Going back to the Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech and before, the Dalai Lama often describes himself as “a simple monk” and “I am no one special”. At @happyops we think that the Dalai Lama does this for many reasons, one of which is to focus on the similarities that we share with the Dalai Lama. If we thought of the Dalai Lama as somebody with a different status or standing to ourselves then it would create distance with him. Perhaps we would not be able to connect with the Dalai Lama. Perhaps his presentation of the Buddhist path would seem irrelevant to us as Dharma practitioners. In this article we would like to explore the importance of focusing on the similarities between people rather than the differences.
All too often the differences are the focus on the differences between people. The events in the news make the distinction of people from a different region or country, a different sect or religion, female or male, a different background or some other distinction. The way that we interact with others might be affected by how we perceive the status of ourselves or the person we are interacting with. Maybe there is some other distinction that just means we draw away from the person that we interact with. The distinction that we make just serves to create distance, perhaps distrust or suspicion.
every one of us wants to avoid suffering and gain happiness … all beings are born with similar desires and should have an equal right to fulfill them
The Dalai Lama often makes this point – that we are all the same in that we want to avoid suffering and to gain happiness. We are all the same in so many other ways, such as:
- We need to eat food and drink food every day.
- We desire warmth and protection from the elements.
- We florish with the love from others in our lives.
- We need rest and sleep.
These are some vague similarities and even these examples can help draw us closer to the people around us. By looking at these similarites we feel like there is common ground for a conversation with a stranger in the street, even if it just about the weather.
When we engage with somebody, we find the similarities with others. Even if they are a stranger in the street, there will be something there. Perhaps they have similar clothes, they have the same drink or food, the same the same illness or disease, or maybe they are just as confused as we are. These small things help to create a bond with others, even with a stranger in the street.
By starting out with these small interactions with one person and they another, it creates a bond. This bond is the basis for the lofty goals of universal compassion and genuine kindess for all beings, to develop bodhicitta and eventually complete enlightenment as a buddha. But first we need to start out small.