What Is Compassion?

In Buddhism, compassion is the wish for others to be free from suffering. It is based on appreciating other people’s feelings, especially when we’ve gone through the same ordeal. Even if we’ve never experienced what they’re going through, we can put ourselves in their shoes and feel how awful it must be. Imagining how much we'd want to be free of it, we strongly yearn for others to be free as well.

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive. - The 14th Dalai Lama

Compassion opens our hearts and minds to others, breaking us out of the lonely, self-imposed confines of thinking just of ourselves. We are all together in facing problems in life and, when we feel connected with others, we overcome isolation and anxiety. Being compassionate is scientifically proven to make us happier. If we train ourselves to develop compassion, it becomes truly a profound source of well-being, inner strength and self-confidence (See How to Develop Compassion).

Compassion should be active, motivating us to take responsibility to alleviate others’ suffering. Our ability to help might be limited, but we still do whatever we can because it's difficult to stand idly by while people are unhappy and in pain.

Compassion is best when combined with wisdom – to know what will really benefit others. With strong perseverance in developing compassion for others, no matter what they do or whether they take our advice, it becomes the best tool to overcome our own shortcomings and realize our full potential.