Once we develop a caring, realistic attitude, the next step is developing compassion for others. Compassion is not looking down on others with pity but is based on empathy – feeling what others feel. Compassion, then, is the wish for others to be free of suffering and it's causes, just as we would want to be free of them ourselves. It’s not just wishful thinking but knowing that it is hopeless; rather, it is based on confidence that it is possible to be free of them. Compassion also contains an element of willingness to help and the intention to help in whatever way we can. It is not just passive. We help in either a physical or material way, if needed, or mentally we generate the state of mind that others need for overcoming their problems and we imagine sending it out to them.
- Calm down by focusing on the breath.
- Imagine yourself having lost your home and all your possessions in an earthquake and you have to sleep in the open, and struggle to find food and water, and you have no money to rebuild your life. You feel totally hopeless and depressed.
- Imagine how you would want to be free of this situation and realize that the cause of your unhappiness is your depression, so feel determined to be free of this depression and to find the means for rebuilding.
- Then imagine your mother in the same situation and switch this determination for yourself to be free to your mother and develop compassion – the determination for her to be free of it.
- Wish for her not to give up hope and to have the courage and strength to rebuild.
- Then imagine the same thing with the hundreds of thousands of Nepalis currently in this situation and develop compassion for them.
- Do the same procedure for emotional imbalance. Recall a time when you were emotionally unbalanced and, realizing that you can gain emotional balance by developing a calm, clear mind, generate the determination to be free of imbalance.
- Then switch this to your mother, and then to all beings.
Just as we want to be happy and never unhappy, the same is true about everyone else. Everyone wants to be free of their suffering and problems, just as we do. To develop compassion for them – the wish for them to be free of their suffering – we need first to acknowledge and face our own problems and develop the strong wish to be free of them. The stronger our determination is to eliminate our own sufferings, the better able we’ll be to empathize with the sufferings of others and to develop the determination to help them overcome their sufferings as well. That determination directed at others as what we call “compassion.”