In the Bodhicaryavatara, or “Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life”, Shantideva wrote,
All those who suffer in the world do so because of their desire for their own happiness. All those happy in the world are so because of their desire for the happiness of others.”
When human beings think of nothing but their own cares, they become selfish and small-minded. Self-cherishing is like a cold abyss in which a person flounders, numb, without real feeling. Many people in our modern society have lost sensitivity. They feel isolated. Alone.
Buddhism teaches that we are not isolated.
Throw a pebble into a pond. It sends a shiver across the surface of the water. Ripples merge into one another and create new ones. Everything is inextricably interrelated.”
The Buddha said that understanding the interdependent nature of phenomena was equal to understanding the dharma itself. He taught interdependency to demonstrate how selfishness stems from the false notion that we are independent and isolated from others, and how this is the root cause of suffering. The Buddha wanted to empower people. He wanted people to understand the causes of suffering so they could change those causes, change their lives, change the world . . .
Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills – against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence… Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation…
It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
Robert F. Kennedy