The Wisdom Blog: Classic & Contemporary Buddhism

Mindful Monday Morsel: The Dalai Lama on compassion for our enemies

by Lydia Anderson
August 25, 2014
Mon, 08/25/2014 - 14:11 -- landerson

This week’s morsel comes from The Compassionate Life by the Dalai Lama. This book includes four of the Dalai Lama’s most accessible and inspiring teachings on compassion and how in order to be truly happy, we must develop compassion for others. The selection below comes from the chapter “Developing Compassion”. Here His Holiness writes on how we can make friends of our enemies and build compassion for them.


I must emphasize again that merely thinking that compassion and reason and patience are good will not be enough to develop them. We must wait for difficulties to arise and then attempt to practice them. And who creates such opportunities? Not our friends, of course, but our enemies. They are the ones who give us the most trouble. So if we truly wish to learn, we should consider enemies our best teachers! For a person who cherishes compassion and love, the practice of patience is essential, and for that, enemies are indispensable. So we should feel grateful to our enemies, for it is they who can best help us develop a tranquil mind! Furthermore, it is often the case in both personal and public life that with a change in circumstances, enemies become friends.

Of course, it is natural and right that we all want friends. But is friendship produced through quarrels and anger, jealousy and intense competitiveness? I do not think so. The best way to make friends is to be very compassionate! Only affection brings us genuine close friends. You should take good care of others, be concerned for their welfare, help them, serve them, make more friends, make more smiles. The result? When you yourself need help, you’ll find plenty of helpers! If, on the other hand, you neglect the happiness of others, in the long term you will be the loser.

In today’s materialistic society, if you have money and power you may seem to have many friends. But they are not friends of yours; they are friends of your money and power. When you lose your wealth and influence, you will find it very difficult to track these people down.

The trouble is that when things in the world go well for us, we become confident that we can manage by ourselves and feel we do not need friends, but as our status or health declines, we quickly realize how wrong we were. So to prepare for that time, to make genuine friends who will help us when the need arises, we ourselves must cultivate compassion!

Though sometimes people laugh when I say it, I myself always want more friends. I love smiles. Because of this I have the problem of knowing how to make more friends and how to get more smiles, in particular, genuine smiles. There are other kinds of smiles, such as sarcastic, artificial, or diplomatic smiles. Many smiles produce no feeling of satisfaction, and sometimes they can even create suspicion or fear, can’t they? But a genuine smile really gives us a feeling of freshness and is, I believe, unique to human beings. If these are the smiles we want, then we ourselves must create the reasons for them to appear.

So how do we make friends? Certainly not through hatred and confrontation. It is impossible to make friends by hitting people and fighting with them. A genuine friendship can emerge only through cooperation based on honesty and sincerity, and this means having an open mind and a warm heart. This, I think, is obvious from our own everyday interactions with others.

To read more, click here.


How to cite this document:
© Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, Compassionate Wisdom (Wisdom Publications, 2003)

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The Compassionate Life by His Holiness the Dalai Lama is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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