The Dalai Lama was once asked, “It has been said that laughter is humanity’s special gift. In your opinion, do people laugh too much or not enough?”
He responded: I have been told that certain monkeys have the ability to laugh; I don’t know. Whatever the case, it does seem that laughter is indeed particular to human beings. Some people do not smile enough, that is certain! But I do not think one can laugh too much. Who knows? The problem is not so much with those who laugh too much, because they are quite rare, but with those who don’t laugh enough, for there are far too many of them!
Everyone laughs. Everyone smiles. Everyone can be content and not content. Everyone feels pain, sorrow, melancholy, suffering, dukkha. That is a truth about reality: in life, there are going to be good days and bad days. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.
Karuna is a Pali word (an Indian dialect from the Buddha’s time) that means compassion.
When we have compassion for humanity, we understand their bad days, their suffering is just like our own. We have lost friends and family members, been angry, lost our jobs, or simply had days where we don’t want to get out of bed.
At the times when we are at our lowest, we are open to the greatest change. We seek new avenues for happiness and joy and hope to rid ourselves of our suffering.
However, when we are at our high points – when everything in the world seems to align perfectly and we are living a content and happy life, we must not lose sight of reality, of the truth that everyone experiences dukkha. When we open ourselves to help others at their lowest points, we are practicing compassion.
Happiness is not a Western concept, nor an Eastern concept, a Christian nor a Buddhist concept. It is a human experience in which we are free from the ills of the world. There are far too many, as His Holiness said, that don’t laugh enough, who don’t experience happiness.
The following is a prayer for compassion and peace for the whole world.
Over the next week, contemplate the following:
– When have I experienced bad days? How did I overcome them?
– How can I help see the suffering in other’s lives?
– How can I generate karuna on a daily basis?