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The purpose of this meditation is to generate a strong feeling of great compassion.

I began by making the appropriate preparations for meditation and recalled the sufferings that all living beings have to endure. All these very kind and precious living beings try so hard to be happy, but endure such suffering. Even when they experience happiness, it is short lived and unsatisfying. Fundamentally, because of our grasping at the true existence of all things, we generate delusions which create the causes of future suffering.

34937_482026429656_272366049656_6321962_866469_nLiving beings have to experience the suffering of birth. This painful and frightening experience must be undergone alone and without understanding. I thought – how wonderful it would be if no-one had to experience this suffering.

Living beings have to experience the suffering of sickness. They feel pain and discomfort, and mental suffering from the knowledge that they cannot do what they want to do, or perhaps that the sickness will only get worse until it eventually kills them. There may be no prospect of ever being well again. I thought – how wonderful it would be if no-one had to experience this suffering.

Living beings have to experience the suffering of aging. We all suffer when we realise that we are losing our looks, our fitness or our mental faculties. Looking in the mirror every morning reminds us of our aging, and our lost youth. I thought – how wonderful it would be if no-one had to experience this suffering.

Living beings have to experience the suffering of death. Our lives will be torn from our bodies in the end – there is no prospect of escaping this denouement.  When it comes, many people experience intense suffering at being separated from their possessions and family – such intense suffering! I thought – how wonderful it would be if no-one had to experience this suffering.

Living beings have to experience separation from what they love – so many people have families, but spend weeks, months or years away from them at work. Our lives are so short! We should not have to spend so much of them separated from what we love! I thought – how wonderful it would be if no-one had to experience this suffering.

Living beings have to experience contact with what they do not like. Every day we experience the misery of commuting, of people we dislike, situations we dislike, jobs we dislike, chores we dislike, obligations we dislike, weather we dislike, food we dislike. We should not have to experience so much we dislike! I thought – how wonderful it would be if no-one had to experience this suffering.

Living beings constantly have their dreams frustrated. We all have our ‘maybe someday’ dreams. Will we realise them one day, or will we reach an age when it suddenly dawns on us that we will never achieve our life long dream. We will be crushed, and know our life has not achieved what we always clung to as our aim. I thought – how wonderful it would be if no-one had to experience this suffering.

I thought of all these sufferings, and wished wholeheartedly that all living beings could be freed from these sufferings. They are so precious, so kind. They work so hard to be happy, yet they do not understand the causes of their suffering, and instead of creating the causes of happiness, they destroy it.

I wished that all living beings could be free from their suffering. I focused on this wish and kept my attention on it for the rest of the meditation. I felt a deep sense of wishing them to be free – to be able to enjoy every moment of their days. It was very peaceful and meaningful.

Dedication

May all living beings be free from their sufferings, and quickly attain enlightenment for the benefit of all.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will hold compassion in my heart and wish everyone I meet – be free from your suffering!

The purpose of this meditation is to develop strong compassion for hell beings, and to develop the strong wish never to be born in hell.

I began by making the appropriate preparations and then thought about the worst of the realms – the hell realms. Of the six realms of samsara, the hell realms contain what appears to the most negative and deluded minds. The hell realms are traditionally described as comprising scorching hot iron floors and walls of fire, and populated by horrific demons who sufferingtorture and kill those unfortunate enough to be born there. There are different specific tortures endured by hell beings, including being forced to fight and kill each other with weapons which spontaneously appear. As they are mutilated, their limbs fall to the ground and experience searing pain as they burn on the iron ground. Finally the hell beings expire, but then voices command them to revive, and fight again.

This presentation can be taken literally, in which case it is extremely powerful. For those who are not able to accept the existence of actual hells, the description can be seen as analogous to serious mental illness. The description fits someone whose paranoid view of the world and others leads them to experience pain and suffering constantly, and to see each interaction with others as a painful, wounding experience. Eventually it is bedtime, but their suffering begins once more in the morning.

I thought about what it must be like to find oneself in such a situation. There is constant pain. Everyone we encounter is hostile and wishes to harm us. Every contact leaves us wounded and in terrible pain. Finally it is too much, but instead of ending, the whole cycle begins anew. I thought again and again about how awful it would be to experience this, and I developed a deep compassion for those poor, poor beings experiencing such suffering. I also developed the sincere wish to avoid such suffering at all costs. I focused on this wish for the rest of the meditation.

Dedication

May all beings experiencing hell be released from their suffering quickly, and may they find they have purified the karma preventing them completing their spiritual path to enlightenment.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will try to remember the suffering of hell beings, and maintain the wish to avoid becoming a hell being.

The purpose of this meditation is to generate a strong feeling of compassion for all living beings, and then to consider what this means in terms of wishing love.

I began with some lovely breathing meditation, letting my attention settle upon the breath, and developing a very pleasant feeling. Following this I moved on to the main meditation.

I started by thinking about how all these living beings that I cherish are suffering. I thought back to my meditation of yesterday, and the feeling that I had forgotten all about my own self-cherishing – I only cherish others. So naturally, I am concerned for their well-being. But when I check, I can see that they constantly encounter problems and setbacks. No matter what they try, they never experience the happiness they seek in their heart of hearts.

I felt so sorry for them, and I wanted them to be free from their suffering. I focused on the thought ‘I want them to be free from their sufferings’ again and again. I slowly developed a feeling like an urge to help them become free from their suffering. When the feeling grew strong enough, I tried to let my attention rest on it without forgetting it, and I tried to maintain this for the rest of the meditation.

After a while I thought about what this means in light of wishing love. It seemed to me that these two wishes (the wish for others to be free from suffering and the wish for other to find true happiness) were the perfect wishes. We all have the same basic wish – to be happy all the time and to be free from suffering. So by maintaining compassion and wishing love, we are wishing to help others satisfy their two fundamental wishes. How perfect! With this in mind, I returned to my meditation on compassion for all living beings.

Dedication

May all living beings develop the wish for others to be happy, and through this wish, be born into the perfectly happy state of Buddhahood.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will try to look on others and see their suffering, and wish them to be free.

The purpose of this meditation is to generate the sincere wish for all living beings to be free from their suffering and then to meditate on this wish in light of Lamrim.

I began by mixing my mind with my Guru’s mind – trying to establish his mountain-like stability and his ocean-like depth and stillness in my own mind. When I had a really nice strong feeling of stability, depth and stillness, I moved on to the next stage.

I began by thinking about great compassion – the my wish for all living beings to be free from their suffering. Yesterday I had a lovely time at a friend’s barbeque. I spent the whole time talking to relatives of the host, and listening to the stories of their lives, and not saying anything about my life. One thing I noticed, especially with older people, is how unhappy and discontent they were. They were all suffering pretty much all the time. I thought about all these people, and imagined that they represented all living beings, and wished them true freedom from their sufferings. I really wished that they could be free. When I had this wish firmly in mind, I tried to remain on it for as long as possible.

After that, I thought about what this means in terms of the Lamrim cycle of meditations.

I realised that the Lamrim meditations lead me to a qualified mind of compassion. Compassion itself depends upon its parts, such as equanimity, affectionate love and cherishing love. Another essential component is the understanding of the sufferings of others, which Lamrim allows me to empathise with through my training in the Intermediate Scope. The Lamrim explains and gives experience of these parts, and naturally leads to qualified compassion. Compassion is the protector of migrators and the mother of the Buddhas. Lamrim gives me great compassion and all the attainments that follow on. How wonderful is Lamrim! With this joyous realisation, I fixed my mind on great compassion and tried to keep my attention firmly focused on it for the rest of the meditation.

Dedication

May all living beings be freed from their suffering, and quickly attain the protection of Buddhahood, for the benefit of all.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will try to remember to wish freedom from suffering on everyone I meet.

The purpose of this meditation is to generate the complete belief that we have abandoned self-cherishing and that we now only cherish others. We then think about this in light of great compassion.

I began by dissolving my Guru into my heart and sharing his peace and tranquillity. After a while of enjoying this clarity, I moved on to the main meditation.

I started by remembering my wish to abandon self-cherishing as it distorts my perceptions, and leads me down paths to suffering. I also remembered my wonderful experience yesterday in meditation of cherishing only others. I thought of how I do not have to completely neglect my body in order to only cherish others. At first, it may appear that I have to stop caring for my body and mind, and focus on others. But this is a mistake. I need to take sufficient care of my own body and mind so that they are in the best possible shape to cherish others. I can be like the ambulance driver who keeps his vehicle in the very best of condition so that it is always ready to help others when they need it. I settled on this feeling of looking after myself for others’ sake, and cherishing others whenever I can, and remained on it for as long as I could. When I forgot about the object and discovered that my mind was wandering, I brought it back to the object and tried to keep it there.

After a while, I thought about what this means in light of great compassion.

It seemed to me that today’s was extremely important to the attainment of great compassion. By abandoning self-cherishing and turning all our cherishing towards others, we become intensely interested in others. We become strongly concerned with their happiness and freedom and we naturally want them to be happy and free from suffering. It seemed very clear to me that exchanging self with others was a massive component of great compassion, and with this in mind, I returned to my wish to cherish only others.

Dedication

May all living beings exchange self with others, and quickly attain enlightenment for the benefit of all.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will treat others as if they were the most important person in the world

The purpose of this meditation is to realise that all living beings are our mother, and then to meditate on this understanding in light of great compassion.

Beginning with breathing meditation, I calmed my mind until it was still enough to contemplate the reasons why all living beings are our mother.

I began by thinking about dreams. When I fall asleep my mind dissolves and I experience dreams which seem real. When I die, the same process will occur. My mind will perceive my next life and I will have another mother. Since I have had countless past lives, I have had countless mothers – these are the living beings around me today.

I also realised that they have been my father, my brother, my sister, my aunt and my uncle, and every other relation. It seemed to me that living beings were not only my mother, but an entire family tree in one person. I focused on this and felt a real affection for them due to our relationship – I realised that I even had a faint smile. It was lovely and I stayed with the understanding for a while…

I then wondered what this meant in light of great compassion.

It was immediately clear to me that the understanding that all living beings are our mothers, and the affectionate love that I felt were essential to the development of great compassion. Great compassion was like a breathtaking lotus, and affectionate love was like a petal. The flower is incomplete without all its petals, and cannot perform its function. Therefore, I focused on remembering that all living beings were my mother with the recognition of the importance of so doing.

Dedication

May all living beings see the true relationship they have with others, and through this attain enlightenment for the benefit of all.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will look at others and remember that they are not only my mother, but every other relation I could possibly imagine – in each and every person.

The purpose of this meditation is to generate a lovely feeling of equanimity towards all living beings, and then to contemplate what this means in light of great compassion.

I began the meditation by doing a breathing meditation and trying to get a feeling for my Guru’s mind – thinking about how it must feel to have a constant active realisation of renunciation, love, compassion, bodhichitta and the correct view of emptiness. When I had a good feeling, I focused on it for a while.

Following this, I moved on to thinking about equanimity. I thought about how, in the past, I have been attached to people only to find that they have become my enemies. In the past I have been enemies with people only to find that later they become my friends. I thought about the mental gymnastics I have to do when people switch from friends to enemies. I have to flip my attitude from attachment to hatred, and back again. But obviously neither of these reflect the truth of the situation. Neither is sustainable. Neither is satisfactory.

I decided that I need to cultivate an attitude that is sustainable – one that I can remain within comfortably for the rest of my life. I decided that from now on I will not view people with attachment or hatred, but instead with a gentle, relaxed, warm and friendly feeling.

I settled on this gentle, relaxed, warm and friendly feeling towards all living beings as my object of meditation, and I focused on it for a long while…

After this, I decided to see what this meant in light of the realisation of great compassion.

I thought about how equanimity was the basis for great compassion. Rather than great compassion being a ‘stand alone’ mind, it is comprised of parts, one of which being equanimity. Without equanimity there can be no great compassion. Understanding this relationship, I refocused on the feeling of gentle, relaxed warmth and friendliness towards all living beings, and remained there for the rest of the session.

Dedication

May all living beings cultivate the sustainable attitude of equanimity, and through the confidence of this mind, may they quickly attain enlightenment for the benefit of all.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will try to keep this attitude of gentle, relaxed warmth and friendliness towards everyone I meet today, and impute all living beings upon them, so that my equanimity is towards all living beings.

The purpose of this meditation is to generate the determination to purify our negativities and to act in virtuous ways from now on, and then to meditate on this determination in light of great compassion.

I began by dissolving by Guru into my heart, and feeling as though my entire experience of the world was shot through with his compassion and wisdom. Although superficially the world was the same, it was also completely different. After a while I realised that it was not just my ‘external’ world which was different – my self was also completely mixed with my Guru’s mind, and I felt a deeper level of happiness fill me. I focused on this blissful feeling for a while…

After this, I moved on to the main meditation which was about karma. The law of karma is a proposition based on the generally accepted concept of cause and effect. The law of karma is that our actions are the cause of our future experiences. If we act in good ways, we our future experiences are good, and if we act in bad ways, our future experiences are bad. To act in good ways means to cherish others and to practice moral discipline.

I thought about how this idea puts us all in control of what happens to us in the future. We are not dependent on blind luck or some capricious deity. We create our own destiny. Far from surrendering control of our lives to a higher being, the law of karma forces us to take complete control.

I thought about this and it seemed to me that we are like a traveller in an dusty and mountainous landscape. Without an understanding of the path to enlightenment, we are simply wandering randomly, experiencing random pleasures and hardships. With an understanding of the path to enlightenment, we are aware of a goal we can reach – the shining city of enlightenment.

By purifying our negativities we are making our journey easier. I imagined that as I purify my negative karma, the mountains, boulders and rocks on my path gently dissolve into a lovely smooth ground – the gullys and ravines fill to the same level. As I act in virtuous ways, pools of water and fruit trees appear along my path, providing me with nourishment. All the while, I can see the city of enlightenment in the distance. My path leads directly towards it.

I focused on this understanding of the effect of accumulating virtue and purifying negativity, and I remained with this understanding for a while until a determination arose that I HAVE to accumulate virtue and I HAVE to purify my negativities if I want to attain the city of enlightenment. When this feeling was strong, I stayed with it for a while…

After that, I wondered what this meant in terms of great enlightenment.

I thought about what the karmic effect is of holding great compassion in my heart. With great compassion, I spontaneously wish for others to be free from all their suffering. The karmic effect of this will be that all living beings will spontaneously wish for me to be free from my suffering! I imagined my journey across the dusty landscape, and imagined being helped by many people – friends, strangers, even people who I believe do not like me. Everyone helped me along my journey. How wonderful.

With this in mind, I returned to the wish to accumulate virtue and to purify my negativities, because of all the benefits it will yield, and I focused on this wish for the rest of the meditation…

Dedication

May all living beings understand the law of karma, and through this understanding, act in ways which will allow them to attain the city of enlightenment for the benefit of all.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will try to keep this wish in mind throughout the day – the wish to act in virtuous ways, for the benefit of myself and others.

 

The purpose of this meditation is to generate the strong feeling of going for protection to the Three Jewels of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and then to see what this means in light of great compassion.

I began by dissolving my Guru into my heart and letting my mind fill with his experience of love and emptiness. Once I had established this firmly I focused on it until my mind was fairly still, and ready to move on to the next phase of the meditation.

I began by bringing to mind a visualisation I have been using for some time during the Prayers (which I do before the meditation itself). I imagine that there is a vast waterfall extending from horizon to horizon, but instead of water moving over the edge and plunging down into darkness, it is living beings.

The scene represented billions of living beings living their lives in ignorance of the nature of samara. As they live their lives, they move towards the edge of the cliff. The moment they die is the moment they reach the edge of the cliff. After death come results of karma and they plunge into the lower realms.

But there is one bridge sticking out from the cliff. I struggle through the crowds of people towards it, always moving closer to the edge as I do so, swept along by the relentless tide of people. Some people are calling me over towards the bridge and I follow their instructions. I imaging getting to the bridge, which is very narrow and has no handrails, and joining a line of people moving along it. I walk out across empty space and at the end of the bridge is a platform where there is Guru Sumati Buddha Heruka, representing all Three Jewels. He is radiating bright light which fills the universe. I sit before him and I imagine that that is where I actually am. All the while, I am aware of the billions of living beings pouring over the edge of the cliff around me.

The bridge represents my refuge practice, which protects me from lower rebirth. I gradually let this image sink into my mind, and I felt a deep feeling of good fortune, humbleness and appreciation. My refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha will protect me from lower rebirth. I focused on this feeling for a while…

After some time, I thought about what this means in terms of great compassion. I immediately thought of the billions of living beings plunging into the lower realms. I want to help them, but I cannot help them if I, myself, am falling into the lower realms with them, with no control. Through my refuge practice, I am opening the door to my spiritual practice, and my developing great compassion, which in turn will lead me to have the ability to help all living beings without exception.

I returned to my place on the platform in front of Guru Sumati Buddha Heruka, and focused on the wish to go for refuge to the Three Jewels for the sake of all living beings. I looked at this wish for the rest of the meditation…

Dedication

May all living beings quickly find their way to protection from the lower realms, and from this firm ground, quickly attain enlightenment for the benefit of all.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will go for refuge throughout the day, and keep in my heart the wish to help all living beings.

The purpose of this meditation is to remember the dangers of lower rebirth and to develop a sincere dread of experiencing them, and then to contemplate what this means in light of great compassion.

I began by mixing my mind with my Guru’s mind, and imagining that I shared his experience of the world. I concentrated on experiencing love, compassion, bodhichitta and the correct view of emptiness. It slowly came together and when I had a good feeling, I focused on it for a time…

I then thought about how everything I experience is an appearance to my mind arising from my past actions. The lower realms are appearances as seemingly real as the room I am sitting in right now. At the moment the appearances are good, but this could change at any moment. My circumstances could change and in the next 24 hours my seemingly stable world could be torn apart. I recently saw a Facebook post from a relative of mine who said ‘I wish things could go back to the way they were’. Soon I could be wishing the same thing.

Appearances are deceptive and only change is certain. When I die, all bets are off and I could be reborn in dreadful circumstances. I like to think my death is a long way away, but it could happen in the next 24 hours.

I stayed with the thought that I am very close to a dramatic change in my circumstances and I will definitely experience the lower realms. It was a disturbing experience, and I focused on this feeling for a long while…

After that I wondered what this meant in light of great compassion.

I realised that one implication is that even if I am reborn in the lower realms, if I have the realisation of great compassion, I will be protected from suffering. With great compassion, I will be able to practice taking perfectly, and this will protect me from suffering, despite my circumstances. With this in mind, I determined to attain the realisation of great compassion because it will protect me from the disturbing suffering of the lower realms. I remained with this notion for the rest of the meditation.

Dedication

May all living beings understand the nature of appearances and the nature of the lower realms, and generate such dread that they easily propel themselves to enlightenment, for the benefit of all.

Practice in the Meditation Break

I will look for others suffering in resembling hells, and, out of compassion, practice taking their suffering upon myself, and giving them my current fortunate circumstances.

Modern Buddhism

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