Developing altruism is one of the most powerful methods for countering negative tendencies and destructive impulses. Since overcoming negative tendencies and enhancing positive potential are the very essence of the spiritual path, the practice of developing altruism is really the greatest, most effective and most compelling practice of all.
It is necessary to help others, not only in our prayers, but in our daily lives. If we find we cannot help others, the least we can do is to desist from harming them.
Anger cannot be overcome by anger. If a person shows anger to you, and you show anger in return, the result is a disaster. In contrast, if you control your anger and show its opposite – love, compassion, tolerance, and patience – then not only will you remain in peace, but the anger of others also will gradually diminish.
Being altruistic does not mean totally rejecting our own interest or neglecting ourselves, this is a misunderstanding. In fact, the kind of altruism that focuses on the well-being of others arises from a very courageous mind, an expansive attitude and a strong sense of self confidence – so much so that the person is capable of challenging the self-cherishing and self-centeredness that tends to rule our lives.
When our intentions toward others are good, we find that any feelings of anxiety or insecurity we may have are greatly reduced. We experience a liberation from our habitual preoccupation with self and paradoxically, this gives rise to strong feelings of confidence.
If you develop a pure and sincere motivation, if you are motivated by a wish to help on the basis of kindness, compassion, and respect, then you can carry on any kind of work, in any field, and function more effectively.
If we develop concern for other people’s welfare, share other people’s suffering, and help them, ultimately we will benefit. If we think only of ourselves and forget about others, ultimately we will lose. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes.
At one level, forgiveness means you shouldn’t develop feelings of revenge. Revenge harms the other person, it is a form of violence and usually leads to counterviolence – so the problem never goes away. At another level, forgiveness means you should try not to develop feelings of anger toward your enemy. Anger doesn’t solve the problem, it brings uncomfortable feelings to yourself and destroys your own peace of mind.
Experience has taught me that the greatest inner tranquility comes from developing love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts our mind at ease. It helps remove our own fears and insecurities and gives us strength to face obstacles – it is the ultimate source of success in life.
It’s very important not to misunderstand what is meant by the idea of overcoming our self-cherishing attitudes. We are not saying that a spiritual practitioner should completely ignore or abandon the goal of self-fulfillment, rather we are advising him or her to overcome that small-minded selfishness that makes us oblivious to the wellbeing of others and to the impact our actions can have on them.