Beyond "Us" and "Them"
THE DALAI LAMA encourages us to embrace a sense of global responsibility,
an example of his down-to-earth approach that inspires people around the
brothers and sisters—and when I say “brothers and sisters,” I really
mean it! Especially at this moment in our history, we are in real need
of such a warm-hearted spirit. Our usual concept of “us” and “them” is
outdated. In its place, we need an attitude that sees all human beings
as our brothers and sisters, that considers others to be part of “us.”
of the problems that we confront day to day are essentially man-made.
They are unnecessary. The natural problems of life are quite enough, so
what point is there in creating additional problems for ourselves? Is
this wise? Certainly not. All these man-made problems ultimately derive
from dividing the world in this way: “us” versus “them.” We think to
ourselves, “We matter; they don’t.” As a result, we disregard the
welfare of others, at times even exploiting and cheating them.
is why I always emphasize the need for a sense of global
responsibility. It is foolish to think that the interests of six billion
human beings are less important than one’s own. Every one of us yearns
for a happy life. No one deliberately works to create problems or
suffering; each of us acts with the intention to bring about happier
days. But because we focus on ourselves alone, caring little about
others—because we operate out of an egoistic motivation—our actions
become unrealistic. We act improperly, and as a result, all kinds of
unwanted problems arise, created by ourselves alone. We therefore need a
healthy and proper mental attitude. I think this is very important.
now humanity has paid adequate attention to material development.
Compare our preoccupation with our material well-being with the
attention we pay to our minds. Our concern with inner development and
inner values pales by comparison, doesn’t it? Science and technology
brought us a multitude of material advances in the twentieth century;
these advances have sometimes also brought us greater fear and anxiety.
at the outset of the twenty-first century, we must ask ourselves: Why
have these material advances, which are meant to improve the lives of
human beings, failed to bring us greater contentment? Happiness and joy
are mental states, feelings. The same is true of sadness and pain. These
are all states of mind. And yet, we neglect the mind. Because pain and
pleasure are mental states, if we do not pay attention to our minds,
then no matter how intent we may be to obtain pleasure and reduce pain,
we will not succeed.
have noticed over the years that some of my wealthier friends are among
the most unhappy people I know. It is true that the rich often have
more friends—although whether these friends are friends of the wealthy
or of their wealth is a different question! In any case, I have seen
that even with their many friends, a wealthy person may be profoundly
unhappy. The search for comfort in money and power is wrongheaded and
simply does not work. The more effective way of dealing with our
unhappiness is to pay attention to inner values, to the inner sciences
of the mind. What do you think?
From Meditation on the Nature of Mind
by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. © Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai
Lama, and Jose Cabezon, 2011. Reprinted with permission from Wisdom