(The Power of Ideas) It’s strange to see such anger and discontent in the more developed nations of the world. Living conditions have never been better, yet people in these nations report great uneasiness about their own future that borders on hopelessness. Why? According to an article by the Dalai Lama in the NY Times, it’s because people in western countries are feeling unneeded.
The Dalai Lama says that this has nothing to do with being selfish or attached to the esteem of others. Rather, it is natural human desire to serve our fellow men and women. As the 13th-century Buddhist sages taught, “If one lights a fire for others, it will also brighten one’s own way.”
Research backs this up. A study found that Americans who prioritize doing good for others are almost twice as likely to say they are happy about their lives. In essence, the more we are one with the rest of humanity, the better we feel.
According to The Dalai Lama, this helps explain why pain and indignation are sweeping through prosperous countries.
The problem is not a lack of material riches. It is the growing number of people who feel they are no longer useful, no longer needed, no longer one with their societies”.
According to the Dalai Lama, there are two ways to solve this situation:
“The first answer is not systematic. It is personal. Everyone has something valuable to share. We should start each day by consciously asking ourselves, “What can I do today to appreciate the gifts that others offer me?” We need to make sure that global brotherhood and oneness with others are not just abstract ideas that we profess, but personal commitments that we mindfully put into practice.
Each of us has the responsibility to make this a habit. But those in positions of responsibility have a special opportunity to expand inclusion and build societies that truly need everyone.”
The second answer is more at the society level:
“Leaders need to recognize that a compassionate society must create a wealth of opportunities for meaningful work, so that everyone who is capable of contributing can do so. A compassionate society must provide children with education and training that enriches their lives, both with greater ethical understanding and with practical skills that can lead to economic security and inner peace. A compassionate society must protect the vulnerable while ensuring that these policies do not trap people in misery and dependence.”