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Shambhala Sun | May 2011
You'll find this article on page 49 of the magazine.

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 world.

My 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 Our usual concept of “us” and “them” is outdated.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.”

Most 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.

That 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.

By 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.

Today, 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.

I 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?

As seen in the May 2011 issue of the Shambhala Sun. Click here to browse the entire issue online.

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 Publications.


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