hands praying painting

Albrecht Dürer: Praying hands 1508

A Buddhist wow of compassion:

Living beings are without number:
I vow to row them to the other shore.
Defilements are without number:
I vow to remove them from myself.
The teachings are immeasurable:
I vow to study and practice them.
The way is very long:
I vow to arrive at the end.

"The importance of love and compassion is not an idea that is particular to Buddhism. Everyone throughout the world talks about the importance of love and compassion. There's no one who says love and compassion are bad and we should try and get rid of them. However, there is an uncommon element in the method or approach which is taken to these by Buddhism. In general, when we think of compassion, we think of a natural or spontaneous sympathy or empathy which we experience when we perceive the suffering of someone else. And we generally think of compassion as being a state of pain, of sadness, because you see the suffering of someone else and you see what's causing that suffering and you know you can't do anything to remove the cause of that suffering and therefore the suffering itself. So, whereas before you generated compassion, one person was miserable, and after you generate compassion, two people are miserable. And this actually happens.” [that people misunderstand compassion to be ‘suffering with the suffering’]

Venerable Thrangu Rinpoche,
A senior meditation master and scholar In the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.

Ye have heard that it hath been said,Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Mathew 5:43-48

tibet dalai lama praying

Picture from

Compassion and attachment Important to distinguish

If you look at compassion that is mixed with attachment, no matter how intense and strong that mixed emotion may be, you will realise that it is based on your projection of certain positive qualities onto the object of your compassion – whether the object is a close friend, a family member, or whomever. Depending upon your changing attitudes toward that object, your emotional feelings will also change. For example, in a relationship with a friend, suddenly one day you may no longer be able to see in that person the good qualities that you had previously perceived, and this new attitude would immediately affect your feelings toward that person.
Genuine compassion, on the other hand, springs from a clear recognition of the experience of suffering on the part of the object of compassion, and from the realisation that this creature is worthy of compassion and affection. Any compassionate feelings that arises from these two realisations cannot be swayed – no matter how that object of compassion reacts against you. Even if the object reacts in a very negative way, this won’t have the power to influence your compassion. Your compassion will remain the same or become even more powerful.

Dalai Lama: “The Good Heart” p.68

The nature of compassion

If you carefully examine the nature of compassion, you will also find that genuine compassion can be extended even to one’s enemies, those whom you consider to be hostile toward you. In contrast, compassion mixed with attachment cannot be extended to someone whom you consider to be your enemy. […] However, this realisation that another person wishes to harm and hurt you cannot undermine genuine compassion – a compassion based on the clear recognition of that person as someone who is suffering, someone who has the natural and instinctual desire to seek happiness and overcome suffering, just as oneself.

Dalai Lama: “The Good Heart” p.68

Why do things happen Why? “It is presumptuous to think that we can always say what is good or what is bad for the patient. Perhaps he knows something is really bad, and does it anyway and then gets a bad conscience. From the therapeutic, that is to say empirical, point of view, this may be very good indeed for him. Perhaps he HAS to experience the power of evil and suffer accordingly, because only in that way can he give up his Pharisaic attitude to other people. Perhaps fate or the unconscious or God – call it what you will – had to give him a hard knock and roll him in the dirt, because only such a drastic experience could strike home, pull him out of his infantilism, and make him more mature.
How can anyone find out how much he needs to be saved if he is quite sure that there is nothing he needs saving from?

C. G. Jung:” Civilisation in transition, Vol 10, Collected Works

Compassionate listening

silent, calm and with compassion

Picture from

In your new book "Anger," you [Thich Nhat Hanh,] give an example of "compassionate listening" as a tool to heal families. Can that tool be used at a national level, and if so, how would that work? This past summer a group of Palestinians and Israelis came to Plum Village, the practice centre where I live in southern France, to learn and practice the arts of deep listening and loving speech. […] The group of Palestinians and Israelis participated in the daily schedule of walking meditation, sitting meditation, and silent meals, and they also received training on how to listen and speak to each other in such a way that more understanding and peace could be possible between them as individuals and as nations. With the guidance and support of the monks and nuns, they sat down and listened to each other. When one person spoke no one interrupted him. Everyone practiced mindfulness of their breathing and listening in such a way that the other person felt heard and understood. When a person spoke, they refrained from using words of blame, hatred, and condemnation. They spoke in an atmosphere of trust and respect. Out of these dialogues the participating Palestinians and Israelis were very moved to realize that both sides suffer from fear.[…]. The same situation now exists between the American people and people of Islamic and Arabic nations. There is much misunderstanding and lack of the kind of communication that hinders our ability to resolve our difficulties peacefully. Compassion is a very large part of Buddhism and Buddhist practice.

Interview of Thich Nhat Hanh, here from the net

Allah is merciful and compassionate

allah akbar meaning allah is the greatest, excerpt from the koran

ALLAH AKBAR "ALLAH is the Greatest"
Oil on Canvas By: Hicham Takache, 1992

“All of the Koran's 114 chapters except one begins with the phrase "Allah is merciful and compassionate." A Muslim is expected to recognize the brotherhood of man and should treat a non-Muslim as a brother. Showing compassion and charity, Muslims believe, is doing service to God. Therefore, it is written in the Koran "No man is a true believer unless he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.”.


Without understanding, compassion is impossible

plain hits the twin towers

“[…] But at this point in time, compassion towards terrorists seems impossible to muster. Is it realistic to think people can feel true compassion now? Without understanding, compassion is impossible. When you understand the suffering of others, you do not have to force yourself to feel compassion; the door of your heart will just naturally open. All of the hijackers were so young and yet they sacrificed their lives for what? Why did they do that? What kind of deep suffering is there? It will require deep listening and deep looking to understand that. To have compassion in this situation is to perform a great act of forgiveness.”

Interview of Thich Nhat Hanh, here from the net

If you want to learn more about compassion and how it relates to counselling take a look at our correspondence counselling course and homestudy transpersonal counselling course , both are based on what 30 years of working within the field of counselling has taught us and both talk about Buddhist counselling , Christian counselling and how simply showing compassion is more important than which religion you or your client belongs to.

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