by His Eminence Nubpa Konchok Tenzin Rinpoche
Translated by Lama Nyandak
June 22, 2010
The theme of tonight’s public talk is Loving Kindness and Compassion. Rinpoche, based on his own experience and understanding, would like to share with us what he knows on loving kindness and compassion.
Based on the Buddhist’s view, we believe that each and every single living being has feelings. Because of that, we all desire to have happiness and we all desire to be free from suffering. This is the fundamental instinct/quest that we all possess. According to individual’s higher or lesser capacity, everyone tries to seek happiness and peace in their lives. Just because of this fundamental feeling and consciousness that we all possess, we have the potential to understand each other’s feeling and we have the potential to help each other. Based on our fundamental wish, if we try to expand this feeling of happiness and peace to others, we are really able to bring happiness and peace to others as well. This fundamental feeling and consciousness, that we call loving kindness and compassion, if we have it, even within the family community, it will bring more harmony and peace. So based on the fundamental feeling of love to our family, if we are able to share this with our neighbors, our nation, across countries and so on, this fundamental love and compassion can expand to become vast and limitless.
So the foundation of the fundamental Buddhist practice of bodhicitta, in order to be arisen within an individual’s mind, is loving kindness and compassion. When we talk about individuals who aspire to generate bodhicitta within their own mind, we are talking about loving kindness and compassion that is impartial. Normally, we do have loving kindness and compassion in our mind, but it is very much partial. For example, we may have loving kindness to our own relatives or own close friends and so on or someone whom we like, but we might not have loving kindness toward someone whom we consider as an enemy. Therefore, when we talk about bodhicitta, loving kindness and compassion in the context of the Buddhist idea, we are talking about loving kindness and compassion which is impartial.
The very definition of love is: An individual who wishes others to be happy, that very sentiment itself is loving kindness. The definition of compassion is: When an individual who upon seeing someone going through pain and suffering, wishes that person to be free from suffering. That very sentiment is compassion. We can take an example of love and compassion that a mother gives to a child. The mother loves her own child and she wishes that the child be happy and free from suffering. That very sentiment is loving kindness and compassion. In the Buddhist context, mind of enlightenment or bodhicitta, the level of loving kindness and compassion is very high. On that level, an individual is generating love and compassion to all living beings and wishing them all to have happiness and to be free from suffering. In this context, happiness means ever-lasting happiness and everlasting liberation.
When we wish others to have happiness and be free from suffering, this kind of love and compassion is also on high level because we are not just talking about sensational suffering that others are going through in their mind; but rather the entire suffering that others have - physically, mentally, visible or invisible. When we wish others to be free from the entire suffering, this kind of sentiment is of high degree. When we generate this kind of loving kindness and compassion, we are not talking about generating loving kindness to our own children, our own close friends and so on, but rather, we are talking about generating loving kindness and compassion to the entire gamut of limitless sentient beings.
Even though the basic definition of love and compassion may be easy to understand, but somehow, it is not so easy to really have it in our own mind and to practically generate it within our own mind. In order to generate non-artificial loving kindness and compassion to all living beings, Buddhist tradition has explored ways and methods to train our mind into that kind of level. This is called lojong or mind-training. There are varieties of methods to how one can train our own mind.
One of the methods to train our mind to generate non-artificial loving kindness and compassion is to recognize that all living beings are our own mother. Of course, to recognize that, you have to find out how that comes about and why it is so. From the Buddhist context, since the beginning until now, we have countless number of lives. In each life, we have a mother. So, in this perspective, we understand that each and every sentient being, once upon a time, has been our own mother. In this way, you will be able to treat every single being as your own mother. Once you find this reason everyday in your life, wherever you go, when you encounter any sentient being, you will have the notion that once upon a time, this person has been my mother. If you have this notion in your mind, naturally you will be able to generate loving kindness and compassion toward that person.
This kind of non-artificial generation by the recognition that all living beings have been your mother is not so easy. In order to have this genuine recognition, everyday from the moment you wake up in the morning until you go to sleep, you have to bear this in your mind that every sentient being that you meet or encounter has been your own mother. Secondly, you have to remember the kindness that mother has given to us. Sentient beings, who have been our mothers, have been offering their kindnesses to us. First, you have to remember the kindness of the mother from this life. If you remember the kindness from this life’s mother, the kindness of the mothers from other lives can also be perceived in the same way. So, you will remember and cherish the kindness of all mothers in the same way. When you have these two recognitions - the recognition that all sentient beings have been your mothers and remembering their kindness, you will naturally wish all of them to have happiness and the causes of happiness. You will naturally wish all of them to be free from suffering and the causes of suffering. So, this is one of the methods to train our mind.
Another method is equalizing oneself with others. You have to reflect that just as you have the fundamental instinctive desire for happiness and the fundamental wish to be free from suffering, others also in the same way are longing for happiness and have the wish to be free from suffering. Just as you do not want to get anger from others, in the same way, they do not want anger from others. Whatever you wish or avoid, others share the same kind of feelings. This fundamental quest for happiness and free from suffering is common to all sentient beings.
The third method is exchanging oneself with others. The reason why we wish to be happy and free from suffering is because we cherish ourselves so much, so we try all we can to seek for happiness and avoid all suffering. If that is the case, in order to generate bodhicitta, instead of cherishing yourself, we should exchange ourselves with others and cherish others more. Based on the practice of bodhicitta, we generate wishes in our mind that all sentient beings may have happiness and the causes of happiness and all sentient beings may be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
In the mind of bodhisattvas, the nature of samsara is suffering. According to the Buddhist view, all sentient beings are classified into six realms of beings – three higher realms and three lower realms. When we think about the three lower realms – hell, hungry ghost and animals, of course, we do not have to prove that these beings have countless sufferings. Sentient beings who are in the higher realms (human, god and demi-god) also have sufferings. The fundamental Buddhist view is that everything is of a suffering nature because of the fact that all compounded phenomena are impermanent. As long as an event or phenomenon comes together through causes and conditions, that very event or phenomenon cannot last forever. That impermanent nature is the seed of suffering. Normally in human mind when we think about birth, it is something positive, but in reality that nature of birth is death. Also in our human mind, accumulating a lot of wealth is considered as positive for our well-being and happiness, but somehow this collection of wealth itself, the nature is exhaustion – somehow, it can be destroyed and diminished and it will not last forever. In the human society, we always wish for higher positions. But as we get to higher and higher positions, it becomes more dangerous to fall down deeper and lower. Also normally when our friends get together and gather lots of positive energies and good feelings, however, the very nature of meeting is separation.
So after understanding where suffering comes from in this world, we will develop some sense of renunciation seeking the way to be free from all different kinds of sufferings. The only way to be free from suffering is through liberation, the attainment of enlightenment. The way to attain enlightenment is through bodhicitta, the mind of enlightenment. An individual, who has more love and compassion, has more consideration and wish to help others more, that person’s mind is more altruistic as well.
Generally, in the world, there are many religions, and all religions focus on human kind trying to lessen the suffering of human beings. This will only happen if there is genuine loving kindness and compassion in our minds. We do not have to talk about the benefit of loving kindness and compassion towards all sentient beings, even from the practical point of view, if an individual generate loving kindness and compassion, the environment around that individual itself becomes more peaceful, more harmonious and happier.
Loving kindness and compassion is not something that can be achieved by discussion, but rather it is something we have to practically apply to our daily life. If we are able to apply this kind of method and practice in our day to day life, definitely, there will be some benefits out of that.
Questions and Answers:
1. Q: How can we give our love and compassion to others so that they also have love and compassion? Isn’t it so that they have to develop that on their own, and we just have to be patient with them since we cannot hurry up others? In that case, is it enough to have loving kindness and compassion within our mind since even when we have tried to apply it to others, it did not work out? I am thinking of in the working environment or in society.
A: Earlier, as I have mentioned, to understand the definition of love and compassion may be easy, but somehow to practically generate this loving kindness and compassion in our mind is not that easy. Of course, we have to work hard, try our best to help others. For example, we have to understand that the other person, if due to his or her jealousy or pride or anger and so on, go the wrong way. The poisons of jealousy, pride and anger close that person’s mind up and disturb that person. So, it is miserable for that person himself or herself. With this understanding, we should have even more love for that person. In order to have love and compassion genuinely in our mind, we really have to work hard as I have mentioned, we have to do mind training, lojong. So that is something that is needed in our day-to-day life.
2. Q: Can we practise love and compassion when we are not having a retreat in a cave, like Milarepa?
A: Yes, it is possible.
3. Q: Why is it that it is more difficult for me to feel compassionate during the morning or in the daytime when I encounter difficulties, but easier to feel more compassionate in the evening when the day is over?
A: It can be due to your body element. If your body element tends to have more wind in the morning, because of that, you will feel more aggressive and so on in the morning; whereas in the afternoon or in the evening, you will feel calmer. In general in the morning, our body tends to have stronger wind. Of course, when we talk about consciousness, or at the mental level, there is no difference in terms of time of the day – morning, afternoon, evening or night, it remains the same.
4. Q: Sometimes life is very difficult - maybe you lose your job or somebody dies and everything happens at the same time. So you may feel bitter, angry and feel that everyone is injustice to you, not to mention people living in different parts of the world who are in poverty and great difficulty. How can we have peace in our mind and develop loving kindness and compassion under these very difficult circumstances, where you are at the lowest level in society?
A: In order to help us not to have discouragement in our mind, the practice of mind training is needed. The principal practice of mind training is to try to build up strong courage. The courage or determination that whatever things happen to you in your life, whatever circumstances that happen in your life, you are ready to face them, this kind of strong will and determination that you are willing to accept whatever difficulties that arise in your life. Also in the Thirty-seven Boddhisattva Practices (one of the mind-training texts) mentioned that when somebody is looking down on you and when you have lost everything, when you are going through miserable difficulties, at that moment, instead of feeling miserable, you should think and imagine that all sentient beings are also going through miserable difficulties, and may they not have to go through the misery that I am going through, rather may all the miserable things that they are going through come upon myself. May the misery that I am going through be strong enough to liberate all the misery of all sentient beings. So this kind of strong courage has to be there.
To deal with this kind of situation we can use wisdom. For example, you see that all compounded phenomena are of impermanent nature and because of that, they will not last forever. This is because their existence in the world depends solely on causes and conditions. Anything that is depending on causes and conditions cannot last forever. In this way, you understand that this is reality. So, you are using wisdom to deal with your problem.
Through this way, you are practicing compassion as well. If you are going through the suffering of losing your job, there is countless numbers of human beings who are going through the same problem as you. So you imagine that whatever the experience of suffering that you are going through may be strong enough to free all other’s suffering. Through your own suffering, you wish to help others who are going through suffering. This will help you to enhance your compassion.
5. Q: I wish others to have eternal happiness, but is it possible? Since I do not know what eternal happiness is, how can I wish for something that I do not even know what it is?
A: When we talk about eternal or everlasting happiness, we are talking about complete liberation. Liberation has no birth or death. If there is no birth or death, you do not have to go through transitions of suffering of birth, aging, sickness and death. You are completely free. However, it is not necessary that you are liberated before you send wishes to others. Of course, if you are liberated, it would be the best. The point that we are talking about here is aspiration, the intention. You have the aspiration that all living beings enjoy everlasting happiness. This is possible. For example, a poor person, who does not have any belongings and is very poor. But he or she can really wish that all living beings become rich or wealthy. He or she can wish for that even though for themselves they have nothing.
6. Q: Biased or partial love and compassion come from attraction, beauty and so on. Does the impartial love and compassion also have attraction?
A: In order to train ourselves for the impartial loving kindness and compassion, we have to practise equanimity. We have to have the equality mind towards all sentient beings. This is very important. Once you have this, in order to have loving kindness and compassion towards others, attraction has to be there – attraction to loving kindness and compassion. If there is no attraction, loving kindness and compassion will not arise.
7. Q: What is the relationship between emptiness and loving kindness and compassion?
A: So far what we have talked about on loving kindness and compassion, that is, the genuine wish that every sentient being have everlasting happiness and be free from suffering, belongs to the conventional one. If we talk about the union, the intimate connection between loving kindness and compassion and emptiness from the Buddhist point of view is that all sentient beingsī suffering is because they are not able to realize the true nature of all things. They have the strong misperception of how things really are. Because of that, we experience different kinds of pains and sufferings. The fundamental truth of how things really are boils down to the emptiness view. Those who have not realized the emptiness view (or ignorant of the emptiness view), suffer. The combination of compassion and the understanding that the entire sentient beings have not understood this emptiness view, that they undergo tremendous suffering; with that understanding, you develop great compassion. This is the intimate connection between compassion and emptiness.
8. Q: How to calm it down the wind element? How to balance wind?
A: When we talk about the imbalance of the wind element in the body, there are many different causes and conditions. We cannot have one instruction saying that this is the method to balance your wind element. It is because imbalance of wind element can be due to the imbalance of your body system, it can be due to food or stress from your mind or suffering. So it could be many different kinds of reasons. The best way is to practise calm abiding meditation, the tranquil abiding meditation or shamata meditation to rest your mind without having any thought. So this might be helpful. It is also said that those who have problem with wind (high wind) should avoid unattractive objects or places or people. If you have a good friend whom you feel close to or whom you can trust, you can be with that person more, sitting and talking to them. Avoid places that you do not like. Go to nice places and relax, this might be helpful too.
9. Q: In the West, it seems that to have compassion is to wish people to have less. We are not so good consumers and we are not doing what the society wants us to do. How to develop this compassion? We wish to possess fewer things but this is completely against what the big companies or the rich want us to do as they want us to consume more. How to practise compassion in society like this?
A: Nagarjuna said that in the nagas realm, those who have lots of snakes on the heads, are considered wealthy. In the mean time, there is more suffering the more snakes they have on their heads. Same thing in the human society, when we look at wealthier people, we tend to think that they are very happy, and that they have everything; but somehow, they have more suffering than ourselves. They have lots of suffering. It is true that those who are well off, do not have problems with physical things since they have everything; but they still have mental suffering. If you have that understanding, you can try to help on that level. One of the famous Indian masters, a disciple of Nagarjuna, Aryadeva said that wealthy people have the suffering from mental problems and poor people have the suffering from problems with food and clothing. In the human cyclic existence, this kind of suffering is cycling in this way day and night.
10. Q: About emptiness. Can you explain more on that?
A: Generally from the Buddhist point of view, the whole existence of phenomena has no birth and no death, it is of empty nature. Earlier we said that through emptiness, we develop compassion to others. If the individual himself/herself has the realization of the emptiness nature or the view of it, then it is like you have the eye-vision, but all other sentient beings do not have the eye-vision since they cannot see it. So, when you are in the middle of that stage, you naturally develop compassion to all the sentient beings and you naturally wish that all these people should be able to see what you can see. The same thing here, a person who has the realization of the emptiness view, that person has a natural or genuine compassion, wishing that all the living beings could realize what I have realized.
11. Q: What about abortion?
A: It is a great pity. When the baby is already formed, this baby is alive; so we should have care and consideration on life.
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|May all sentient beings gain the flavor of supreme knowledge,|
|that the unexcelled joy of truth fill their minds and bodies;|
|May all sentient beings obtain all the excellent flavors of nonattachment,|
|and not be addicted to mundane tastes, but always diligently cultivate and practice all aspects of Buddhahood;|
|May all sentient beings gain the flavor of one truth|
|and realize that all Buddha teachings are without difference;|
Last updated on 2010-10-31.