Authentic and great compassion
The form of the body of all the human beings and animals are different but the attitude of wanting happiness and avoiding suffering are exactly the same. This is obvious and clear for everyone. But since all the sentient beings are after varying degrees of temporary states of happiness (which is actually the cause of suffering) they eventually suffer a lot from this temporary state of happiness.
This arises because of our own ignorance and our lack of understanding. For example, when we feel hot, we look forward to being cold, believing being cold is the cause of happiness but we don’t realize this craving for coldness itself is the cause of the suffering experienced by being hot. Let me explain: the feeling of being hot was the cause of temporary happiness experienced when we became cold but our lack of understanding of ultimate reality causes us to feel depressed when this happiness changes (i.e when we are feeling very hot again). By contemplating such reality of the true nature of things, we will experience amazing happiness, which is difficult to express in words – just like a baby who can taste a lolly but can’t explain how it tastes.
All the highly advanced beings who have had such realizations feel sorry and have authentic compassion for all the beings who don’t have such realizations and have promised to help all the sentient beings realize such an understanding (we call these beings “Bodhisattavas”). This action is called great, pure and precious compassion because even a good mother doesn’t possess such compassion even for their own child who they love so much. I don’t think the mothers of this world concern about their childrens’ next lives – only the worldly things in this short lifetime.
Compassion we can generate
We probably don’t have such an understanding (i.e. that happiness itself is the cause of suffering) so we can’t have pure compassion for all the sentient beings at the moment. In order to increase our compassion and to have such compassion in the future we must first develop basic compassion, which is also actually not so easy to do, but it’s the source of happiness and peace in the universe.
Basic compassion consists of thoughts and actions to helping others unconditionally in any way possible and if you keep thinking of helping others, it will naturally arise and become a habit. For example, if you have a thought of giving food to a beggar, you would do this action whenever you encounter them but if you don’t have such thoughts of giving you might not be able do that even if you meet the beggars in the future. Even if you are unable to help others, try to keep thinking of helping others. A person who has such thoughts will be able to naturally help in practice one day.
The way of generating compassion
It is not easy to generate compassion or loving kindness for others but there is a way to start to develop the habit. First of all, we should get used to contemplating that all the sentient beings have an equal desire for happiness and equally don’t want to experience suffering and sorrow. If we are not used to contemplating the sameness of self and others, we won’t be able to be concerned unconditionally about others. So it is essential to contemplate on this sameness of ourselves with all other sentient beings.
How to contemplate on sameness.
In the beginning of the practice of sameness we naturally think it will be easy to concern ourselves with others just like ourselves and to treat others in the same way as we treat ourselves!! It is possible and not so difficult to give rise to such concerns and attitudes for others just like for ourselves because as human beings we have the potential but the problem is that we don’t know this and haven’t tried this and that’s why we are always getting stuck in tumultuous mental conditions and stress just like someone who has gold underneath their house but they don’t know about it and so haven’t tried to search for it so that’s why they are always poor. So it is possible for everyone to generate concern for others just like the concern you feel for yourself. For example, even though we have many different parts of our body like our legs, hands, head and stomach etc. our mind can grab all of this together as a body and we become concerned about it because of our ingrained habit of doing so. If we deeply analyze this habit we can’t find any logical reason why we label our body as “mine” and don’t grab onto others’ bodies as ourself. The only reason that our mind can’t label “I” and “mine” on other’s bodies is because of a lack of understanding of the true nature of reality and spiritual practice. It’s easy to label “I” and “mine” on self because of our habit so why can’t we label “I” and “mine” on others if we get used to it? So once we develop the habit of thinking of others as ourselves it will become easier to concern ourselves with others. What will follow will be that the suffering of others will be like our own suffering. As a result all the suffering in the world will be eliminated because ultimately no one likes to suffer.
Suffering of others affects us
Many of us don’t care of other’s suffering, as it doesn’t affect us. However if we get used to being concerned about others with compassion, it will begin to affect us just like all the Bodhisattvas (those who engage in compassionate actions and are close to becoming enlightened) and Buddhas (fully enlightened ones). Since they have a deep concern about others they help and have helped others immensely for numberless eons. It is logically possible even for ordinary people like us to engage in such activities. For example, some mothers choose to die for their child because they can’t bear to see their child suffering.
If we practice thinking of others like ourselves it doesn’t take long for us to generate deep compassion. Take for example a car. If you decide to sell your car you still own it until you find a buyer and get the money for it. So you still get upset if it gets scratched or damaged or even gets dirty because it is YOUR car. However if you find a buyer and sell it, your concern for the car disappears because it is NOT YOURS anymore. So if we analyze deeply – the car hasn’t changed – the only thing that has changed is how we label the car. YOURS and NOT YOURS, so it is our mind that changes. Similarly projecting “I” on us or on others is also exactly the same.
Some people might think it’s not fair to help someone who is suffering because the suffering is different. Does it really matter whether we suffer or others suffer – isn’t the suffering the same?
I think it doesn’t matter whether we are different or not. Just think when our leg hurts our hand helps even though it is a different part of our body.
Even though it makes logical sense, many people believe that it is impossible to label “I” on others just like on self. But our mind is definitely able to grab on others just like how we grab on ourselves. Just think that our body is not even ours – it is a combination of the blood and sperm of our parents (2 totally different people) but strangely we are so attached to our body to the point we don’t want it to get old and wrinkly and die. To experience other’s suffering with compassionate is also painful but the small pain that we experience as a result of our compassionate nature will reduce the massive pain of others because we will naturally help them.
The benefits of generating compassion for others
According to the above, if you practice it again and again it will become easier to care and have concern about others. Once you have such an attitude it will be the source of happiness for yourself and for all the sentient beings in the world.
As Buddhists we believe in reincarnation (that our mind survives physical death and is born into another life). So by generating a compassionate mind by thinking of lessening the suffering of others in this life and in their future lives is very beneficial for others and ourselves since it causes us to put our compassion into action to reduce their suffering and it also helps us to reduce our ego. Even many mothers only think of their own children’s present life but not of eliminating their suffering for future lifetimes. A truly compassionate person (from our Buddhist perspective) thinks of alleviating the suffering of many beings for many lifetimes and aims to eliminate suffering in this world fundamentally.
A person who has pure compassion (we believe) can’t generate any bad karma as he or she doesn’t possess any negative emotions towards others. Also if you have done bad things to others the bad karma which you created from that action will be overcome and disappear because of the loving kindness you have shown for many sentient beings.
Unconditional compassion is like a tree that continually reaps more fruit the more you pick the fruit. However if you have only conditional compassion (i.e. if you are kind and compassionate to someone only to get something positive in your next life) the positive result will arise but will only be short lived just like a banana tree which dies once you have picked all the fruit.
The biggest problem for us is having an ego but the more we care about others the more our ego diminishes as we think less and less of ourselves.
Everything will look different once you practice true loving kindness
If we possess unconditional compassion – whether we are ugly, poor or uneducated, we will feel beautiful, healthy, wise and peaceful. We will have many true friends and all the enemies we had before will become your best friends. So being truly compassionate is like a magnet to bring your friends closer and like a knife to cut off your enemies forever.
The house where true compassionate lives looks very enticing and everyone will want to go there and will be unhappy to leave even if the house is small in the middle of rubbish. So just think that loving-kindness is like a diamond necklace to make you beautiful. So instead of using real diamond necklaces which costs thousands and thousands of dollars and expensive face creams and stylish hair cuts to make yourself beautiful which is expensive and also short lived – try to cultivate genuine compassion for all sentient beings to make yourself beautiful.
So please try to generate compassion for all the sentient beings every morning for even a minute before you do anything. You are probably now saying that you don’t have time but you must go to the toilet at least once or twice a day – so why not generate compassion while you are using the toilet. If you could generate compassion while you are on the toilet then even the toilet is a cause of gaining a precious jewel. Your toilet could be nicer than a palace if you genuinely generate compassion as it will result in lasting peace and happiness but the happiness and peace we get from owing a palace will cause you suffering one day as it will deteriorate and you will have to abandon it when you die.
If you practice this thinking every morning the compassion for others comes naturally in your mind and it will develop automatically. Once you have generated even a little bit compassion you will be like the blind man who found the bag of gold from the rubbish bin which is very rare but possible and really wonderful.