Altruism (2015) examines our need to care for others, a compulsion that is essential in both humans and animals. These blinks explain how and why caregivers do what they do through the lens of philosophy, economics and evolutionary theory.
There’s no question that the world would benefit from more people practicing altruism. In fact, many people, from politicians to charity workers, stress this need daily.
But what exactly is altruism and how can you practice it?
Actually, there are two types of altruism – one that every person is born with, and a second, more involved form that people must develop themselves.
The first type of altruism is called natural altruism. It refers to any tendency a person has to take care of things or people in her immediate surroundings. It includes things such as motherly love – the impulse of a mother to tend to and protect a child.
The second type of altruism, in contrast, is not innate and has to be cultivated throughout a person’s life. An action like building an orphanage out of a broad concern for parentless children is one example of this type of altruism.
So how do you develop your own altruism?
To foster altruism, it helps to take a deep look inside of yourself. When you do so, you’ll likely realize that in general, you desire happiness and wish to avoid suffering. When you expand this basic insight from yourself to all other beings, you can experience altruism.
Why? Every creature is linked to the joy and pain of every other creature. Therefore, the greatest altruistic endeavor is to liberate every being from all suffering. Someone who devotes herself to this endeavor is known as a Bodhisattva.
In Tibetan Buddhism, to become a Bodhisattva, one must take certain vows. These are essentially promises that one’s entire life will be a spiritual quest aimed to end the suffering of as many other beings as possible, while aiding them in their own attainment of spiritual enlightenment.
According to Buddhism, the true cause of suffering is ignorance; that is, a misunderstanding of reality.