PRACTICE: A MEDITATION ON COMPASSION
“In this traditional form of practice you will combine a repeated inner intention (say) with visualization (see) and the evocation of the feeling (feel) of compassion.”
To cultivate compassion, let yourself sit in a centered and quiet way. As you first sit, breathe softly and feel your body, your heartbeat, the life within you. Feel how you treasure your own life, how you guard yourself in the face of your sorrows. After some time, bring to mind someone close to you whom you dearly love. Picture them and feel your natural caring for them. Notice how you hold them in your heart. Then let yourself be aware of their measure of sorrows, their suffering in life. Feel how your heart opens to wish them well, to extend comfort, to share in their pain and meet it with compassion. This is the natural response of the heart.
Please note the 3 parts of the practice:
Inwardly recite these phrases:
• ‘May you be held in compassion.’
• ‘May your pain and sorrow be eased.’
• ‘May you be at peace.’
Continue reciting all the while you are holding that person in your heart. You can modify these phrases in any way that makes them true to your heart’s intention. After a few minutes, turn your compassion toward yourself and the measure of sorrows you carry.
Recite the same phrases:
• ‘May I be held in compassion.’
• ‘May my pain and sorrow be eased.’
• ‘May I be at peace.’
After a time, begin to extend compassion to others you know. Picture loved ones, one after another. Hold the image of each in your heart, be aware of that person’s difficulties, and wish him or her well with the same phrases.
Then you can open your compassion further, a step at a time, to the suffering of your friends, to your neighbours, to your community, to all who suffer, to difficult people, to your enemies, and finally to the brotherhood and sisterhood’ of all beings. Sense your tender hearted connection with all life and its creatures.
Work with compassion practice intuitively. At times it may feel difficult, as though you might be overwhelmed by the pain. Remember, you are not trying to “fix” the pain of the world, only to hold it with a compassionate heart. As you practice again and again, relax and be gentle. Breathe. Let your breath and heart rest naturally, as a center of compassion in the midst of the world.
Compassion for Self and Others
“Compassion blossoms only when we remember ourself and others, when the two sides are in harmony.”
The second principle of Buddhist psychology:
Compassion is our deepest nature. It arises from our interconnection with all things.
Each person who comes for spiritual teachings or psychotherapy carries his or her measure of confusion and sorrow. Buddhism teaches that we suffer not because we have sinned but because we are blind. Compassion is the natural response to this blindness; it arises whenever we see our human situation clearly. Buddhist texts describe compassion as the quivering of the heart in the face of pain, as the capacity to see our struggles with “kindly eyes.” We need compassion, not anger, to help us be tender with our difficulties and not close off to them in fear. This is how healing takes place.
When I first came to Buddhist practice as a monk, I wasn’t conscious of how much pain I carried. I had managed to shut down the childhood memories of violence, the self-doubt and feelings of unworthiness, the struggle to be loved. In meditation and the monastery life they all came up: the stored history, the judgments and buried pains. At first, the demanding schedule and practices increased my sense of struggle and unworthiness. I tried to force myself to be disciplined, to be better. Eventually I discovered that unworthiness is not helped by striving. I learned that for real healing I needed compassion.
Living with compassion does not mean we have to give away all our possessions, take in every homeless person we meet, and fix every difficulty in our extended family and community. Compassion is not co-dependence. It does not mean we lose our self-respect or sacrifice ourself blindly for others. In the West we are confused about this point. We mistakenly fear that if we become too compassionate we will be overwhelmed by the suffering of others. But this happens only when our compassion is one-sided. In Buddhist psychology compassion is a circle that encompasses all beings, including ourselves.
Compassion blossoms only when we remember ourself and others, when the two sides are in harmony.
Compassion is not foolish. It doesn’t just go along with what others want so they don’t feel bad. There is a yes in compassion, and there is also a no, said with the same courage of heart. No to abuse, no to racism, no to violence, both personal and worldwide. The no is said not out of hate but out of an unwavering care.
Buddhists call this the fierce sword of compassion. It is the powerful no of leaving a destructive family, the agonizing no of allowing an addict to experience the consequences of his acts.
Wherever it is practiced, compassion brings us back to life.
Source- The Wise Heart by Jack Kornfield
Adapted by, G Ross Clark