Why is compassion central to Buddhism?

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nichiren-123
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Why is compassion central to Buddhism?

Post by nichiren-123 » Sun Nov 18, 2018 2:33 pm

I often hear and read how compassion is vital to Buddhist practice, alongside wisdom.
My question is why is compassion important and how does it relate to wisdom?

Malcolm
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Re: Why is compassion central to Buddhism?

Post by Malcolm » Sun Nov 18, 2018 3:22 pm

nichiren-123 wrote:
Sun Nov 18, 2018 2:33 pm
I often hear and read how compassion is vital to Buddhist practice, alongside wisdom.
My question is why is compassion important and how does it relate to wisdom?
Love and compassion are the basis for Mahāyāna bodhicitta, the wish to attain perfect buddhahood for the benefit of sentient beings. However, love and compassion are not sufficient for eliminating obscurations, so for this one requires wisdom.

Without compassion, one cannot generate bodhicitta, and without bodhicitta, one cannot attain perfect buddhahood. So one can understand that compassion is the field in which the qualities of awakening grow.

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明安 Myoan
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Re: Why is compassion central to Buddhism?

Post by 明安 Myoan » Sun Nov 18, 2018 9:30 pm

:good:

Also worth reading Shantideva's Bodhisattvacharyavatara to understand bodhicitta, how to cultivate it, and its importance.
With a heart wandering in ignorance down this path and that, to guide me I simply say Namu-Amida-Butsu. -- Ippen

The Fundamental Vow [of Amitabha Buddha] is just for such people as woodcutters and grassgatherers, vegetable pickers, drawers of water and the like, illiterate folk who merely recite the Buddha's name wholeheartedly, confident that as a result of saying "Namu Amida Butsu" they will be born into the western land. -- Master Hōnen

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Losal Samten
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Re: Why is compassion central to Buddhism?

Post by Losal Samten » Sun Nov 18, 2018 10:01 pm

Taranatha and Atisha on the subject:


I need to attain buddhahood. I therefore need to cultivate bodhicitta since it is the cause of buddhahood. The cause of bodhicitta is compassion. The cause of compassion is love. The cause of love is appreciation and gratefulness. The cause of appreciation is recognising all sentient beings have been my parents. I should meditate on developing these qualities in stages.

-Meditate again and again.-

All sentient beings are my parents--they have been so kind to me. Wouldn't it be right if they were to be free from suffering? Wouldn't it be right for them to be comfortable and happy? I will, therefore, attain buddhahood in order to establish them all in happiness. Once I have attained buddhahood, I will also place all sentient beings on the level of buddhahood.

[... in the annals of the graduated teachings called The Necessary Stages of Mind Training in the Mahayana, this quote appears: "You should train your mind by stages in the seven causal links found in Atisha's extraordinary Mahayana teachings".

Atisha's presentation of the seven causal links states that buddhahood is not without causes and conditions. Buddhahood arises from the cause of bodhicitta. Bodhicitta is born from a pure and excellent motivation. A pure motivation arises from great compassion. Great compassion arises from love. Love arises from seeing all sentient beings with affection. Seeing beings with affection arises from appreciation and gratefulness. Appreciation and gratefulness arise from developing the perception of sentient beings as your mothers.]
Lacking mindfulness, we commit every wrong. - Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔
ཨོཾ་ཧ་ནུ་པྷ་ཤ་བྷ་ར་ཧེ་ཡེ་སྭཱ་ཧཱ།།
ཨཱོཾ་མ་ཏྲི་མུ་ཡེ་སལེ་འདུ།།

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Re: Why is compassion central to Buddhism?

Post by jmlee369 » Wed Nov 21, 2018 9:56 am

nichiren-123 wrote:
Sun Nov 18, 2018 2:33 pm
I often hear and read how compassion is vital to Buddhist practice, alongside wisdom.
My question is why is compassion important and how does it relate to wisdom?
From the Avatamsaka Sutra:
“Moreover, Good Man, to constantly accord with living beings is explained like this: Throughout seas of Kshetras in the ten directions exhausting the Dharma Realm and the realm of empty space, there are many different kinds of living beings. That is to say, those born from eggs, womb-born, moisture-born, transformationally born, as well as those who live and rely on earth, water, fire, and air for their existence. There are beings dwelling in space, and those who are born in and live in plants and trees. This includes all the many species and races with their diverse bodies, shapes, appearances, lifespans, families, names, and natures. This includes their many varieties of knowledge and views, their various desires and pleasures, their thoughts and deeds, and their many different deportments, clothing and diets. It includes beings who dwell in different villages, towns, cities and palaces, as well as gods, dragons, others of the eight divisions, humans and non-humans alike.

Also there are footless beings, beings with two feet, four feet, and many feet, with form and without form, with thought and without thought, and not entirely with thought and not entirely without thought. I will accord with and take care of all these many kinds of beings, providing all manner of services and offerings for them. I will treat them with the same respect I show my own parents, teachers, elders, Arhats, and even the Thus Come Ones. I will serve them all equally without difference.

“I will be a good doctor for the sick and suffering. I will lead those who have lost their way to the right road. I will be a bright light for those in the dark night, and cause the poor and destitute to uncover hidden treasures. The Bodhisattva impartially benefits all living beings in this manner.

“Why is this? If a Bodhisattva accords with living beings, then he accords with and makes offerings to all Buddhas. If he can honor and serve living beings, then he honors and serves the Thus Come Ones. If he makes living beings happy, he is making all Thus Come Ones happy. Why is this? Because all Buddhas, Thus Come Ones, take the mind of great compassion as their substance. Because of living beings, they bring forth great compassion. From great compassion, the Bodhi mind is born; and because of the resolve for Bodhi, they accomplish Equal and Proper Enlightenment.

“It is like a great king of trees growing in the rocks and sand of a barren wilderness. When the roots get water, the branches, leaves, flowers, and fruits will all flourish. The Bodhi-tree king growing in the wilderness of birth and death is the same. All living beings are its roots; all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are its flowers and fruits. By benefiting all beings with the water of great compassion, one can realize the flowers and fruits of the Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ wisdom.

“Why is this? If all Bodhisattvas benefit living beings with the water of great compassion, they can attain anuttarasamyaksambodhi. Therefore, Bodhi belongs to living beings. Without living beings, no Bodhisattva could perfect the Unsurpassed Proper Enlightenment
.

“Good Man, you should understand these principles in this way: When the mind is impartial towards all living beings, one can accomplish full and perfect great compassion. By using the heart of great compassion to accord with living beings, one perfects the making of offerings to the Thus Come Ones. In this way the Bodhisattva constantly accords with living beings.

“Even when the realm of empty space is exhausted, the realms of living beings are exhausted, the karma of living beings is exhausted, and the afflictions of living beings are exhausted, I will still accord endlessly, continuously in thought after thought without cease. My body, mouth, and mind never weary of these deeds.
source

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Re: Why is compassion central to Buddhism?

Post by Fortyeightvows » Mon Dec 31, 2018 3:44 pm

Why is compassion central to Buddhism?
Alot of the teachings about metta, good will, nonharmingg, non violence, precepts etc are because they agitate or excite the mind.
So much of Buddhism is about controlling and subduing the mind, if someone violates the precepts it will be hard to subdue the mind.
Moreover, if a person harms others, than others will try to harm them back which makes the personas life harder and more worries etc.

Being compassionite is more conducive to practice.

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Re: Why is compassion central to Buddhism?

Post by Seeker12 » Mon Dec 31, 2018 4:04 pm

nichiren-123 wrote:
Sun Nov 18, 2018 2:33 pm
I often hear and read how compassion is vital to Buddhist practice, alongside wisdom.
My question is why is compassion important and how does it relate to wisdom?
The natural state of the sun is to shine, and part of this shining is that it provides warmth to all without discrimination.

If there was anything which got in the way of this, it would be basically an inhibiting factor.

Compassion is like the shining of the sun, and in the full realization of the sun, it is naturally present.

On the level of training, training in compassion, love, etc is basically allowing us to approach the natural state, so to speak. It is discursive, but it sort of 'approximates' the natural rest until we realize that properly, at which point it is simply like the sun that shines.

In the causal vehicle(s), it might be said that training in compassion allows the radiance of the sun to manifest. In the resultant vehicle(s), it might be said that training in compassion allows one to realize the inherent radiance of the mind that is naturally responsive.

In either case, it's essentially the same.

As Longchenpa says,

...love, compassion, joy, impartiality
Are of unbounded excellence, and highly praised
By the unequaled Teacher of both gods and humankind.
Any path that lacks them is mistaken.
They err who have recourse to other teachers.
Embraced by the four boundless attitudes,
The path leads on to spotless liberation.
It is the way that all the buddhas tread,
Earlier and later, past, present, and to come.

The causal vehicle declares
That, just like seeds producing shoots,
Skillful means and wisdom bring forth the two kayas.
The resultant vehicle declares
That the two kayas are made manifest
When the twofold veil that hides them is removed.
As means to this, they both rely
Upon the path of limitless compassion.
In truth, with both the vehicles, the casual and resultant,
The practice is in harmony. It is the same.
It's emptiness enlivened with compassion.
Therein is nothing to remove
And thereto not the slightest thing to add.
The perfect truth viewed perfectly
And perfectly beheld is liberation.

Uttaratantra Shastra

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Re: Why is compassion central to Buddhism?

Post by Crazywisdom » Mon Dec 31, 2018 4:40 pm

nichiren-123 wrote:
Sun Nov 18, 2018 2:33 pm
I often hear and read how compassion is vital to Buddhist practice, alongside wisdom.
My question is why is compassion important and how does it relate to wisdom?
It’s the method. Wisdom without method is an obstacle.
Vajra fangs deliver vajra venom to your Mara body.

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Rick
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Re: Why is compassion central to Buddhism?

Post by Rick » Mon Dec 31, 2018 6:14 pm

Ani Trime, a Buddhist nun, was asked at a retreat what the most important thing she learned from her 30+ years practicing Buddhism. She thought about it for a while, and then said: Kindness.

I was really surprised. I thought she would have said something about rigpa or emptiness or rebirth or another one of <what seemed to me to be> The Biggies. Or, if she was staying with the compassion aspect of Buddhism, then maybe metta or bodhicitta or even loving-kindness. But she just said: Kindness.

Her answer kind of disappointed me at the time, it seemed so anticlimactic. But it stuck with me, and I keep coming back to it.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

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Re: Why is compassion central to Buddhism?

Post by Bundokji » Mon Dec 31, 2018 9:50 pm

I think because the emotional and the intellectual sides of a human being are interconnected, not separate. For example, would you consider ill will as a thought or a feeling? its both.

Also the four Brahmaviharas are indications of right view especially when the near enemy and far enemy of each are understood. They represent the Middle Path taught by the lord Buddha.

A practitioner with right view would naturally experience the four Brahmaviharas , and practicing the Brahmaviharas would prevent the mind from getting defiled.
The cleverest defenders of faith are its greatest enemies: for their subtleties engender doubt and stimulate the mind. -- Will Durant

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Sherab
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Re: Why is compassion central to Buddhism?

Post by Sherab » Tue Jan 01, 2019 12:03 am

nichiren-123 wrote:
Sun Nov 18, 2018 2:33 pm
I often hear and read how compassion is vital to Buddhist practice, alongside wisdom.
My question is why is compassion important and how does it relate to wisdom?
I think this is a very deep question. I may be wrong but so far I have not seen any answers that actually probe its depth.

The standard answers are all there such as compassion is needed for bodhicitta, and bodhicitta together with insight is needed for attaining enlightenment. But why/how?

I have not got any complete answer from the sutras that I have read. They strangely (to me anyway) only appear to hint at the complete answer in bits and pieces here and there.

It seems to me that the complete answer lies in understanding what the ultimate reality is, the relationship between the relative and ultimate reality and how that relationship arises. Perhaps, because it involves the ultimate reality and that due to the limited knowledge of the relative reality in Buddha's time compared to our modern time that no complete answer was possible in the sutras.

Just some speculative thoughts.

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Re: Why is compassion central to Buddhism?

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Tue Jan 01, 2019 12:34 am

IDK, ultimately I am not sure there is a "reason", any more than there is a reason that gravity is important from the perspective of physics. Compassion is not a contrived emotion or mental state ultimately, but the way that wisdom manifests in apprehension of relative reality, i.e. samsara. Relatively speaking of course, we need it for the path, to act for others, etc.
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Re: Why is compassion central to Buddhism?

Post by Jeff H » Tue Jan 01, 2019 3:30 pm

Without putting words in her mouth, I have understood many of my teacher’s lessons to mean that the essence of non-virtue is discord and the essence of virtue is harmony. Discord implies isolation, fear, and conflict. Harmony implies caring, loving, and compassion. Buddhahood is perfect harmony and the absence of discord. Without compassion there’s no Buddhism. This applies to Hinayana and Mahayana.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

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Sherab
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Re: Why is compassion central to Buddhism?

Post by Sherab » Wed Jan 02, 2019 6:05 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Tue Jan 01, 2019 12:34 am
IDK, ultimately I am not sure there is a "reason", any more than there is a reason that gravity is important from the perspective of physics. Compassion is not a contrived emotion or mental state ultimately, but the way that wisdom manifests in apprehension of relative reality, i.e. samsara. Relatively speaking of course, we need it for the path, to act for others, etc.
If you have compassion but no manifestation of bodhicitta, buddhahood will not arise in you. Yet liberation from samsara is still possible when you have limitless compassion. Why is that?

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Re: Why is compassion central to Buddhism?

Post by Nyingjetsal » Thu Jan 03, 2019 12:24 am

Beautiful quotes here in the thread so not much to add.

I think of compassion as the direction or motivational force which makes one move on the path. First one realize dukkha and wish for its end, that's compassion. Then one gets inspired with the possibility of liberation, and engage motivated by it, which is compassion. Finally one is compassion and space in union.

On the Mahayana path ones main aim is to carry all beings to Buddhahood, therefore one's own buddhahood is just a means for that end... I heard one teacher say that to really be able to develop true Mahayana compassion one first need to have some understanding of egolessness...

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Re: Why is compassion central to Buddhism?

Post by Queequeg » Thu Jan 03, 2019 5:11 pm

Nothing new here, just picking up on some themes mentioned above to draw them out a bit.

We distinguish compassion and wisdom, but these things cannot really be distinguished. Wisdom perfected expresses toward others as compassion; compassion perfected is the expression of wisdom. Zhiyi often put it succinctly as, "practice for oneself (perfection of wisdom) and for others (compassion)."

Implicit in the close identity of wisdom and compassion is a message about the nature of reality and awakening - that reality and awakening are fundamentally expressions of interdependence, with awakening being the perfect perception of this nature and compassion being the attendant perfect and spontaneous response to the needs of living beings, which in the Mahayana scheme is also described as the Single Path - the Ekayana - that all beings are on the path to Buddhahood and Buddha is the spontaneous complement drawing beings along the path to their perfection, appearing and functioning in whatever manner is needed in that moment to draw beings along the path.

To take the analysis one step further, the perfection of compassion and wisdom also imply the perfect response by ordinary beings which is a disposition of what is referred to as faith, sraddha, and alternatively, adhimukti - a disposition of resolve and trust in the spontaneous function of the Buddha to lead beings along the path. Nagarjuna remarks in the opening of his commentary on the Pranjaparamita Sutra, faith is the only gate into the ocean of awakening. The substance of awakening cannot be penetrated without entry into the continuum embodied by Buddha, expressed to us as compassion.

So to bring this back to the original question, "Why is compassion central to Buddhism?" Compassion is the engagement of the Buddha with ordinary beings, and the necessary complement to compassion is the disposition of faith in the "Buddhist", which together comprises the path to full awakening.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

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Re: Why is compassion central to Buddhism?

Post by weitsicht » Fri Jan 04, 2019 9:15 am

If you truly understand that all things, independently from their grossness or subtleness, are interconnected and constantly permeating (hence impermanent), the need for compassion is the directly inferable logic. What you take as yourself can only be helped when others are helped.

Compassion however has not the western notion of "always offering a helpful hand and be nice". Compassion needs situative adaptability and wits. Maybe for someone who has developed the habitual pattern to be helped rather than doing it by herself, it is better to decline this request.

Sit an look yourself into interconnectedness, co-dependence, and co-emergence.
Ho! All the possible appearances and existences of samsara and nirvana have the same source, yet two paths and two results arise as the magical display of awareness and unawareness.
HO NANG SRI KHOR DAE THAMCHE KUN ZHI CHIG LAM NYI DRAE BU NYI RIG DANG MA RIG CHOM THRUL TE

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Re: Why is compassion central to Buddhism?

Post by javier.espinoza.t » Fri Jan 04, 2019 9:04 pm

nichiren-123 wrote:
Sun Nov 18, 2018 2:33 pm
I often hear and read how compassion is vital to Buddhist practice, alongside wisdom.
My question is why is compassion important and how does it relate to wisdom?
I would say it is "universal supramundane love" maybe instead of "compassion", but one will find this last term to be more repeated. I say this because one should't go after definitions but go after meaning.

It is important because it is the only source of courage to do what must be done, and the only gap through which one can receive empowerment to increase one's capabilities.

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Re: Why is compassion central to Buddhism?

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Sat Jan 05, 2019 3:42 am

Why Compassion, rather than, say, punctuality, or cleverness, or good hygiene, or any number of other possible attributes?

This is a very good reply, I think:
weitsicht wrote:
Fri Jan 04, 2019 9:15 am
If you truly understand that all things, independently from their grossness or subtleness, are interconnected and constantly permeating (hence impermanent), the need for compassion is the directly inferable logic. What you take as yourself can only be helped when others are helped.

Compassion however has not the western notion of "always offering a helpful hand and be nice". Compassion needs situative adaptability and wits. Maybe for someone who has developed the habitual pattern to be helped rather than doing it by herself, it is better to decline this request.

Sit an look yourself into interconnectedness, co-dependence, and co-emergence.
...also, look up Relative Bodhicitta and Ultimate Bodhicitta.

Generating compassion towards others (and to some extent, yourself as well) as a conscious or intentional practice helps to cut through ego-clinging, thus cuts at the very roots of ignorance and samsaric existence. This is why the generation of compassion is done at the beginning of teachings and so on, to establish the proper motivation.

But, it is also said to be an automatic expression of wisdom. Enlightened beings "can't help" but generate compassion spontaneously, just as a parent feels love for a child. This is because, once you find that level of inner peace, not wanting to help others is simply incompatible with the selflessness which is also the source of that peace.
While it is possible to attain realization without generating any wish to benefit others, this is said to be an incomplete, or conditional experience of realization.
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Re: Why is compassion central to Buddhism?

Post by Tlalok » Mon Jan 07, 2019 4:24 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
Sat Jan 05, 2019 3:42 am
Why Compassion, rather than, say, punctuality, or cleverness, or good hygiene, or any number of other possible attributes?

This is a very good reply, I think:
weitsicht wrote:
Fri Jan 04, 2019 9:15 am
If you truly understand that all things, independently from their grossness or subtleness, are interconnected and constantly permeating (hence impermanent), the need for compassion is the directly inferable logic. What you take as yourself can only be helped when others are helped.

Compassion however has not the western notion of "always offering a helpful hand and be nice". Compassion needs situative adaptability and wits. Maybe for someone who has developed the habitual pattern to be helped rather than doing it by herself, it is better to decline this request.

Sit an look yourself into interconnectedness, co-dependence, and co-emergence.
...also, look up Relative Bodhicitta and Ultimate Bodhicitta.

Generating compassion towards others (and to some extent, yourself as well) as a conscious or intentional practice helps to cut through ego-clinging, thus cuts at the very roots of ignorance and samsaric existence. This is why the generation of compassion is done at the beginning of teachings and so on, to establish the proper motivation.

But, it is also said to be an automatic expression of wisdom. Enlightened beings "can't help" but generate compassion spontaneously, just as a parent feels love for a child. This is because, once you find that level of inner peace, not wanting to help others is simply incompatible with the selflessness which is also the source of that peace.
While it is possible to attain realization without generating any wish to benefit others, this is said to be an incomplete, or conditional experience of realization.
.
.
.

Excellent post, PadmaVonSamba.

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