Module 1

The Groundwork of Altruism

In the first module of this course we explore the groundwork for an altruistic life. For the Dalai Lama, the foundation of altruism, compassion, and ethics is the observation that we all naturally desire happiness and freedom from suffering. Ethical actions, therefore, are those that support, not hinder, others' pursuit of happiness.

But what is happiness? If we are going to pursue happiness for ourselves and others, we need to understand what true happiness is — what is genuine happiness and what is the relationship of inner peace and happiness to ethics and spirituality. In this module we explore:

  • The nature of happiness

  • The inevitability of suffering and identifying suffering that we can transcend

  • Spirituality and ethical practice — going beyond religion

  • Understanding reality as a foundation for happiness

  • The realm of human emotion — our innate capacity for empathy and loving-kindness as well as for destructive emotions such as hatred, anger, and jealousy

  • The motivation for empathy and kindness