The more adept we become at cultivating an altruistic attitude, the happier we will feel and the more comfortable will be the atmosphere around us. But if our emotions fluctuate wildly and we easily give in to hatred and jealousy, even our friends will avoid us. So even for people with no spiritual beliefs, it is important to have a peaceful mind.
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Once you develop confidence in your own ability, you'll be able to make a real contribution to creating a better world. Self-confidence is very important. Not in the sense of blind pride, but as a realistic awareness of what you can do. As human beings we can transform ourselves by our good qualities and reducing our faults. Our intelligence enables us to judge what is good from what is harmful.
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In order to develop the willpower it takes to sacrifice, you must first realize that spending all your time and energy pursuing material comforts means you will eventually suffer. It's all about positive and negative consequences. It's very important to be aware that there are long-term consequences [for every action].
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Democratic institutions are necessary and very important, and if I remained at the head of government, it could be an obstacle to democratic practice. Also, if I were to remain, then I would have to join one of the parties. If the Dalai Lama joins one party, then that makes it hard for the system to work.
The antidote to hatred in the heart, the source of violence, is tolerance. Tolerance is an important virtue of bodhisattvas [enlightened heroes and heroines] - it enables you to refrain from reacting angrily to the harm inflicted on you by others. You could call this practice "inner disarmament," in that a well-developed tolerance makes you free from the compulsion to counterattack. For the same reason, we also call tolerance the "best armor," since it protects you from being conquered by hatred itself.
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An important distinction can be made between religion and spirituality. Religion [is] concerned with faith in the claims to salvation of one faith tradition... Spirituality is concerned with qualities of the human spirit, love and compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, contentment, a sense of responsibility, a sense of harmony, that bring happiness both to self.
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The most important thing in life is human affection. Without it one cannot achieve genuine happiness. And if we want a happier life, a happier family, happier neighbours or a happier nation, the key is inner quality. Even if the five billion human beings that inhabit the earth become millionaires, without inner development there cannot be peace or any lasting happiness.
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The mind is key. If anything should be considered a god, so to speak, it is the mind, not money. A healthy positive mind is the utmost priority. But if we were to reverse the order of these priorities, what would happen? I find it hard to imagine how a person with great wealth, bad health, no friends, and no peace of mind could feel even slightly happy.
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Misunderstanding may arise by confusing the Buddhist and scientific definitions of death. Within the scientific system you spoke quite validly of the death of the brain and the death of heart. Different parts of the body can die separately. However, in the Buddhist system, the word death is not used in that way. You'd never speak of the death of a particular part of the body, but rather of the death of an entire person. When people say that a certain person died, we don't ask, "Well, which part died?"
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The ultimate source of a happy life is warm-heartedness. This means extending to others the kind of concern we have for ourselves. On a simple level we find that if we have a compassionate heart we naturally have more friends. And scientists today are discovering that while anger and hatred eat into our immune system, warm-heartedness and compassion are good for our health.
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Whether one is rich or poor, educated or illiterate, religious or nonbelieving, man or woman, black, white, or brown, we are all the same. Physically, emotionally, and mentally, we are all equal. We all share basic needs for food, shelter, safety, and love. We all aspire to happiness and we all shun suffering. Each of us has hopes, worries, fears, and dreams. Each of us wants the best for our family and loved ones. We all experience pain when we suffer loss and joy when we achieve what we seek. On this fundamental level, religion, ethnicity, culture, and language make no difference.
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