Acts Motivated by Compassion are a Force for Good
Most of us are familiar with the Dalai Lama and his emphasis on spreading acts of compassion throughout the world. On the
website, A Force for Good, His Holiness explains that “when we act with compassion, the seeds we plant today can change the course of our shared tomorrow.” Those seeds, in the Buddhist faith, are called ‘Karma.’ Karma is the intention with which we act. When we act from a place of kindness and understanding, our actions will bear good fruit. The reverse is also true, so it is important that we watch our motivation often. Can you imagine what the world would be like if only 25% of us acted from a place of goodness?
Compassion on the Brain
The Dalai Lama’s emphasis on the importance of compassion created interest beyond the Buddhist community. Stanford University has an entire department in the medical school devoted to compassion andaltruism research. In addition to the spiritual imperative of cultivating attributes such as love, kindness and altruism, scientists now say doing so produces measurable differences in the brain. These qualities, they say, can foster neuronal growth, or, ‘neurogenesis.’ Moreover, much of this activation occurred in the frontal lobe, which is associated with concentration, behavior, and problem solving, and also in the hippocampus, associated with memory. So, by engaging in loving-kindness (Metta) meditation, we strengthen our ability to listen, understand, and solve complex problems, including those involving disagreements with others. With our memory strengthened, we can learn from our experience and hold onto those lessons.
Science Verifies the Buddha’s Teaching
2,500 years ago, the Buddha already knew the benefits of living with a mind motivated by loving-kindness and compassion. Buddha didn’t need to see results of brain scans or longitudinal studies measuring happiness. He was the all-seeing, all-knowing, self enlightened one. He encouraged us to take care of ourselves and others, and that by taking care of others, we are taking care of ourselves. All the good we do will come back to us, in the form of stronger friendships, greater resilience in the face of problems, and durable happiness. Why not see for yourself? Set aside five minutes a day for meditation. Focus on the good in yourself, your friends, your family and perhaps even strangers who helped you in some way. Give it a try for just two weeks. See how five minutes of focused meditation may change your life, and that of others.