Part 3 of 4, continued from True compassion knows no conditions, limitations, or restrictions
Three Aspects of Compassion
Compassion has three aspects: positive (one person), universal (universe), and Buddha (omnipresence or all-pervasive power), as described by Stephen Batchelor in Buddhism without beliefs: A contemporary guide to awakening.
We can develop compassion by starting with only one person at a time. When we have perfected this, we can move on to the next stage where we can feel compassion for the entire universe. Finally, attaining the third stage of compassion, the omnipresence is when we realize a perfect and enlightened mind, our Buddhahood.
It is also important to note that the motivation for attaining enlightenment is not for self-fulfillment but out of compassion for others. But it begins with being compassionate to one’s self.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” –The 14th Dalai Lama
If we want a world where only love and peace prevail, we need to start with ourselves. We need to let go of the attitude that there is a problem with the world or there is something wrong with other people. We need to stop thinking and believing that there is something wrong with them more than with ourselves. After all, what we perceive of the outside world or of others is only a reflection of what is going on within us.
And before we can even extend compassion to others, we first begin with being compassionate to our own selves.
Be the hand that reaches out to the injured knee
Batchelor illustrates the concept of compassion through our experience when we hurt our knee.
The hand reaches out to the injured knee instinctively to alleviate the pain. The hand is still separate from the knee and the pain. The hand does not get hurt. But the hand knows that the knee is in pain.
Developing this attitude can come only from someone with a compassionate heart. “Reaching out to someone in pain is as natural and unself-conscious as my hand’s reaching out to my injured knee.” It comes automatically. We do not think about it. It just happens because it has become our second nature. It has been ingrained in us.
Next time you face a situation that’s calling for compassion, remember how your hand automatically reaches out to your injured knee. Often, we also blow into the injury, hoping to ease the pain.
Just as your hand instinctively touches your injured knee, you can, without thinking, reach out to someone who is in pain. Just as you blow on the injury to lessen the pain, you can, without hesitation, send your breath of life to ease someone’s burden.
We can contribute to the end of all the suffering around us — of an individual, of the collective, and of the world, one touch at a time, one breath at a time. All these with the sole and pure intention of putting an end to the suffering, in exchange for nothing.
Even when I do things for the sake of others
No sense of amazement or conceit arises.
It is just like feeding myself;
I hope for nothing in return.
~Shantideva (p. 84)
To be concluded – Part 4 of 4 Cultivating Compassion
- Part 1 of 4 Compassion and Developing Bodhichitta
- Part 2 of 4 True compassion knows no conditions, limitations, or restrictions
Batchelor, S. (1997). Buddhism without beliefs: A contemporary guide to awakening. New York: Riverhead Books.
64 Ways in 64 Days Nonviolence Daily Reflections Day 46 – Mar. 16, 2012
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