While searching for answers on how to overcome this unusual circumstance that we find ourselves in and what to learn from it, I stumbled upon the wise words of The Fourteenth Dalai Lama.
What the world seems to need is a human value that His Holiness has always promoted -compassion. He says that it “connotes love, affection, kindness, gentleness, generosity of spirit and warm-heartedness.” It is of universal and timeless value and should be considered a fundamental component of emotional health.
Dalai Lama explains, “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.”
While that sounds wonderful, how does one feel compassionate? Well, the answer is profound yet, simple.
His Holiness maintains that we are all members of one family – Homo sapiens, the family of Man. All one has to understand and internalize is that we are one people despite our many superficial and perceived differences.
Irrespective of how independent or self-sufficient one feels at the height of one’s glory or prime of youth, it is a fact that we are born helpless and often require assistance and care in our old age. At least in this most basic sense, we need our fellow humans.
Inter-dependence is the law of the universe. In the Dalai Lama's words, "All phenomena from the planet we inhabit to the oceans, clouds, forests, and flowers that surround us, arise in dependence upon subtle patterns of energy. Without their proper interaction, they dissolve and decay." Humans are not above this law.
"Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive."
Our dependence, the reality, and the nature of our interdependence go much deeper than we realize. Despite our material wealth and excellent healthcare facilities, the lack of human connections and positive relationships has taken a toll on our mental health. Humans are social beings that need love, nurturing, and social fabric to grow and thrive.
Compassion Is Self-Serving
There's more than one reason to become a more compassionate person. It is probably the most self-serving of altruistic behaviors! By helping another, one is helping oneself.
Compassion leads to happiness. It is an effective antidote to anger and fear. Its practice will lead to peace of mind, a feeling of oneness with others, and a robust immune system.
The benefits of compassion and compassionate actions are manifold. Such acts and behavior open one up to experiencing life more deeply, meaningfully, and empathetically. It expands the scope of one's identity and broadens one's perspective.
As the Dalai Lama explains, compassion is the key in the current scenario. The pandemic has acted as an equalizer. The virus has not discriminated or played favorites along the lines of class, color, or race.
By showing compassion to our fellow human beings, paying heed to their needs, alleviating their suffering, sharing their loss, we can defeat the invisible microorganism that is testing our resilience and tenacity.
As the medicines and vaccines heal the body, by acting as one family, as His Holiness puts it, by being compassionate, we can regain our sense of safety and shore up our mental health.