Compassion in Buddhism

What, according to Buddhism, is compassion? by the Ven. S. Dhammika
In Buddhism ‘all the best in human beings, all the Buddha-like qualities like sharing, readiness to give comfort, sympathy, concern and caring – all are manifestations of compassion. You will notice also that in the compassionate person, care and love towards others has its origins in care and love for oneself. We can really understand others when we really understand ourselves. We will know what’s best for others when we know what’s best for ourselves. We can feel for others when we feel for ourselves. So in Buddhism, one’s own spiritual development blossoms quite naturally into concern for the welfare of others. The Buddha’s life illustrates this very well. He spent six years struggling for his own welfare, after which, he was able to be of benefit to the whole of manking.’


‘Turning the Stream of Compassion Within’ by the Rev. Kinrei Bassis:
I always find that it is much easier to be upset with and judgmental about someone else’s mistakes when I only focus on their seemingly wrong behaviour. Yet if I gain a deeper understanding of the person, I find that the quick condemnation often dissolves, and sympathy and compassion arises.

When I look back on my years of Buddhist training, I can see how mistaken it was to be so upset with my own weaknesses  …. Normal human karma makes it easy to indulge in blaming something, someone, or ourselves for our suffering, to live in a fog of ignorance. Instead, what we need to focus on is helping the karma that is causing the suffering. Offering that help to ourselves and others is the very ground of Buddhist training.

For example, if my house is a mess, I can be filled with judgments about myself or others who may be the source of the mess. That is how our judgmental mind approaches situations that it does not like. Training is about noticing that our mind is filling with judgments, but then letting go of them, and focusing on what we need to do in the moment. When I face a dirty room, I need to not judge why this room is dirty. Instead, I just need to clean the room. This is the work of a Buddha.

In the same way, it does not matter why my heart is not pure; it is the work of a Buddha to do whatever will help to cleanse my heart. Instead of being upset or angry my impure heart, I need to understand that this is what spiritual life is all about doing the hard work of purifying my heart. I need to offer help to all the lost karma that is looking the wrong way for happiness. Rather than be upset with whom I seem to be, I need to awaken the desire to help my heart to turn to the Buddha.

The judgmental mind comes from a fear of whom we seem to be and fear of what this suffering world seems to be. The mind of meditation is the mind that is open and non-judgmental. … When we see mistakes and the resulting suffering, we do not judge, but instead keep our hearts open and have compassion… Everyone confronts the same basic darkness, which is the darkness that emanates from feeling as though our deepest desires are not going to be fulfilled.

Turning the stream of compassion within is letting go of our opinions and desires so that the same compassion that fills the universe can also be experienced filling our hearts and our lives. Although it seems utterly impossible to believe, we are dreaming we are suffering, dreaming harsh judgments of ourselves and others, and dreaming we are lonely and separate beings. The life of Buddha is the all-embracing life of compassion. That compassion flows through everything, washing away all impurity, and allowing everything to find its true place in the great Mandala of the Buddhas.