Dalai Lama Quote of the Week...
Dalai Lama Quote of the Week
According to Buddhism, compassion is an aspiration, a state of mind, wanting others to be free from suffering. It's not passive--it's not empathy alone--but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering. Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and lovingkindness. That is to say, one must understand the nature of the suffering from which we wish to free others (this is wisdom), and one must experience deep intimacy and empathy with other sentient beings (this is lovingkindness). Let's examine these two elements.
The suffering from which we wish to liberate other sentient beings, according to Buddha's teachings, has three levels. The first level includes the obvious physical and mental sensations of pain and discomfort that we can all easily identify as suffering. This kind of suffering is primarily at the sensory level--unpleasant or painful sensations and feelings. The great Tibetan master Panchen Losang Chokyi Gyaltsan, tutor to the fifth Dalai Lama, reminds us that even animals seek to avoid physical suffering and pain.
The second level of suffering is the suffering of change. Although certain experiences or sensations may seem pleasurable and desirable now, inherent within them is the potential for culminating in an unsatisfactory experience. Another way of saying this is that experiences do not last forever; desirable experiences will eventually be replaced by a neutral experience or an undesirable experience. If it were not the case that desirable experiences are of the nature of change, then, once having a happy experience, we would remain happy forever! In fact, if desirability were intrinsic to an experience, then the longer we remained in contact with it, the happier we would become. However, this is not the case. In fact, often, the more we pursue these experiences, the greater our level of disillusionment, dissatisfaction, and unhappiness becomes.
...But the third level of suffering is the most significant--the pervasive suffering of conditioning. This refers to the very fact of our unenlightened existence, the fact that we are ruled by negative emotions and their underlying root cause, namely our own fundamental ignorance of the nature of reality. Buddhism asserts that as long as we are under the control of this fundamental ignorance, we are suffering; this unenlightened existence is suffering by its very nature.
If we are to cultivate the deepest wisdom, we must understand suffering at its deepest, most pervasive level. In turn, freedom from that level of suffering is true nirvana, true liberation, the true state of cessation. Freedom from the first level of suffering alone--merely being free of unpleasant physical and psychological experiences--is not true cessation of suffering. Freedom from the second level is again not true cessation. However, freedom from the third level of suffering--being completely free from the very source of suffering--that is genuine cessation, genuine liberation.
--from Essence of the Heart Sutra: The Dalai Lama's Heart of Wisdom Teachings by H.H. the Dalai Lama, translated & edited by Geshe Thupten Jinpa
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