“The purpose of our existence is to seek happiness. It seems like common sense, and Western thinkers from Aristotle to William James have agreed with this idea. But isn’t a life based on seeking personal happiness by nature self-centered, even self-indulgent? Not necessarily. In fact, survey after survey has shown that it is unhappy people who tend to be most self-focused and are often socially withdrawn, brooding, and event antagonistic. Happy people, in contrast, are generally found to be more sociable, flexible, and creative and are able to tolerate life’s daily frustrations more easily than unhappy people, and, most important, they are found to be more loving and forgiving then unhappy people. Researchers have devised some interesting experiments demonstrating that happy people exhibit a certain quality of openness, a willingness to reach out and help others.” – Howard C. Cutler, M.D.
“There is a general agreement among psychologists that no matter what level of happiness we are endowed with by nature, there are steps we can take to work with the “mind factor,” to enhance our feelings of happiness. This is because our moment-to-moment happiness is largely determined by our outlook. In fact, whether we are feeling happy or unhappy at any given moment often has very little to do with our absolute conditions but, rather it is a function of how we perceive our situation, how satisfied we are with what we have.” – Howard C. Cutler, M.D.
“There are certain key elements that we conventionally acknowledge as contributing to joy and happiness. For example, good health is considered to be one of the necessary factors for a happy life. Another factor that we regard as a source of happiness is our material facilities, or the wealth that we accumulate. An additional factor is to have friendship, or companions. We all recognize that in order to enjoy a fulfilled life, we need a circle of friends with whom we can relate emotionally and trust. Now, all of these factors are, in fact, sources of happiness. But in order for an individual to be able to fully utilize them towards the goal of enjoying a happy and fulfilled life, your state of mind is key. It’s crucial. If we utilize our favorable circumstances, such as our good health or wealth, in positive ways, in helping others, they can be contributory factors in achieving a happier life. And of course we enjoy these things – our material facilities, success, and so on. But without the right mental attitude, without attention to the mental factor, these things have very little impact on our long-term feelings of happiness. For example, if you harbor hateful thoughts or intense anger somewhere deep down within yourself, then it ruins your health; thus it destroys one of the factors. Also, if you are mentally unhappy or frustrated, then physical comfort is not of much help. On the other hand, if you can maintain a calm, peaceful state of mind, then you can be a very happy person even if you have poor health. Or, even if you have wonderful possessions, when you are in an intense moment of anger or hatred, you feel like throwing them, breaking them. At that moment your possessions mean nothing. Today there are societies that are very developed materially, yet among them there are many people who are not very happy. Just underneath the beautiful surface of affluence there is a kind of mental unrest, leading to frustration, unnecessary quarrels, reliance on drugs or alcohol, and in the worst case, suicide. So there is no guarantee that wealth alone can give you the joy or fulfillment that you are seeking. The same can be said of your friends too. When you are in an intense state of anger or hatred, even a very close friend appears to you as somehow sort of frosty, or cold, distant, and quite annoying. All of this indicates the tremendous influence that the mental state, the mind factor, has on our experience of daily life. Naturally, then, we have to take that factor very seriously. So leaving aside the perspective of spiritual practice, even in worldly terms, in terms of our enjoying a happy day-to-day existence, the greater the level of calmness of our mind, the greater our peace of mind, the greater our ability to enjoy a happy and joyful life.” – Howard C. Cutler, M.D.
“Underlying all the Dalai Lama’s methods there is a set of basic beliefs that act as a substrate for all his actions: a belief in the fundamental gentleness and goodness of all human beings, a belief in the value of compassion, a belief in a policy of kindness, and a sense of commonality among all living creatures.” – Howard C. Cutler, M.D.
“I believe that the proper utilization of time is this: if you can, serve other people, other sentient beings. If not, at least refrain from harming them. I think that is the whole basis of my philosophy. So, let us reflect on what is truly of value in life, what gives meaning to our lives, and set our priorities on the basis of that. The purpose of our life needs to be positive. We weren’t born with the purpose of causing trouble, harming others. For our life to be of value, I think we must develop basic good human qualities – warmth, kindness, compassion. Then our life becomes meaningful and more peaceful – happier.” – The Dalai Lama
“Particular areas of the brain are specifically devoted to the potential for language. If we are exposed to the correct environmental conditions, that is, a society that speaks, then those discreet areas of the brain begin to develop and mature and our capacity for language grows. In the same way, all humans may be endowed with the “seed of compassion.” When exposed to the right conditions – at home, in society at large, and later perhaps through our own pointed efforts – that “seed” will flourish. With this idea in mind, researchers are now seeking to discover the optimal environmental conditions that will allow the seed of caring and compassion to ripen in children. They have identified several factors: having parents who are able to regulate their own emotions, who model caring behavior, who set appropriate limits on the children’s behavior, who communicate that a child is responsible for her or his own behavior, and who use reasoning to help direct the child’s attention to affective or emotional states and the consequences of her or his behavior on others.” – Howard C. Cutler, M.D.
On Making Positive Changes
“In discussing an approach to bringing about positive changes within oneself, learning is only the first step. There are other factors as well: conviction, determination, action, and effort. So the next step is developing conviction. Learning and education are important because they help one develop conviction of the need to change and help increase one’s commitment. This conviction to change then develops into determination. Next, one transforms determination into action – the strong determination to change enables one to make a sustained effort to implement the actual changes. This final factor of effort is critical.” – The Dalai Lama
On Dealing with Suffering
“If you can make comparisons, view your situation from a different perspective, somehow something happens. If you only look at that one event, then it appears bigger and bigger. If you focus too closely, too intensely, on a problem when it occurs, it appears uncontrollable. But if you compare that event with some other greater event, look at the same problem from a distance, then it appears smaller and less overwhelming.” – The Dalai Lama
“If there is a solution to the problem, there is no need to worry. If there is no solution, there is no sense in worrying either.” – The Dalai Lama
“If you understand spiritual practice in its true sense, then you can use all twenty-four hours of your day for your practice. True spirituality is a mental attitude that you can practice at any time. For example, if you find yourself in a situation in which you might be tempted to insult someone, then you immediately take precautions and restrain yourself from doing that. Similarly, if you encounter a situation in which you may lose your temper, immediately you are mindful and say, ‘No, this not the appropriate way.’ That actually is a spiritual practice. Seen in that light, you will always have time [for spiritual practice].” – The Dalai Lama
What is your favorite quote from the Dalai Lama?
Related HealLoveBe articles:
- Sources of Happiness (According to The Dalai Lama)
- How to Deal with Anger According to the Dalai Lama