Cultivate compassion

Wisdom and compassion

 On the Buddhist path a person develops two great qualities: compassion and wisdom.  Compassion represents love, benevolence, kindness, tolerance, solidarity, altruism, that is, the qualities of the heart or an emotional nature.  Wisdom represents discernment, deep understanding, reasoning, self-examination, diligence, self-control, that is, the qualities of the mind or of an intellectual nature.

 A balanced development of compassion and wisdom makes sense, for too much compassion and too little wisdom leads to being foolish and dependent.  And too much wisdom and too little compassion leads to coldness and alienation.

Statue of Chenrezig, archetype of compassion, in Sikkim (India)
Statue of Chenrezig, archetype of compassion, in Sikkim (India)

 Cultivate Compassion, work on empathy and emotional intelligence

 Although Buddhism is not institutionalized, the undisputed figure is HH the Dalai Lama.  He always says that his most important message to humanity is compassion.  And he usually adds that his “religion” is that of benevolence, that is, love, compassion, empathy.  It affirms that compassion is at the base of all religions and of humanism in general, having as a principle the golden and platinum rules: never do to others what you do not want them to do to you, and do to others what you want them to do to you.

 Compassion is what unites us.  It is the principle that transforms us and in turn helps to positively transform society.  It is the empathy and emotional intelligence of psychology.  By nature we are compassionate to our family and friends, but we still have great potential to develop compassion for the benefit of all beings and our own. Empathy does not make sense and would not be wise when developed to manipulate, seeking only our own benefit.

 In both early Buddhism and universal great vehicle of Buddhism, the four sublime states of mind are cultivated through reflection: universal love (goal), compassion for those who suffer (karuna), sympathetic joy (mudita) and equanimity (upekkha) in all life situations and in dealing with all beings.

 Compassion becomes maha karuna or great compassion when it is not just a feeling or aspiration, but a commitment to action to help others, or engaged compassion.  And in the extreme it is to help any being, in any situation and at any time.  Great compassion carries with it the practice of the six perfections: generosity, ethical behavior, patience, diligence, meditation, and wisdom.

 The highest degree of compassion is absolute bodhicitta (mind of enlightenment), when liberation or awakening is achieved in order to benefit all beings, so that the help provided is more effective.  For liberation, the Noble Path of ethical behavior, serenity and wisdom is followed.

Two men helping each other

Different methods are used in Buddhism to develop compassion, empathy or emotional intelligence.  One is the tonglen, which means to send and receive, and which consists of focusing on breathing with altruistic intentions and detachment: inspiring one receives the suffering of others and exhaling one sends his love towards others and especially his enemies.

Mental training exercises or lojong are also used, such as putting oneself in another’s place, understanding that deep down they have similar aspirations;  or being aware and bringing to attention the participation of other beings in what we enjoy, such as food, experiences or work … With this, one reflects on the interdependence that exists between everything, and recognizes the emotions or habitual disturbances triggered by attachment and fear derived from the tendency to blind egocentricity.