Good Heart

by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

Anyone who has good thoughts, who does a lot to help others, and who leaves behind good memories is respected by people all over the world, regardless of whether they are religious or not. On the other hand, the ignorance, arrogance, and obstinacy of certain individuals, whether their intentions were good or evil, have been at the root of all the tragedies of history. The mere names of these ruthless tyrants inspire fear and loathing. So the extent to which people will like us naturally depends on how much or how little we think of others’ good.

Speaking of my own experience, I sometimes wonder why a lot of people like me. When I think about it, I cannot find in myself any specially good quality, except for one small thing. That is the positive mind, which I try to explain to others and which I do my best to develop myself. Of course, there are moments when I do get angry, but in the depth of my heart, I do not hold a grudge against anyone. I cannot pretend that I am really able to practice bodhichitta [awakened heart], but it does give me tremendous inspiration. Deep inside me, I realise how valuable and beneficial it is, that is all. And I try as much as possible to consider others to be more important than myself. I think that’s why people take note of me and like me, because of my good heart.

When people say that I have worked a lot for peace, I feel embarrassed. I feel like laughing. I don’t think I have done very much for world peace. It’s just that my practice is the peaceful path of kindness, love, compassion, and not harming others. This has become part of me. It is not something for which I have specially volunteered. I am simply a follower of the Buddha, and the Buddha taught that patience is the supreme means for transcending suffering. He said, “If a monk harms others, he is not a monk.” I am a Buddhist monk, so I try to practice accordingly. When people think this practice is something unique and special and call me a leader of world peace, I feel almost ashamed!

A good heart is the source of all happiness and joy, and we can all be good-hearted if we make an effort. But better still is to have bodhichitta, which is a good heart imbued with wisdom. It is the strong desire to attain enlightenment in order to deliver all beings from suffering and bring them to Buddhahood. This thought of helping others is rooted in compassion, which grows from a feeling of gratitude and love for beings, who are afflicted by suffering. . .

Our greatest enemy is to consider ourselves more important than others, which leads us and others to certain ruin. From this attachment to “I” arises all the harm, fear, and suffering in this world. What, asks Shantideva, am I to do with this great demon?

If there is no self-surrender,
Sorrow likewise cannot be avoided.
A man will not escape from being burned if he does not keep away from fire.
To free yourself from harm and others from their sufferings,
Give away yourself for others,
Holding others dear as now you do yourself.

Dalai Lama 125.


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