Our nature is basically compassionate because we are social animals. What brings us together is love and affection. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
This is another quote that is easily dismissed by the cynical. It’s easy to dismiss the idea of love for others, but that doesn’t make this statement any less true. The belief of others, or the complete lack thereof, shouldn’t impact your ability to understand and believe this quote.
It says that we are compassionate because we are social animals. But when you think of nature shows about social animals (monkeys, wolves, etc), there seems to be constant strife. That’s because you’re watching TV. How quickly would you change the channel if all they showed was cooperation and compassionate aspects of the animals?
Yet social we are, and compassion is, along with love and affection, are the cornerstone for our societies. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t rivalries or even hostilities between our social groups. But it does mean that we have the skills and the tendencies to overcome these tensions with our compassion.
Why is are compassion, love, and affection important?
Without compassion, life would be bitter and cold. Without compassion, who would be there when you needed someone to lean on? Who would be there to provide you a shoulder to cry on?
Without love, life would be bleak and unbearable. Without love, who would be there to share in your victories or console you in your losses? Who would stand by you through thick or thin?
Without affection, life would be barren and desolate. Without affection, who would be there for you when you needed to snuggle? Who would be there to help you back to your feet and congratulate you on your effort?
Life would be pretty inhospitable without compassion, without love, and without affection. However, with these, we can build the social bonds necessary to succeed as a person, a group, and as a society. They are also necessary if we are going to succeed as a planet, and that has been the consistent message of the Dalai Lama, the betterment of humanity.
Where can I apply this in my life?
As usual, I would recommend starting you work in the smaller arenas, and working towards the larger ones. That means starting with family, then friends, your social groups, and then on to your community and, eventually, all of humanity. At least it looks good on paper.
What can you do with your family? Compassion, love, and affection are things you often think of with your standard family. But aren’t there usually a few people you don’t like as much, or at all? How often do you see them or interact with them?
There may be reasons you don’t get along, but they would also provide you a great way to practice your compassion, your love, and your affection, wouldn’t they? Now don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying you need to do things that would result in them hurting you or taking advantage of you.
However, even with people who are mean, you can show compassion, can’t you? You can forgive them, you can try to help them understand what they are doing and how to behave better, right? The same goes for love and for affection. They can also be shown without giving in to the other person.
When might you be able to practice these on your less appreciated family members? What specifically will you do when you meet them and over the hours you will share with them? You don’t have to plan every single detail, but you might want to have a couple specific things you want to get done.
What about your friends? Is there someone (or several someones) who are friends of friends, and often at gatherings, with whom you aren’t very social? Again, there may be valid reasons, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try. It just means that extra caution should be exercised, right?
What can you do to show your compassion, your love, and your affection? Please remember that there are non-romantic versions of these, and that is the types of actions of which I am speaking. It may take some effort or a few attempts to open the dialog and get past the cold and desolate landscape of your relationship.
Understand that you cannot change the other person. Just face it, you can’t. All you can do is educate and inform them, to show them that there is another way, and lead by example. And even if they chose not to follow, you can still show compassion, love, and affection to them.
The same goes for more loosely formed social groups, and even your community. By practicing with people you understand better, you can begin to gain skill, and begin to work in broader areas of your life. You can eventually reach people far outside your immediate circle, and that’s good.
It’s good for us as individuals to reach out to more distant people, and it’s good for humanity as a whole that we are becoming more social and more closely related. To me, this is a vital next step for humanity, due to all the other developments which are occurring world wide.
As the world becomes closer through communication, trade, and travel, it is imperative that we become closer socially. If we do not, we risk these added strains overcoming our social ability, and that will not end well, will it? I don’t believe it will.
What can you do, what are you willing to do, to be more social, and to reach out to others? Yes, it takes effort. Yes, it will be risky. But so will cleaning up the mess which will come if we do not put forth the effort now.