by Dalai Lama: When left alone, we will not survive…
Ultimately, the reason why love and compassion bring us the greatest happiness is simply that 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 skillful 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 who, without any religion, law, or education, survive by mutual cooperation based on an innate recognition of their interconnectedness. The most subtle level of material phenomena is also governed by interdependence. In fact, all phenomena—be they from the oceans, the clouds, or the forests that surround us—arise in dependence upon subtle patterns of energy. Without their proper interaction, they dissolve and decay.
It is because our own human existence is so dependent on the help of others that our need for love lies at the very foundation of our existence. Therefore, we need a genuine sense of responsibility and a sincere concern for the welfare of others.
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 suffering 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 who we are and what it is we require.
The expression of love is also very important at the time of birth. Since the very first thing we do is suck milk from our mothers’ breast, 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, its development will be impaired and its brain will not mature properly.
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. On the other hand, that which is taught by a teacher who does not show true concern for his or her students’ overall well-being will not be retained for long.
Nowadays, many children grow up in unhappy homes. If they do not receive proper affection, in later life they will rarely love their parents and, not infrequently, will find it hard to love others. This is very sad.
In the end, since a child cannot survive without the care of others, love is its 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.
Even when we engage in ordinary conversation in everyday life, if someone speaks with human feeling, 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 are vital for our happiness.
Recently I met a group of scientists in America who said that the rate of mental illness in their country was quite high—around 12 percent 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. So, as you can see from everything I have written so far, whether or not we are consciously aware of it, from the day we are born the need for human affection is in our very blood. Even if the affection comes from an animal or someone we would normally consider an enemy, both children and adults will naturally gravitate toward it.
I believe that no one is born free of 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.