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Excerpted from Voices from the Heart by Eddie and Debbie Shapiro (editors). Copyright © 1998 by Eddie and Debbie Shapiro. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright © by SpiritSite.com.

"The need for love lies at the very foundation of human existence."

H.H. The Dalai Lama, "Compassion and Universal Responsibility" from Voices from the Heart, Part 2

As long as we live in this world, we are bound to encounter problems. If, at such times, we lose hope and become discouraged, we diminish our ability to face difficulties. If, on the other hand, we remember that it is not just ourselves but everyone who has to undergo suffering, this more realistic perspective will increase our determination and capacity to overcome troubles. Indeed, with this attitude, each new obstacle can be seen as yet another valuable opportunity to improve our mind. Thus we can strive gradually to become more compassionate, by developing both genuine sympathy for others' suffering and the will to help remove their pain. As a result, our own serenity and inner strength will increase.

Ultimately, the reason why love and compassion bring greatest happiness is simply that from the core of our nature these are deeply appreciated. The need for love lies at the very foundation of human existence. It results from the profound interdependence we all share with one another. However capable and skillful an individual may be, left alone, he or she will not survive. However vigorous and independent we may feel during the most prosperous periods of life, when we are sick, very young, or very old, we must depend on the support of others.

Interdependence, of course, is a fundamental law of nature. Not only higher forms of life but also many of the smallest insects are social beings. The insects, without any religion or law, survive by mutual cooperation based on an innate recognition of their interconnectedness. The laws of nature dictate that bees, for instance, work together in order to survive. As a result, they possess an instinctive sense of social responsibility They have no constitution, laws, police, religion, or moral training, but because of their nature, they labor faithfully together on a basis of mutual cooperation. Human beings, on the other hand, have constitutions, vast legal systems, and police forces; we also have religion, remarkable intelligence, and a heart with a great capacity to love. But despite our many extraordinary qualities, in practice we lack a sense of responsibility toward our fellow humans. In some ways I feel we are poorer than the bees.

For instance, millions of people live together in large cities all over the world, but despite this proximity, many are lonely. Some do not have even one human being with whom to share their deepest feelings, and they live in a state of perpetual agitation. Some years ago I met some scientists in the United States who said that the rate of mental illness in their country was quite high--around 12 percent of the population. It became clear during our discussion that the main cause of the depression was not a lack of material necessities but a deprivation of the affection of others. This is very sad. Humans are not solitary animals that associate only in order to mate. If we were, why would we build such large cities and towns?

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