9 Week Study Course for
"Ethics For the New Millennium"

By His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Study Guide Week Three
• Chapter 4
• Chapter 5

Chapter 4 - Redefining the Goal

Key Concepts
In this chapter the Dalai Lama considers the nature of happiness, what genuine happiness is, what inner peace is and how we develop it, and the relationship of happiness and inner peace to ethics and spirituality.
Religion and Spirituality. To frame the exploration of ethics, the Dalai Lama makes a distinction between these two:

Nature of Happiness. Happiness is a relative quality, which we experience differently according to our circumstances, constitution, and upbringing. We use the word “happiness” to describe very different states in our lives, many of which are short lived, satisfying the senses only. Contained within them is the seed of suffering. A great deal of external suffering can be attributed to our “impulsive” approach to happiness, when we think of ourselves only and not of others. When we act to fulfill our immediate desires without taking into account others’ interest, we undermine the possibility of lasting happiness.

Genuine Happiness.
According to the Dalai Lama’s experiences, the principle characteristic of genuine happiness, of lasting happiness, is peace – inner peace. This peace is rooted in concern for others and involves a high degree of sensitivity and feeling. If we develop this quality, we will be able to maintain a strong sense of well being even when meeting life’s difficulties.

Inner Peace. Where do we find it? What contributes to its development? There is no single answer for where we find inner peace. We have to identify its causes and conditions, and then diligently cultivate them. The Dalai Lama says that such things as good health, friends, freedom to express our personal views and a degree of prosperity (flourishing mentally and emotionally) help contribute to inner peace. Other contributors to inner peace are:

• our basic attitude – how we relate to existing circumstances;
• actions we undertake in our pursuit of happiness – those that make a positive contribution towards it, those whose effect is neutral, those that have a negative effect on it.

Ethical and Spiritual Acts. The Dalai Lama makes a distinction between ethical and spiritual acts. Ethical acts are ones where we refrain from causing harm to others’ experiences or expectations of happiness. Spiritual acts are ones having the qualities of love, compassion, patience, forgiveness, humility, tolerance, etc. which presume some level of concern for others’ well being. It is these kinds of acts which provide happiness both for others and ourselves. Most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others. Altruism is an essential component that leads to genuine, lasting happiness.

Discussion Questions
1. Think of some times in your life when you have described yourself as happy. What do you mean by happiness?

2. When have you experienced happiness as short-lived, satisfying the senses only? How do you relate to the Dalai Lama’s assertion that it can contain a “seed of suffering”? Does that ring true in your experience?

3. Why can a great deal of internal suffering be attributed to our “impulsive” approach to happiness?

4. Is genuine happiness an emotional state or a state of enduring well being?

5. How is it you cultivate inner peace? Why is discernment necessary?

6. Describe a time in your life when something difficult occurred and you were able to maintain an inner sense of peace in the midst of it? What helped you do this? What made it hard?

7. The Dalai Lama says that altruism is an essential component of our actions and is the most effective way to bring about genuine happiness that leads to lasting happiness. Do you agree? Why or why not?

8. What does it truly mean to be altruistic? How do we practice this without taking on the role of “martyr”?

9. Describe a situation when you held others’ interests above your own and felt genuinely happy and your suffering diminished.

10. What is the relationship between ethics and happiness? Between spirituality and happiness?

Practice Exercises
1. Talk with at least two people in your family, asking them what they think it means to be truly happy....even when the circumstances are grim.

2. Notice what helps you to cultivate inner peace each day over the next two weeks. Reflect on what you have observed and develop a more intentional practice that will cultivate inner peace daily for you.


Chapter 5 - The Supreme Emotion

Key Concepts

This chapter considers the nature of empathy, our innate capacity for empathy and kindness, and also for rage, anger, and large-scale evil such as murder. The Dalai Lama discusses the motivation for empathy and kindness, empathy as the source of compassion, the cognitive component of love and compassion, and practices to expand and deepen the experience of empathy and compassion.

Nature of empathy. Empathy implies a capacity to enter into the pain of another. The literal Tibetan definition of empathy is “the inability to bear the sight of another’s suffering”. Though some people may not exhibit empathy, it does not prove that the capacity for this quality is not present in them. Our appreciation of a kindness shown to us is a reflection of our capacity for empathy.

Feelings foster empathy. Kindness allows us to respond with more trust. Peacefulness even encourages good health. On the other hand, violence intimidates us. Those who feel threatened are not likely to harbor goodwill for those who threaten them. By nature we prefer life over death, growth over decay.

What happens when empathy is absent. What about those whose lives seem to be totally given over to violence – Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, Mao? Such people do not come from nowhere, but from a particular time and place. Their imaginative faculty plays a role and becomes the governing factor. Vision properly motivated can lead to wonders; when vision is divorced from basic human feeling, the negative potential cannot be overestimated.

Empathy and ethics. The capacity for empathy is crucial to ethics. An ethical act is non- harming. If we cannot imagine the potential impact of our actions, we have no means to discriminate between right and wrong, harming and non-harming. If we can develop our capacity for empathy, we will become more sensitive to harming behavior and less likely to do harm.

Developing compassion. Reason plays a big role in empathy and compassion. When we apply our mental faculties to our feelings of empathy, we can enhance it and transform it into love and compassion. The Tibetan translation of “compassion” contains elements of love, affection, kindness, gentleness, generosity of spirit, connection; it does not imply pity.

Through sustained reflection on and familiarization with compassion, through rehearsal and practice, we can develop our innate ability to connect with others. The more we develop compassion, the more ethical our conduct will be. There is no substantial difference between us. When we act out of concern for others, it creates peace in our own hearts and brings peace to those around us. Compassion is the source and the result of patience, tolerance, and forgiveness. It is all-important, from the beginning to the end of spiritual practice.

Discussion Questions
1. Thinking of yourself and those close to you, give some examples of empathy that you have experienced as giver and/or receiver.

2. What types of situations encourage feelings of empathy? What shuts down our capacity for empathy?

3. What threatens you and what is the impact on your empathy? When have you accessed empathy even when threatened? What helped you do this?

4. Can you think of an experience in your own life where you responded with empathy and it defused an angry or charged situation?

5. Can you think of occasions in which you responded with cruelty or hatred? What was the impact on you? Others?

6. What are the ways we contribute to world-wide calamity, such as genocide, wars, conflagration, human trafficking, violence against others?

7. Does everyone have the capacity for empathy? In what ways is it innate or developed? How can we enhance it in ourselves? In others?

8. How do you see the link between empathy and positive ethical conduct?

9. How does the transformation from empathy to love and compassion take place in you?

10. What is the difference between pity and compassion? What do they both feel like?

11. Which factors obstruct compassion? Which factors cultivate it?

Practice Exercises

1. Practice a random act of kindness. Note the results both in yourself and in others.

2. When you feel angry or threatened, pause and create the space to engage your empathy and imagine compassionate responses. Then respond.

3. Loving Kindness meditation practice.



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