We live in a world where altruism must become the driving force of humanity to both relieve the suffering of others and ensure our continued survival as a species. 

The Buddhist monk Mathieu Ricard gives an insightful and entertaining introduction to altruism on the interpersonal and global scale in this recent TED Talk: 

(summary below video) 

The take away points are: 

  • Altruism is the wish that others may be happy and find the cause of happiness. 
  • Climate change has brought the earth to a precipice. Learning to think and behave in a way that embraces our shared humanity and desire to survive is the fundamental answer to this crisis. 
  • Evolutionary scientists (biologists, anthropologists, psychologists etc.) believe that humans are not purely selfish animals. Studies show that our species has a strong tendency towards cooperation and altruism. 
  • Can we learn to become more altruistic? Yes, we can, and it can happen on two different levels: the individual and society. 
  • On the individual level, neuroscience studies show that brain structure changes when people practice compassion and mindfulness meditation—after just week eight weeks. 
  • On the societal level, we can encourage altruism by changing culture. Specifically, this means: 
      1. Enhancing cooperation 
      2. Sustainable harmony 
      3. Caring economics 
      4. Local commitment, global responsibility. 

If you want deeper meaning in your life, opening your mind to altruism might be the mind-altering path you seek. 

Related posts: 

The ethics of paying attention 

You can’t be mindful without ethics