Overview of Compassion

1 of 2

Step 6 — Cultivating Compassion

The seed of compassion

Compassion is the heartfelt wish that sentient beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. The Indian scholar-yogi Chandrakirti, one of the most renowned sources for Buddhist practice in Tibet, praises compassion as being important throughout spiritual practice:

Mercy alone is seen as the seed
Of a Conqueror's rich harvest,
As water for development,
And as ripening in a state of long enjoyment,
Therefore at the start I praise compassion.

Mercy and compassion are the same. Chandrakirti praises compassion because it is the root cause of buddhas. When he praises the cause, he s implicitly praising the effect, but he is mainly emphasizing that buddhahood arises from compassion.

Compassion is called the seed because it is the beginning of the path for bodhisattvas—those dedicated to become fully enlightened in order to be of benefit to other beings. Bodhisattvas are distinguished from other Buddhist practitioners in that they have great compassion; they will free all sentient beings from suffering and the causes of suffering. They also have great love; they will join all sentient beings with happiness and the causes of happiness.

The seed is what begins the harvest. Without the seed, one cannot have the fruit. The source of buddhahood is compassion. Though wisdom is required for the attainment of buddhahood, unshakable compassion is the differentiating factor. Compassion is also like the water that rains down and grows the potential harvest once the seed has been planted. Compassion moistens the mental continuum. Through the continued practice of compassion, the bodhisattva's progress advances. In the state of buddhahood, it has ripened. It is like a mature fruit for enjoyment by others, in that only a fully mature compassion causes enlightened beings to appear to others to help them in whatever way they need to be helped.

What would it be like for you to aspire to free every sentient being throughout the multi-universes from suffering and to join every one of those sentient beings with happiness?

This might sound a little crazy. But there are people who have such wishes. Such a person sees sentient beings as those for whom he or she will become enlightened in order to help free them from suffering and help them attain happiness. Not only that, but such a person extends his or her mind throughout all of space and imagines sentient beings everywhere as friends. What would it be like to be such a person?