To Our International Leaders
At a time when our television screens and newspapers are regularly filled with reports of shocking acts of violence, people talk of a growing climate of fear and ask what we can do to counter it. There are many different types of fear and it is important to discover whether our fear has a valid basis or not. Some, such as fear of violence or bloodshed are genuine and well founded. Others tend to be our own mental creations or projections.
For example, although today’s world requires us to accept the oneness of humanity, a lot of people focus instead on what divides us. Many of the world’s problems, conflicts and fears arise because we have lost sight of the common experience that binds us all together as a human family. We tend to forget that despite the diversity of race, religion, ideology and so forth, people are equal in their basic wish for peace and happiness. In the past, particular communities could afford to think of one another as fundamentally separate. Some could even exist in total isolation. But nowadays, whatever happens in one region eventually affects many other areas. Within the context of our new interdependence, self-interest clearly lies in considering the interest of others.
I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy. From the very core of our being, we desire contentment. In my own limited experience I have found that the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others, however different from us they may seem to be, automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the principal source of success in life. Since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. The key is to develop inner peace.
When we generate and maintain warm feelings of compassion and loving kindness, we create a kind of openness. Through that, we can communicate much more easily with other people. We find that all human beings are just like us, so we are able to relate to them more easily. That in turn gives rise to a spirit of friendship in the context of which there is less need to hide what we think and feel, and as a result, feelings of fear, self-doubt, and insecurity are automatically dispelled. It enables us to place our trust in other people and dissolves the sense of apprehension that engenders a kind of distance from them.
The twentieth century was marred by conflict and war and their associated feelings of apprehension and fear. It is my sincere hope that we can take steps to ensure that this new century will be characterised instead by non-violence and dialogue, the preconditions of peaceful co-existence. It is natural that in any human society there will be differences and conflicts, but we have to develop confidence that dialogue and the support of friends are a valid alternative to violence in all our relations. If we take the differences between us as grounds for fear and anxiety, fighting and argument, there will be no end to it. All of us will be weakened and diminished.
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 faces hardships of one kind or another, this more realistic perspective will increase our determination and capacity to overcome our troubles.
Improving our world is something in which we all have to participate. Therefore, I urge everyone who reads this to try to do something practical to foster genuine peace in the world and to nurture greater compassion in all our lives.