Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. ~ Dalai Lama
I believe that every human mind feels pleasure in doing good to another. ~ Thomas Jefferson
In every classroom, in every home, in every community, country and culture, we are often defined by the differences that exist between us. These differences can range from how much money we have in our pockets to the religions we choose to follow and everything else in between.
Sadly, society’s imposed importance on such differences often leads us to all kinds of conflict, which can include anything from bullying on an individual level to the most horrific clashes between nations who seek to decide whose God is bigger.
Even from our own subjective point of view, we often judge others by the ways in which they are different from us in terms of such things as level of intelligence, appearance, personality, status, aspirations and goals and so on. Almost anything can factor into our decision whether to accept a person as someone we can like and respect.
On the one hand, we can see differences are certainly not unhealthy in themselves. For example, traveling the world and experiencing different cultures on our own helps to broaden the mind and this can lead to furthering the development of our knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the world that exists beyond our own front door. In a similar fashion, there are many differences that serve to be a benefit to us and in this sense such differences should always be embraced.
However, all too often, differences can and are used as a means to narrow the mind and close off our willingness to embrace those who appear dissimilar to us.
In utilizing such an approach, we are in danger of missing out on realizing we all exist together and none of us are entirely independent of each other. In employing narrow-mindedness, our common humanity becomes invisible to us and we fail to see there is so much more that unites each and every of us than there exists to divide us.
We are all interdependent on each other. This interdependence can be extremely subtle, but it is there nonetheless and can be seen through a simple moment’s thought.
Take a look around you. The chances are that you did not make the clothes you are now wearing. Whatever you have eaten today most likely wasn’t produced by you. The bed you sleep in, the car you drive, the house in which you live, the carpets on which you walk, the computer on which you do your work…almost everything that surrounds you was provided through a process that included the hard work of so many people of whom you are not aware. Even the article you’re reading now was brought to you by so many other people.
In thinking this way, we come to realize just how interconnected we all are and as a result, we can hopefully come to know the crucial importance of our coexistence. I may have written this article, but perhaps some of you who are now reading it played some part in providing me with the laptop on which I am now writing. Or perhaps you helped to grow and produce the fruit I’ve eaten today, or maybe I have read something of yours online that has inspired or benefited me in some way. There are countless possibilities of how some of you could have helped me in some way or influenced someone else who has done so.
We are so lucky to be living in a time that allows us to communicate so quickly and easily with so many people all over the world and with this comes the responsibility to always be aware that even the slightest individual action can have a profound effect on another and certainly, we can never tell where the influence of that action will end.
In each of us, there is the capacity to help or harm those around us as well as those who we may never come to meet. When we think of ourselves, we expect to find happiness and peace and to be as free from suffering as possible. This is a universal truth. Therefore, we can say every single human being looks for the same things fundamentally that we do and deserves to find happiness and peace just as much as us.
On an average day, if you think of the amount of people who you come into contact with, they all have a share in your happiness; they can leave you feeling appreciated, valued and welcome, or they can leave you feeling worthless, unwanted and down.
Where there may be superficial differences that can sometimes separate us, on a deeper level, we are more alike than different and as individuals, we give so much to so many without knowing it and in return, there are countless others who provide for us without our ever being aware.
As the Dalai Lama has said, without love and compassion, humanity cannot survive and it is through realizing the importance of our coexisting that we are able to find compassion toward other people and in recognizing that they are just as valuable and important as we are, we come to know that they are deserving our every respect, appreciation and understanding just as we expect to receive theirs.
Sandy Clarke is a 27-year old journalist and writer from Scotland, UK. Having worked for the Scottish Parliament and various newspaper titles, Clarke has a keen interest in current affairs and global politics and as a practicing Buddhist, he also devotes a lot of time to spirituality.