Vol: 49 No: 01
15 August 2002
The reason why love and compassion bring the greatest happiness is simply because our nature cherishes them above all else.
The need for love lies at the very foundation of human existence. It results from the profound interdependence we all share with one another. However capable and skilful an individual may be, left alone, he or she will not survive. However vigorous and independent one may feel during the most prosperous periods of life, when one is sick or very young or very old, one must depend on the support of others.
Interdependence, of course, is a fundamental law of nature. Not only higher forms of life but also many of the smallest insects are social beings which, without any religion, law or education, survive by mutual cooperation based on an innate recognition of their inter-connectedness. The most subtle level of material phenomena is also governed by interdependence. All phenomena, from the planet we inhabit to the oceans, clouds, forests and flowers that surround us, arise in dependence upon subtle patterns of energy. Without proper interaction, they dissolve and decay.
We have to consider what we human beings really are. We are not like machine-made objects. If we were merely mechanical entities, then machines themselves could alleviate all of our sufferings and fulfill our needs.
However, since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. Instead, we should consider our origins and nature to discover what we require.
Leaving aside the complex question of the creation and evolution of our universe, we can, at least, agree that each of us is the product of our own parents. In general, our conception took place not just in the context of sexual desire but from our parents’ decision to have a child.
Such decisions are founded on parents’ compassionate commitment to care for their child until he or she is able to take care of him/herself. Thus, from the very moment of our conception, our parents’ love is directly involved in our creation.
The expression of love is very important at the time of birth. Since the very first thing we do is suck milk from our mother’s breasts, we naturally feel close to her, and she must feel love for us in order to feed us properly; if she feels anger or resentment, her milk may not flow freely.
Then, there is the critical period of brain development from the time of birth up to, at least, the age of three or four during which time loving physical contact is the single
most important factor for the normal growth of the child.
If the child is not held, hugged, cuddled or loved, his or her development will be impaired and the brain will not mature properly.
Since a child cannot survive without the care of others, love is his or her most important nourishment. The happiness of childhood, the allaying of the child’s many fears and the healthy development of its self-confidence all depend directly upon love.
Nowadays, many children grow up in unhappy homes. If they do not receive proper affection, they will rarely love their parents later on in life and, not infrequently, will find it hard to love others. This is very sad.
As children grow older and enter school, their need for support must be met by their teachers. If a teacher not only imparts academic education but also assumes responsibility for preparing students for life, his or her pupils will feel trust and respect and, what has been taught will leave an indelible impression on their minds.
Similarly, if one is sick and being treated in hospital by a doctor who evinces a warm human feeling, one feels at ease and the doctor’s desire to give the best possible care is itself curative, irrespective of the degree of his or her technical skill. Inevitably, patients’ feelings make a difference to the quality and completeness of their recovery. Even when we engage in ordinary conversation in everyday life, if someone speaks with human feelings, we enjoy listening and respond accordingly; the whole conversation becomes interesting, however unimportant the topic may be.
On the other hand, if a person speaks coldly or harshly,we feel uneasy and wish for a quick end to the interaction. From the least to the most important event, the affection and respect of others is vital for our happiness.
I recall meeting scientists in America who said that the rate of mental illness in their country was quite high - around 12 per cent of the population.
It became clear during our discussion that the main cause of depression was not a lack of material necessities but a deprivation of the affection of others. I believe that no one is born free from the need for love. And this demonstrates that - although some modern schools of thought seek to do so - human beings cannot be defined as solely physical. No material object, however beautiful or valuable, can make us feel loved, because our deeper identity and true character lie in the subjective nature of the mind.
15 August 2002
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