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12 Timeless Life Lessons Learned from the Dalai Lama

12 Timeless Life Lessons Learned from the Dalai Lama

What greater tragedy could there be than to spend your whole life unhappy, fearful and/or in conflict with other human beings? Surely it is far better to use your time here on earth living a meaningful life that not only enriches your own life, but also the lives of others. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama – spiritual leader of the Tibetan people and head monk of the Gelugpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism – says: “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.”

A Nobel Peace Prize winner, the current Dalai Lama has spent his life teaching truths that help people reach greater happiness and enlightenment. He advocates for a life of compassion and service. Here are some of his most powerful life lessons that will benefit us if we internalize and put them into practice.

1.    We are all the same—members of the same human family

No matter what your status in life may be, you are still part of the same human family. We are all one. We should not be guided by notions of “them” vs. “us”, but instead think of our world much more in terms of a great “US.”

In the Dalai Lama’s own words from Kindness, Clarity, and Insight:

“Human beings by nature want happiness and do not want suffering. With that feeling everyone tries to achieve happiness and tries to get rid of suffering, and everyone has the basic right to do this. In this way, all here are the same, whether rich or poor, educated or uneducated, Easterner or Westerner, believer or non-believer, and within believers whether Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and so on.  Basically, from the viewpoint of real human value we are all the same.”

2.    If there is love, there is hope for families

Families today are plagued with strife, tensions and breakups, but the hope for families is love. If there is love in our homes, there is hope.

In the Dalai Lama’s own words from The Path to Tranquility: Daily Meditations:

“If there is love, there is hope to have real families, real brotherhood, real equanimity, and real peace. If the love within your mind is lost, if you continue to see other beings as enemies, then no matter how much knowledge or education you have, no matter how much material progress is made, only suffering and confusion will ensue.”

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3.   Good wishes alone are not sufficient; you must be actively engaged

Things won’t just work themselves out: you must work to bring about the change you desire in your life and in the lives of others. Roll up your sleeves and be actively engaged.

In the Dalai Lama’s own words from The Path to Tranquility: Daily Meditations:

“In the present circumstances, no one can afford to assume that someone else will solve their problems. Every individual has a responsibility to help guide our global family in the right direction. Good wishes are not sufficient; we must become actively engaged.”

4.    Before you generate love, you must first know what love is

You cannot offer what you don’t have or excite true love except by love. You must understand what love is and embrace it fully with all its costs. This way you will be able to generate true, sincere love and compassion.

In the Dalai Lama’s own words from The Compassionate Life:

“Before we can generate compassion and love, it is important to have a clear understanding of what we understand compassion and love to be. In simple terms, compassion and love can be defined as positive thoughts and feelings that give rise to such essential things in life as hope, courage, determination, and inner strength. In the Buddhist tradition, compassion and love are seen as two aspects of the same thing: Compassion is the wish for another being to be free from suffering; love is wanting them to have happiness.”

5.    Self-confidence is vital to making a better world

Self-confidence built on an awareness of your own potential is vital to making yourself and others better.

In the Dalai Lama’s own words from The Dalai Lama’s Book of Wisdom:

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“With the realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world. According to my own experience, self-confidence is very important. That sort of confidence is not a blind one; it is an awareness of one’s own potential. On that basis, human beings can transform themselves by increasing the good qualities and reducing the negative qualities.”

6.    Self-discipline is your best defense against negative emotions

Negative emotions like anger, bitterness, hate, and jealousy bring about disasters of epic proportions in modern life. We can combat and diffuse negative emotions by exercising self-discipline: self-discipline is your fortress.

In the Dalai Lama’s own words from Live in a Better Way: Reflections on Truth, Love and Happiness:

“Self-discipline, although difficult, and not always easy while combating negative emotions, should be a defensive measure. At least we will be able to prevent the advent of negative conduct dominated by negative emotion. That is ‘shila‘, or moral ethics. Once we develop this by familiarizing ourselves with it, along with mindfulness and conscientiousness, eventually that pattern and way of life will become a part of our own life.”

7.    Success does not come merely by luck

Successful people are not successful merely by luck. There is a cause for success. Hard work breeds success. You must not just sit and wait for luck to smile at you. We merit success by working for it.

In the Dalai Lama’s own words from Answers: Discussions with Western Buddhists:

“It is our custom to say that someone is “lucky” or “unlucky” if they meet with fortunate or unfortunate circumstances, respectively. It is however, too simplistic to think in terms of random “luck.” Even from a scientific point of view, this is not a sufficient explanation. Should something unfortunate happen, we immediately think, “Oh, how unlucky!” And yet this is not sufficient to explain what happened – there must be a cause. We seem to call “luck” that factor which overrides external conditions to bring about a positive situation. But that too is a cause; it is an inner cause, which we call “merit.”

8.    No action is meaningless in a community

Society exists as a collection of individuals. Every effort is important; every individual action significant. No action is meaningless. You must take initiative and be responsible for your actions to move communities forward.

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In the Dalai Lama’s own words from The Dalai Lama’s Book of Love and Compassion:

“Sometimes we feel that one individual’s action is very insignificant. Then we think, of course, that effects should come from channeling or from a unifying movement. But the movement of the society, community, or group of people means joining individuals. Society means a collection of individuals, so that initiative must come from individuals. Unless each individual develops a sense of responsibility, the whole community cannot move. So therefore, it is very essential that we should not feel that individual effort is meaningless- you should not feel that way. We should make an effort.”

9.   Tomorrow’s events depend very much on today’s actions

What we do today has a direct impact on our tomorrow. So, learn from yesterday, do your best today, and reap the fruits tomorrow.  

In the Dalai Lama’s own words from Live in a Better Way: Reflections on Truth, Love and Happiness:

“According to Buddhism, there is a commensurate relationship between cause and effect where pain and pleasure are concerned. The immediate cause is karma. Karma means action. Tomorrow’s events depend very much on today’s actions, this year’s events on last year’s, while this century’s events are linked with those of the previous centuries. The actions of previous generations affect the lives of the generations that follow. This is also a kin of karma. However, there is a difference between actions carried out by a group of people or sentient beings jointly, and actions carried out by single person. In individual cases, the actions of the earlier part of one’s life have an effect on the latter part of one’s life.”

10.   Calmness of mind is a supreme source of mental happiness

Calmness of mind brings mental tranquility and happiness even in difficult and trying times. Have a calm mind and nothing will shake you.

In the Dalai Lama’s own words from The Dalai Lama’s Book of Wisdom:

“We often speak of the external enemy. For example, in my own case, our Chinese brothers and sisters are destroying Tibetan rights and, in that way, more suffering and anxiety develops. But no matter how forceful this is, it cannot destroy the supreme source of my happiness, which is my calmness of mind. This is something an external enemy cannot destroy. Our country can be invaded, our possessions can be destroyed, our friends can be killed, but these are secondary for our mental happiness. The ultimate source of my mental happiness is my peace of mind. Nothing can destroy this except my own anger.”

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11.   True tranquility springs from fewer personal requirements

True tranquility calls for fewer personal requirements and higher involvement in community.

In the Dalai Lama’s own words from The Path to Tranquility: Daily Meditations:

“As far as your personal requirements are concerned, the ideal is to have fewer involvements, fewer obligations, and fewer affairs, business or whatever. However, so far as the interest of the larger  community is concerned, you must have as many involvements as possible and as many activities as possible.”

12.   Our own survival is tied to the survival of the natural environment

No matter how much we try to disengage from our natural environment, our own survival as a species is tied to the survival of the natural environment.

In the Dalai Lama’s own words from The Dalai Lama, A Policy of Kindness:

“Just as we should cultivate more gentle and peaceful relations with our fellow human beings, we should also extend that same kind of attitude towards the natural environment. Morally speaking, we should be concerned for our whole environment. This, however, is not just a question of morality or ethics, but also a question of our own survival. For this generation and for future generations, the environment is very important.

If we exploit the environment in extreme ways, we may receive some benefit today, but in the long run, we will suffer, as will our future generations. When the environment changes, the climatic condition also changes. When the climate changes dramatically, the economy and many other things change. Our physical health will be greatly affected. Again, conservation is not merely a question of morality, but a question of our own survival.”

More by this author

David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur. He is also the founding editor of Web Writer Spotlight.

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Last Updated on September 17, 2018

7 Signs of an Unhappy Relationship That Makes You Feel Stuck

7 Signs of an Unhappy Relationship That Makes You Feel Stuck

Relationships are complicated and when you’re unhappy, it can be difficult to tell what’s causing it and what needs to change.

Sometimes it’s as easy as opening up to your partner about your problems, while other times it may be necessary to switch partners or roll solo to get your mind straight.

When you’re in the thick of things, it can be difficult to tell if you’re unhappy in your relationship or just unhappy in general (in which case, a relationship may be just the cure you need).

Here’re signs of an unhappy relationship that is possibly making you feel stuck:

1. You’re depressed about your home life.

No matter what you do in life, you’re going to have good and bad days. Your relationship is no different.

However, no matter what you’re going through at home, you have to feel comfortable in your own home.

If you constantly dread going home because your significant other is there, there’s a problem. Maybe it’s something you already know about, everyone has an argument or just needs some alone time.

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When that yearning to be alone becomes an insatiable obsession over the course of months and years, it’s time to realize you’re not the exception to the rule.

You’re unhappy in your relationship, and you need to take a look in the mirror and do whatever it takes to make yourself smile.

2. You aren’t comfortable being yourself.

Remember all those things you discovered about yourself when you first got together? The way your partner made you feel when you met that made you fall in love with him or her in the first place.

If they don’t make you feel that way anymore, it’s not the end of the world. If your partner makes you uncomfortable about being you, then her or she is only dragging you down. It’s up to you to decide how to handle that.

You need to be comfortable with who you are. This means being comfortable in your skin and with the way you walk, talk, look, breath, move, and all the other things that make you uniquely you.

If the person who supposedly loves you doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, know that you can do better. They’re not even one in a billion.

3. You can’t stop snooping.

Mutual trust is necessary in any relationship. The only way to get that trust is with respect.

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I can find you anywhere online, no matter how private and secure you think you are. The odds of you having a password I can’t crack are slim. If we’ve met in person, I could install a remote key logger on your device without even touching it.

Finding your information online hardly takes a clandestine organization. Any idiot with a Wi-Fi-enabled device can cyberstalk you. I’m just the only idiot in the village admitting it.

So now that we know everyone snoops, it’s time to address your personal habits. Governments snoop because they don’t trust us. If you’re snooping on your partner, it’s because you don’t trust them.

It’s ok to have doubts, and it’s perfectly normal to look into anything that looks weird, but keep in mind that data collection is only half of an investigation.

If you find yourself constantly snooping and questioning everything, clearly there’s a trust issue and the relationship likely needs to end.

4. You’re afraid of commitment.

If you’ve been dating longer than a year and you aren’t engaged, it’s never going to happen.

Commitment is important. People will come up with a million ways to describe why they can’t be committed.

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No matter who you are if you like it, you need to put a ring on it. Find an engagement ring, stick a gemstone in it and marry the person. If you’re not legally able to get married or you don’t believe in it for one reason or another, have a child (or adopt one, however you’re able to) or treat your partner’s family like your own. It’s a huge financial and mental commitment.

If you’re not ready for one or the other after some time, don’t waste anymore of your precious life on the relationship.

Your relationship should be something that propels you forward. If it’s not going anywhere, make it an open relationship and call it what it is—dating multiple people.

5. You imagine a happier life without your partner.

If all you’re doing is imagining a happier life without your partner, it’s a sign that you’re in the wrong relationship. You’re unhappy and you need to get out.

Your partner should be included in your dreams. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a future with someone.

Try to remember what you dreamed of before you got your heart broken by the realities of life, love and the pursuit of human success.

Remember when you would crush on that cute kid in class? You would secretly imagine marrying him or her and going on an adventure—that’s the way life should be.

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If you’re not at least imagining adventures together, then why are you in that relationship?

6. You resent, rather than love your partner.

When a relationship starts to crumble, you begin to resent your partner for all the things you once loved about him or her.

When you’ve reached this point, your partner has reached at least No. 2 on this list. From your partner’s perspective, your unhappiness with them is picked up as bashing them for being who they are.

If you’re both unhappy in the relationship, it’s better if it ends as quickly and painlessly as possible.

7. You chase past feelings.

It’s okay to reminisce about the past, but if all you do is wish things were like they used to be, it’s a sign you’re not on the right path.

You’re unhappy and, at the very least, you need to have an open dialogue about it. This isn’t necessarily a sign that the relationship should end, but it definitely needs a spark.

When you talk to your partner candidly about what it is you’re looking for, you never know how they’ll react. The risk alone is worth it, good or bad.

Final thoughts

If you’re feeling stuck in your current relationship, it’s time to reflect about it with your partner. Don’t ignore these signs of an unhappy relationship as they will slowly go worse and harm both you and your partner in long-term.

Featured photo credit: josh peterson via unsplash.com

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