In our quest for happiness and the avoidance of suffering, we are all fundamentally the same, and therefore equal. This is an important point. For if we can integrate an appreciation of this fundamental human equality into our everyday outlook, I am very confi dent that it will be of immense benefi t, not only to society at large, but also to us as individuals. For myself, whenever I meet people — whether they are presidents or beggars, whether dark or fair, short or tall, rich or poor, from this nation or that, of this faith or that — I try to relate to them simply as human beings who, like me, seek happiness and wish to avoid suffering. Adopting this perspective, I fi nd, generates a natural feeling of closeness even with those who until that moment were complete strangers to me. Despite all our individual characteristics, no matter what education we may have or what social rank we may have inherited, and irrespective of what we may have achieved in our lives, we all seek to fi nd happiness and to avoid suffering during this short life of ours.

For this reason, I often make the point that the factors which divide us are actually much more superfi cial than those we share. Despite all the characteristics that differentiate us — race, language, religion, gender, wealth, and many others — we are all equal in terms of our basic humanity. And this equality is corroborated by science. The sequencing of the human genome, for example, has shown that racial differences constitute only a tiny fraction of our genetic makeup, the vast majority of which is shared by all of us. In fact, at the genome level, the differences between individuals appear more pronounced than those between different races.

In light of these considerations, the time has come, I believe, for each one of us to start thinking and acting on the basis of an identity rooted in the phrase “we human beings.”

Beyond ReligionExcerpted from BEYOND RELIGION by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Copyright © 2011 by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved

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