the happiest country in Europe for several reasons including faith in government, good work/life balance, love of life, and many other things.  Witnessing the lives of those in countries like Denmark had a large impact on my realization that material desires are not only shallow, but they aren’t lasting and stable.  A material achievement, for example purchasing a fast car, leaves you wanting more.  Never will one’s desire for material possessions be fully satisfied.

The Dalai Lama’s principal teachings around inner peace are highlighted by compassion, patience, and tolerance.  True compassion for others opens our hearts wider than they would otherwise be, allowing for a momentum to build within us and drive us to be happier.  Compassion comes in two levels.  The first is compassion for your friends and family.  This type of compassion is more understandable and easier to contribute.  The second level of compassion is directed at one’s enemies, or those people that try to inflict harm on us.  When a human knowingly harms another such an action doesn’t go unnoticed.  Eventually this harmful human will be recognized in a family or community, alienating oneself and bringing upon loneliness and sorrow.  When anyone does harm on you, first understand that this harmful person is a human, striving to find happiness in this life.  Recognize that this harmful person is harming themselves, and exhibit the patience and tolerance to show this individual compassion.  Be compassionate because in the end knowingly harmful people will be lonely and unhappy.

Understand, too, that one’s enemy is the best teacher of patience and tolerance.  Instead of grimacing about a harmful person or situation, use such opportunities to improve your patience and tolerance.  Such qualities let us show compassion more easily to those who need it most, allowing us to open our hearts even more, providing more space for an inner peace and lasting happiness.

Inner peace isn’t a destination, though.  Instead it’s a journey we all take through the peaks and valleys of our emotional lives, where each peak we remind ourselves why we’re alive, and each valley we strengthen our inner self.  Through constant practice of patience, tolerance, and compassion we can grow happier, more peaceful and calm, contributing to our world with positive emotions, smiles, and laughter.

So I challenge you to be kind towards the next individual that causes you harm.  Recall that we’re all humans, striving to find happiness.  Use difficult times to teach yourself patience and tolerance.  Show true care and compassion to everyone and everything.  Warm those around you with your actions.  All the while your heart will open, allowing for a stronger bond with others, and a larger capacity for yourself to be happy, warm, and fulfilled.

I truly believe I’m happier when I’m kind and warm to others, when I see my actions cause others’ lips to curve, revealing a smile that connects us all together and reminds us all that we share so much in common.  We’re all humans, all striving to be happy.  I’ve surrounded myself with reminders, bringing to mind happiness as a journey and the truth that we’re all after the same goal.  I wear mala beads, have a jade Buddha next to my bed, and the following unknown quote printed and placed under said Buddha.

I shall pass this way but once; any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.

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