Reflection on Self-worth…
A reflection on practice by Venerable Dhammadinna
In his book The Art of Happiness and often in his teachings, His Holiness the Dalai Lama likes to point out that an often-overlooked source of happiness and resilience is a sense of self-worth. When I share this with Dharma students, they often draw a blank: What does he mean by “self-worth”? Perhaps this notion is a bit mysterious. Self-worth is not linked to any accomplishments or special qualities a person may have. It has nothing to do with measuring ourselves against others. And it doesn’t come about through our own effort.
Self-worth arises through appreciating our shared humanity: “You can relate to fellow human beings because you are a being, within the human community.” Simply because we ourselves are human beings we share an empathic bond with everyone. This tends to be hard to discern, like trying to point out the presence of water to a fish that is immersed in it.
His Holiness continues, “[T]hat human bond is enough to give rise to a sense of worth and dignity. That bond can become a source of consolation in the event that we lose everything else.” Many of you may be taken by surprise, even stunned. “In the event we lose everything else,” is a strong statement. It conjures images of disaster or the flight of refugees. He is asserting that that human bond can support you by imbuing your suffering with dignity. I hope this stirs in you an intense curiosity about how something so ordinary and overlooked can be the source of unassailable hope and optimism.
Metta bhavana or loving kindness meditation is a way of contemplating this innate and essential human bond until it becomes integrated as a realization. The Buddha called this the mind liberation of metta. As Indian Buddhism matured, this grew into bodhicitta, “the mind of awakening,” the celebrated entrance into the Mahayana.
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