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What exactly is compassion?

Here’s an interesting excerpt I wanted to share from a rather unknown book to many (including me a few months ago). The weekend Buddhism class I go to has a teacher who reads a few pages from the book and it has lately got me thinking quite profoundly about compassion.

Book: “How to Transform Your Life: A Blissful Journey”

It is written by a meditation master and Buddhism practitioner with an incredibly clear mind: Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

In it he gives a very interesting definition of compassion:

“Compassion is a mind that is motivated by cherishing other living beings and wishes for them to be free from their suffering.”

Well, here’s the kicker:

He extends it by saying “true compassion is necessarily based on just cherishing others and doesn’t involve any return for you.” What?! Nothing for me? But I am so important ;)

Sometimes in close relationships you are wishing others to move past their suffering so you can enjoy their company again. Like for example, if your partner or a dear friend is sick or sad, you typically show pity for their situation but after a while become restless needing them to move on and give you pleasant feelings (by returning to your usual routine!). Now examine this desire you have. Are you really wishing them to be free because of your personal interest? What if you find out they are helpless and need to extend their situation for 2 more days? Would that make you be upset? Is it about you or is it about them?

Your mind is constantly seeking pleasant feelings and of course ‘if only everything is just like how it was yesterday aka the comfort zone, life would be awesome”. But things change, people change. Life is constantly embracing change and being OK with it.

This was a valuable lesson I have learned and struggling to apply in my daily life.

Cherishing others just for the sake of them, not me.