The Dalai Lama has been telling us for years that it would make us happy, but he never said it would make us healthy, too.
“If you want others to be happy,” reads the first part of his famous formula, “practice compassion.” Then comes the second part of the prescription: “If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
Maybe the Dalai Lama knew all along or maybe he’s just finding out like the rest of us, but science is starting to catch up with a couple millennia of Buddhist thought. In recent years, the investigation of compassion has moved beyond theology and philosophy to embrace a wide range of scientific fields, including neurology, endocrinology and immunology. And while the benefits of being the recipient of compassion are obvious, new research shows that the practice of compassion has beneficial effects not only on mental health but on physical health, too.
Which is good news for everyone on the planet, as you can never have too much compassion. Job layoffs and home foreclosures, the cultural erasure of Tibet and the abscess that is Gaza, the sorrows of disease, natural disasters and death that are always with us: To create a short list makes one guilty of omission. Despite all the progress and advances we have made, there is still plenty about which to feel compassion.