So many people and animals are suffering every day. There are many ways to help them, but it depends on recognizing their situation and understanding the best way to help. Being compassionate is not enough – we also need to be generous with our time, and have self-discipline, patience, perseverance, concentration and wisdom. Here are eleven ways to help others, and make our own lives meaningful:
1. Care for Those Who Are Suffering
We need to take care of those who are sick, disabled or in pain. If we see someone struggling with a heavy load or difficult task, we step in and share their burden.
2. Guide Those Who Are Muddled about How to Help Themselves
For those who are confused about what to do in difficult situations, we offer advice if they ask for it, or at least a listening ear. This also includes opening the window to let out a fly trapped in our room.
3. Repay the Kindness of Those Who’ve Helped Us
It’s important to appreciate all the work of others that makes the world run, and try to help those – like our parents – who’ve done so much for us. This should be done with sincere gratitude, not just out of a feeling of guilt or obligation.
4. Comfort and Protect Those Filled with Fear
We should try our best to comfort people and animals who are scared. This includes helping refugees who are escaping war zones, and dealing gently with those who’ve suffered abuse.
5. Console Those Overcome with Grief
When people are grieving over a divorce or the death of a loved one, we try to console them in a compassionate manner. We should never patronize them, thinking, “Oh you poor thing,” but put ourselves in their shoes and share their pain.
6. Give Material Aid to Those Who Are Poor
It’s good to give donations to charity, but also important to give to beggars we see on the streets. Imagine if that person was our mother or son: how can we cold-heartedly pass by and ignore them?
7. Introduce the Dharma to Those Who Are Attached to Us
For those people who really like to be around us, it’s good to teach them basic Buddhist methods for achieving happiness and helping others, but only if they show interest. It’s not about converting people, but about providing meaningful advice.
8. Help Others in Accordance with Their Wishes
We should try and teach others in a way that is suitable to them. If someone asks us to teach them something, even if it’s not our favorite thing to do, if we can do so, we should. It doesn’t always have to be about us and what we like.
9. Encourage Those Who Lead Upright Lives
We can help by praising those who lead upright lives – people following a positive path and doing a good job – while being careful not to make them arrogant.
10. Teach Constructive Behavior to Those Who Lead Destructive Lives
If we encounter people leading very destructive, negative lives, we should never just dismiss, reject or condemn them. Instead of judging people, we should try to show ways to overcome negative behavior if they’re open to change.
11. Use Any Extraordinary Abilities, When All Else Fails
Some of us have abilities beyond the ordinary. We might be a martial arts expert, but don’t show off to others. Still, if we saw someone being attacked, we should use our abilities to subdue the attacker, if there’s no other way to stop them.