Updated: Jul 6
The need for compassion in the world has never been greater during my lifetime. Unfortunately, the practice of compassion has steadily been decreasing since WWII as the individual has been placed much higher than community, especially in Western countries. Individual happiness and success is the priority for most, with little concern for the larger community, nation or world. This current condition is well presented in the book, ‘The Second Mountain’, by David Brooks.
Typically, we value people on individual characteristics, such as career status, material possessions, wealth, notoriety, physical appeal, age, ethnicity, skin color, etc. Traits such as kindness, honesty, generosity, commitment, loyalty, trustworthiness are, a best, mostly second tier factors.
In cultures that are based mostly on satisfying ego desires, terms like compassion have lost their deeper meaning. Compassion, like love, is all or nothing. Situational compassion is not true compassion, for it generally is an ego act of ‘giving’ to get some reward.
Ironically, our true nature is one of compassion, kindness, honesty and generosity. Conditioning has led our true nature to be overridden by ego selfishness. Even more disturbing is that an ego life doesn’t provide the happiness most believe it will. Worldly success often is empty of true happiness and fulfillment.
This ego consciousness leaves us with the need to learn true compassion, even though it is our true nature. With commitment and disciplined effort, we will accomplish this and regain what is natural and fulfilling.
Almost all religious, moral and philosophical traditions were founded on true compassion and love. This is evident when the original texts and precepts are studied. Ego influence over time has, however, caused most of the traditions to adopt a combination of judgment and situational compassion. The world demonstrates this to us daily. For the current issues of institutional racism and greed, situational compassion, mixed with judgment, won’t bring significant and lasting change.
Starting with this post, I will share some compassion tradition from Buddhism. The practices are called Tonglen, but before one can practice them, compassion must be awakened. This material is from the book ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’ by Sogyal Rinpoche.
There are six techniques for this awakening, as follows:
· Loving Kindness
· Considering Yourself the Same as Others
· Exchanging Yourself for Others
· Using a Friend to Generate Compassion
· Meditate on Compassion
· How to Direct Your Compassion
I will present the first one here and cover the remaining five in another post.
Loving Kindness – Unseating the Spring
“When we believe that we don’t have enough love in us, there is a method for discovering and invoking it. Go back in your mind and recreate, almost visualize, a love that someone gave you that really moved you, perhaps in your childhood. …. Remember a particular instance when they really showed you love and you felt their love vividly. Now let that feeling arise again in your heart and infuse you with gratitude. As you do so, your love will go out naturally to that person who evoked it. You will remember then that even though you may not always feel that you have been loved enough, you were loved genuinely once. Knowing that now will make you feel again that you are, as that person made you feel then, worthy of love and really lovable. Let your heart open now and let love flow from it; then extend this love to all beings. Begin with those who are closest to you, then extend your love to friends and to acquaintances, then to neighbors, to strangers, then even to those whom you don’t like or have difficulties with, even those whom you might consider as your “enemies,” and finally to the whole universe.. …. You will find that this practice unseals a spring of love, and by that unsealing in you of your own loving kindness, you will find that it will inspire the birth of compassion.”
Books mentioned: ‘The Second Mountain’ by David Brooks, and ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying’ by Sogyal Rinpoche.