Compassion (snying rje):
the wish to free all beings from suffering and the causes of suffering (negative actions and ignorance). It is complementary with altruistic love (the wish that all beings may find happiness and the causes of happiness), with sympathetic joy (which rejoices of others qualities) and with equanimity which extends the three former attitudes to all beings, whether friends, strangers or enemies. [MR]
- In Buddhist literature, the term "compassion" (Skt. karuá¹Ä) is often used as a synonym for "great compassion" (mahÄkaruá¹Ä)- the totally unbiased mind that aspires to the liberation of all sentient beings from suffering, equally. As such it is included among the four immeasureable aspirations. Compassion is said to become "great" only when, through proper training of the mind, such an altruistic aspiration becomes spontaneous and no longer requires any conscious effort for its arisal. The measure of having realised such a state is that one spontaneously feels a sense of intimacy and compassion towards all others, with the same degree of commitment and intensity that one feels towards one's most beloved. It is worth bearing in mind that in Buddhism, compassion should not be understood in terms of pity, which may imply a feeling of superiority toward the object of compassion. For a detailed discussion, see Paul Williams, MahÄyÄna Buddhism, pp. 197-204. GD (from the Glossary to Tibetan Elemental Divination Paintings)
Real compassion extends to each and every sentient being, not just to friends or family or those in terrible situations. To develop the practice of compassion to its fullest extent, one must practice patience. Shantideva tells us that if the practice of patience really moves your mind and brings about a change, you will begin to see your enemies as the best of friends, even as spiritual guides.
Enemies provide us some of the best opportunities to practice patience, tolerance, and compassion. Shantideva [in "A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life"] gives us many marvelous examples of this in the form of dialogues between positive and negative aspects of one's own mind. His reflections on compassion and patience have been very useful in my own practice. Read them and your whole soul can be transformed. Here is an example:
- For a practitioner of love and compassion, an enemy is one of the most important teachers. Without an enemy you cannot practice tolerance, and without tolerance you cannot build a sound basis of compassion. So in order to practice compassion, you should have an enemy.
- When you face your enemy who is going to hurt you, that is the real time to practice tolerance. Therefore, an enemy is the cause of the practice of tolerance; tolerance is the effect or result of an enemy. So those are cause and effect. As is said, "Once something has the relationship of arising from that thing, one cannot consider that thing from which it arises as a harmer; rather it assists the production of the effect."