Kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous and considerate. Kindness is based on our common humanity. This means that we recognise that we humans are more similar than we are different and that we go through the same experiences in life. We all suffer at times and we all want to be happy. Kindness comes from an awareness of the needs of others. We then act to fulfil those needs without expecting anything in return.
At just age 2, the 14th Dalai Lama was identified as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama. He was sent to train as a Buddhist monk and became the political and spiritual leader of the people of Tibet. He took the throne in 1950, soon after the Chinese invasion of Tibet.
For years the Chinese persecuted the Tibetans and their religious practice. Eventually, The Dalai Lama, fearing he would be captured by the Chinese, fled across the border seeking refuge in India. The journey was long and dangerous, taken mainly on foot, through great mountain passes. The Dalai Lama met the Indian prime minister and along with 80,000 Tibetans they set up a government-in-exile, and a home-away-from-home, in Dharamshala in India.
The Dalai Lama has conducted a long-running campaign of non-violent resistance against the Chinese. He repeatedly calls on the Chinese to respect human rights and has promoted the idea that Tibet would become a zone of peace.
Despite the hardship, oppression, and exile that he has suffered at the hands of the Chinese the Dalai Lama has refused to develop anger or hatred towards his oppressors. He preaches a message of generosity and forgiveness. In a story involving a Tibetan monk, the Dalai Lama explains that when this monk was asked why he preached peace towards the Chinese, the monk replied that they had taken everything else away from him, why would he let them take his mind as well?
This attitude sums up the Dalai Lama’s approach to life, who once said, “My Religion is kindness”.
What do you think of the how the Dalai Lama responded to the oppression of the Chinese? How else might he have responded? What do you think is the most effective response in a situation like this? Why?
Reflect on times when you both were the giver and receiver of a kind act. How did it feel? Who benefitted? Was it easy or difficult to do? What circumstances or situations help you act in kind ways?
It is not always easy to be kind. What are the things that block us acting in kind ways?
Kindness is not just an activity that we direct towards others. We can also be kind to ourselves. Why might it be important to treat ourselves kindly? Try come up with a list of as many different ways you can think of to show kindness to yourself. Make a list of possible ways you could be kind to others.
Kindness boosts the well-being of both the person who acts in kind ways and the person who receives kindness. It is a win-win situation.
For the next week try to schedule one act of kindness each day. It can be small acts like smiling at someone or opening a door. It is particularly important to be kind to ourselves and others when we are facing a difficulty. Kindness can help lessen the suffering we feel. Experiment with acts of kindness and notice what effect it has on how you feel about yourself. If you like record your observations in a journal.