What Is Compassion?

In Buddhism, compassion is the wish for others to be free from suffering and the causes of 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 and feel more secure. Taking others’ pain and suffering seriously and wanting to help gives us inner strength and self-confidence. If we train ourselves to develop compassion, it becomes truly a profound source of well-being.

[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 still we do whatever we can because it's unbearable to stand idly by while people are unhappy and in pain.

Compassion is most effective when combined with knowledge and wisdom, so that we make the right choice of what to do. If we’re emotionally mature enough not to get upset or discouraged when we can’t help or what we suggest doesn’t work, compassion becomes the strongest motivation to overcome our shortcomings and develop our full potential.