Compassion means being sensitive to another person’s suffering. It is generated when you see another person’s suffering and work toward relieving the person from the suffering. In Buddhist texts, it is called karuṇā.
A compassionate thought is a great human quality that chases away negative emotions such as cruelty or unkindness in your mind.
However, it does not generate in the mind automatically. You should intentionally cultivate compassion in the mind.
Let us discuss compassion and its benefits.
What are the benefits of compassion?
· Compassion helps to come out of negative emotions:
Compassion acts as an antidote to cruelty or unkindness. When an individual does not have compassionate thoughts, he acts rudely toward others. Suppose you see a street dog asking for food (which is a common experience in some countries), would you be kind enough to get some food for the dog.
If you are with a compassionate heart, you will not only give some food but also, you might be willing to give a small space in your backyard for the dog.
· Compassion diminishes selfishness:
Unlike in the old days, people are more self-centered in today’s world. On one hand, people do not have time to care about others. Even if they get some downtime, they prefer to be with their loved ones.
As a result, people become selfish and insensitive to the needs of others.
Compassion allows a person to think about the sufferings of another and take steps to give relief to the sufferer. Thus, compassion is a good way to combat selfishness.
· Compassion benefits those who are in need of help:
Most people need the help of others. They might need material things such as food, clothes, money, shelter, medicine, etc., or the time and service of the volunteers to uplift their condition.
If there is no such human quality called compassion, the sufferers will have to remain in the same or even lower status quo in their lives.
Thankfully, when compassion arises in the human mind, they extend help to those who need it. Consequently, the sufferers can be placed in a better position.
· Compassion strengthen the bond among human beings:
People create boundaries among them based on color, race, sex, social status, etc. When a peril comes like the covid-19 pandemic, everyone has to face it without any distinction.
Sometimes, we are kind toward only a certain group of individuals and not toward another group.
If we can help everyone without making any division, it creates a great bond among human beings.
What are examples of acts of compassion?
Compassion can be practiced by way of thoughts, words, or deeds. Depending on who or what you are in life, acts of compassion can be done in various ways. Some of the examples for acts of compassion are;
- Donate blood
- Donate a grocery bag to a poor person
- Adopt a pet
- Help a child for studies
- Participate in active listening
- Volunteer in emergencies
- Plant trees
- Donate some money for charity
- Donate your hair for cancer patients
And the list goes on. What you need to remember is there is someone out there looking for your help. So give your helping hand to the needy.
What are the misconceptions about acts of compassion?
Some misconceptions about compassion can prevent an individual from engaging in acts based on compassion. Some of the misconceptions are;
· I prefer to look after my own concerns:
Due to many reasons, some people would like to take care only of themselves. There is nothing wrong with that. However, if you extend some help, it would be beneficial to the community.
· Others can resolve problems on their own
This is another side of the above-said point. Some people do not want to know what is going on in other people’s lives. However, knowing whether people around you are doing ok is good quality, so that you can help them around.
For example, when Covid-19 hit the world, people demonstrated their kindness in different ways. Those who worked in the health care industry committed to combating the pandemic unitedly. They gave priority to save patients, risking their own lives.
Therefore, we need to remember other people always need our help and we just need to be sensitive to others’ concerns.
· Wrongdoers deserve it
When a dilemma happens to someone you like, you can generate compassionate thoughts about that person.
What if a wrongdoer in your eyes faces a similar situation? If compassionate thoughts arise in your mind in that instance, you are definitely a kind person.
If you think the wrongdoer deserves the dilemma, because he or she did x, y, and z, you still need to work on cultivating kindness in your mind.
In such an instance, we are unable to think about the wrongdoer with compassion.
If you have a compassionate mind, your thoughts will be different. You will start thinking “may this person come out of his misfortune.”
Also, you will not be reluctant to do whatever can relieve the wrongdoer.
How can you cultivate compassion in your mind?
· Engage in a compassionate act every day:
A compassionate act can make the day of another person. Start with simple acts like offering a seat to an elderly person on the bus, releasing an insect entangled in a cobweb, etc.
Some of those acts do not involve money and can be done easily. When you feel comfortable helping others, move on to some other acts such as; donating blood, buying a meal for a homeless person, or releasing caged animals or live fish to be sold.
In each of the above acts, you need some deliberate thinking about the suffering of another, and some action to release the sufferer.
One compassionate act every day will make a big difference in your life.
For more details, read Can generosity be taught?
· Volunteer often:
Volunteering is one of the best ways to understand the realities of the world around you. You get an opportunity to work closely with the group that needs your support.
As a result, you will better understand the real problems people go through in their lives.
This will generate compassion in your mind and will be a motivation to help others.
· Adopt a pet
Adopting a pet is a good way to start. There are a lot of stray animals in shelters that need a home.
When you take care of them such as; giving food, bathing, etc., they will give you love and loyalty in return.
That is an amazing way to grow compassion in your mind.
· Practice compassionate meditation
This is good for your inner transformation.
As you do with any other meditation technique, find a quiet spot and be comfortable with your posture.
Close your eyes.
Start contemplating about yourself.
“May I be free from pain and suffering. May I be well and happy.”
Now start contemplating a beloved person. Think “may my parents be free from pain and suffering. May my parents be well and happy.”
Shift your attention toward a difficult person. Think “may …….. be free from pain and suffering. May ……. be well and happy.”
Now think about all beings in the world. “May all beings be free from pain and suffering. May all beings be well and happy.”
Finally, compassionate thoughts are needed more than ever in the world. People are mistreating each other and causing harmful acts to both the environment and mankind. If you inbuilt compassion in the mind, the world will become a better place.