Compassion – His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Compassion, a marvel of human nature [1]

Like all other mammals, we humans are born from our mothers, and for some time after birth we are utterly dependent on our mothers or other caring adults. For nine months we are nurtured in our mother’s womb, and at the moment of birth we are completely helpless. We can neither sit nor crawl, let alone stand or walk, and without the care and attention of others we cannot survive. In this state of absolute vulnerability, our first action is to suck at our mother’s breast. And with her milk, we are nurtured and given strength. In fact the period of dependency for young humans is particularly long. This goes for all of us, including even the worst criminals. Without another’s loving care, none of us would have lived more than a few days. As a result of this intense need for others in our early development, a disposition towards affection is a part of our biology.


There is now increasing scientific evidence that love, kindness, and trust have not only psychological benefits but also observable benefits to physical health. One recent study even shows that deliberate cultivation of love and compassion can even affect our DNA. It has also been shown that negative emotions such as anxiety, anger and resentment undermine our ability to combat illness and infection. Persistent negative emotions actually eat away at our immune system. People with a high level of self-focus are likely to be more prone to the stress and anxiety that accompany self-centredness. And stress and anxiety are well known to be bad for the heart.

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[1] Extracts from Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World, His Holiness The Dalai Lama, Rider 2012, page 41, with some headings added for clarity, by Len Warren, 10 January 2017 and 17 April 2020.