Seeing Suffering Beings

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In this lesson you learn the first type of compassion, seeing suffering beings. Before you cultivate wishes for persons to be free from suffering and the causes of suffering, you need to reflect on the dire condition of being trapped in cyclic existence.

Chandrakirti describes the process of cyclic existence—birth, aging, sickness, and death—as stemming from ignorance and nourished by attachment and grasping. This means that our sense of self is exaggerated beyond what actually exists, and based on this exaggeration we are drawn into many problems. Once the I is exaggerated, the "mine"—the things that are owned by the I—also become overblown. It is true that body, mind, hand, head, house, and clothing are ours, they do belong to us, but we have an exaggerated sense of them.

Conceiving of a concretely existing I and then conceiving of concretely existing sense of ownership, we enter into desire and hatred and are drawn down into cyclic existence. Every sentient being throughout all of space is suffering this way.

First think this with respect to yourself: I am suffering this way. Think about how many headaches, how many illnesses, you have had, and how many you are bound to have in the future, how pleasure turns into pain, how you are caught in a contaminated process of conditioning.