The Need for Compassion (20 July 2013)

Compassion is described in the dictionary as a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.
The day explored the nature of compassion, how it is experienced and shown it to others.  It looked at how compassion is taught in some of the world's wisdom teachings, and how it is related to other qualities and principles, such as wisdom and justice.  

A brief summary of the comments from the day:
Compassion is our real nature; it is our natural awakened and unlimited state of mind; it is universal; impartial; unselfish.  In one sense it is not needed, it just is.  It puts in place the positive, opposite to aggression, opposite to self-centredness.
Compassion is essential for happiness and spiritual development.  It truly expresses ourselves thus allowing us to become aware of who we really are.
Compassion is a practice.  It is THE practice that makes us human;even if we only give a little. 
Compassion is inextricably linked with Love and Wisdom.
Compassion involves feeling moved by others' suffering so that our heart responds to their pain.  It is the ‘feeling with another’ that allows the sensitivity of the heart to flow with pure Love.  Having compassion also means that we offer understanding and kindness to others when they fail or make mistakes, rather than judging them. When we feel compassion for another (rather than mere pity), it means that we realize that suffering, failure, and imperfection is part of the shared human experience. “There but for fortune go I.”
The Buddha taught that Suffering is inevitable for all conditioned beings and that Compassion brings release from suffering.  We too must expect to be tested, but with the knowledge that all problems can be helped by compassion.  In the practical application of compassion, our decisions, when guided by Wisdom, will balance the need for self- compassion with the need of compassion for the other. This helps us realise  that we are all inter-connected, everything and everyone.  This idea is simply and beautifully expressed by the Dalai Lama’s words, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.  If you want to be happy, practice compassion”
We are being tested, all the time, because there are innumerable blocks to the practice of compassion, everywhere.  Fear, egotism, selfishness, ignorance, greed, self delusion, fear of who we really are, holding onto negative feelings thoughts and actions, being judgemental, inability to forgive ourselves or others, our own unsatisfied needs.   It is not that easy simply to ‘just let go’ and un-attach from these depressively low feelings  and emotions, but rather it requires great effort and involves a life time journey and mastery over ones ‘lower desire body’.   It is a self sacrifice and surrender of the ‘little self’.
When compassion flows there is a completeness, a connectedness and integrality, a sense of release from anxiety and pain, with the illusion of separateness gone.  And with the suffering that is supported, without emotional attachment, comes the learning.
The flow of compassion involves empathy (stepping into the other’s moccasins), authenticity, positive regard, peace and acceptance.   It can break down negative patterns and bring abouta realisation of our interconnectedness and interdependence.
We need to have compassion for ourselves and in learning how to combine compassion and understanding of ourselves, so we become more able to extend it to others.  Anything becomes possible.

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