Practice of Compassion
Approaches to enhancing compassion
Start with yourself
Does the ideal of developing unconditional compassionate
kindness mean that we must forsake our own interests
The best way of helping others, the Dalai Lama
says, is to cultivate happiness in ourselves.
There is a sense to compassion of its being a state
of mind that can include a wish for good things for oneself.
In developing compassion, perhaps one could begin with the wish
that oneself be free of suffering, and then take that natural
feeling towards oneself and cultivate it, enhance it, and extend
it out to include and embrace others.
We have learned that an understanding of reality
and of suffering are tools to our inner contentment and freedom
from afflictive emotions. Ultimately, our greatest inner peace
comes from our connection with others.
If it is correct that those
qualities such as love, patience, tolerance, and forgiveness
are what happiness consists in, and if it is also correct that nyingje, or
compassion, as I have defined it, is both the source and the
fruit of these qualities, then the more we are compassionate,
the more we provide for our own happiness.
Beyond the boundary of our self
When we move beyond ourselves, we come up against
our partiality, who we are inclined to love.
Where do you draw the boundary of your sense of
empathy and compassion? Family? Extended
family? Close friends? Acquaintances? Colleagues?
Company? Town? Nation? Poor
Who do you think of as legitimately outside
your circle of empathy and compassion? Strangers?
Democrats? Republicans? People of a different
race? Abortionists? Murderers? Pedophiles?
There are many visualizations or meditations you
can do to connect with the suffering of others. We will offer
many of these in future courses. Here, for now, is a simple meditation
the Dalai Lama recommends:
Begin by visualizing
a person who is acutely suffering, someone who
is in pain or is in a very unfortunate situation.
For the first three minutes of the meditation,
reflect on that individual's suffering in an
analytic way — think about their intense
suffering and the unfortunate state of that
about that person's suffering for a few minutes,
next try to relate that to yourself, thinking,
"that individual has the same capacity for experiencing
pain, joy, happiness, and suffering that I do."
Then, try to allow
your natural response to arise — a natural
feeling of compassion towards that person. Try
to arrive at a conclusion: thinking how strongly
you wish for that person to be free from that
suffering. And resolve that you will help that
person to be relieved from their suffering.
your mind single-pointedly on that kind of conclusion
or resolution, and for the last few minutes of
the meditation try to simply generate your mind
in a compassionate or loving state.
the Ashoka course Cultivating Compassion,
taught by Prof. Jeffrey Hopkins, long-time translator
for and collaborator with the Dalai Lama. >>>