I believe that our every act has a universal dimension. Because of this, ethical discipline, wholesome conduct, and careful discernment are crucial ingredients for meaningful, happy life. But let us now consider this proposition in relation to the wider community.
Today’s reality is so complex and, on the material level at least, so clearly interconnected that a different outlook is needed. Modern economics is a case in point. A stock-market crash on one side of the globe can have a direct effect on the economies of countries on the other. Indeed, we find that serving our own interests benefits others, even though this may not be our explicit intention. For example. when two families share a single water source, ensuring that it is not polluted benefits both.
In view of this, I am convinced that it is essential we cultivate a sense of what I call universal responsibility. [This] is not an admission of guilt but, again, a reorientation of our heart and mind away from self and toward others. To develop a sense of universal responsibility–of the universal dimension of out every act and of the equal right of all others to happiness and not to suffer–is to develop an attitude of mind whereby, when we see an opportunity to benefit others, we will take it in preference to merely looking after our own narrow interests.
–HH the Dalai Lama, Ethics for the New Millennium