“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Compassion is a deep understanding of someone’s pain and a sincere wish that the pain be reduced. Having such a wish and having this orientation changes the way we react to the world. This is the way Dalai Lama defines compassion. In most cases, when we are able to help, we would. But it is not part of way compassion is defined. Compassion is a heart-based practice. Compassion can change our relationships with people – parents, children, friends, and even the people who you may not know.

Another way to understand compassion is this. If love arises in you when you see a person in pain, instead of judgments or fear, then it is compassion.

Compassion is not just “being nice to everyone” and not to have ant conflict. It is not a sugary sweet way to behave. Compassion is what we feel when we see pain. The action may be strong and tough. But it is taken with the sincere wish to alleviate pain. Compassion requires courage. It requires understanding our own reactions such as revenge, jealousy, aggressiveness, power-mongering, resentment, passive game playing and all such ways in which we react to ways that create more harm in the world. When we change it into a compassionate response, our own aggression and anger subsides. Our own “right” mind takes over. It can create meaning and joy.

Loving Kindness, on the other hand, is to genuinely wish well to the other person, regardless of whether they are in pain or not. It is to recognize that others want to be happy just the way we want to be happy. We wish a sense of wellbeing to everyone else.

Loving Kindness and Compassion are practices that create joy, but they are not always natural to our behavior. We need to cultivate them. Also, there are a lot of questions that can arise as to when to practice them or whether they are appropriate to send to everyone and everything. These questions need to be resolved in our minds by conversations, contemplations, learning, and experimenting.

To understand the psychological benefits of compassion, read Tara Brach’s book Radical Compassion.

In order to cultivate compassion, practice Loving Kindness Compassion meditations. Sharon Salzberg is the teacher recognized with popularizing Loving Kindness Compassion meditations in the West. Read her book, Loving Kindness – the revolutionary Art of Happiness.
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