Practice of Compassion
Approaches to enhancing compassion
What mental factors that you have already studied
in this course could contribute to the cultivation
of compassion, even great compassion?
In order to cultivate this powerful
great compassion, we need to train our mind separately in two
factors. One is to cultivate a sense of empathy with or closeness
to all sentient beings, for whose sake we wish to work so that
they become free from suffering. The other factor is to cultivate
a deeper insight into the nature of the suffering from which
we wish others to be relieved.
Empathy as a source of compassion
In Module I you learned of the importance of empathy,
the ability to appreciate another's suffering.
When you see someone or something suffering, is
empathy a part of your emotional response? Is your
compassion not based simply on your awareness that
this being also has feelings, can experience pain,
and has a right not to experience such pain?
How can accessing your empathy affect your
As we have said before, learning is the first step
to inner transformation. The Dalai Lama suggests that we can
strengthen compassion by imagining situations where there is
a sentient being suffering.
When someone treats you with compassion and affection,
does it make you feel happy? When someone does
not treat you with love and compassion, how does
that make you feel? On the basis of this observation,
can you reflect on how others also feel good when
they are shown warmth and compassion. And that
your warmth and compassion, therefore, can make
them feel happiness or suffering?
You start by recognizing that you
do not want suffering and that you have a right to have happiness.
This can be verified or validated by your own experience. You
then recognize that other people, just like yourself, also do
not want to suffer and that they have a right to have happiness.
This kind of investigation leads us
to a deep appreciation of the value of compassion, and this awareness
gives rise to feelings of conviction and determination. Then,
you can employ methods to enhance empathy, such as using your
imagination, your creativity, to visualize yourself in another's
situation. Such exercises or practices can serve to strengthen
Consider some examples the Dalai
Imagine an animal suffering painfully.
If you find yourself moved by its suffering, ask
yourself: is this feeling based on a special connection
with that particular fish, a feeling of "Oh,
that animal is my friend."?
If you don't feel strongly about
the suffering of animals, select a person, perhaps
someone close to you like a family member or friend,
and imagine they are suffering or going through
a painful situation. Then try to image how that
person is reacting to their situation and
what they are experiencing and feeling.
While one can attempt to increase compassion by
trying to empathize with another's feeling or experience, don't
lose sight of the fact that the converse is true as well, that
we inhibit our compassion by closing our eyes to the suffering