“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
~ His Holiness, the Dalai Lama
The second brahma-vihara is called Karuna, compassion for all beings. When confronted with anger, jealousy, arrogance, etc that we shun or judge in others, we are often shunning the discomfort that these behaviors bring up. We are uncomfortable with the fear that we could become- or worse yet, already are- that which we consider to be bad in another person. When we are able to recognize that we too, are capable of these sorts of emotions, that we too, could become addicted, that we too, could become that which brings about such discomfort, we are able to develop compassion towards others. Karuna requires us to admit to the dark side that exists already within us, the parts we prefer to keep hidden, so
that we can develop compassion for ourselves which in turn means that we can feel true compassion for others. Pema Chödrön, a Tibetan Bhuddist teacher and writer says, “If we are willing to stand fully in our own shoes and never give up on ourselves, then we will be able to put ourselves in the shoes of others and never give up on them. True compassion does not come from wanting to help out those less fortunate than ourselves but from realizing our kinship with all beings.”
The Buddhist meditation technique tonglen helps to cultivate compassion. You begin by taking on the suffering of another who you wish to help. Breathe in their pain and exhale joy, happiness, healing, whatever it is you believe would bring them relief. You can practice tonglen for yourself by connecting to whatever feeling is causing you pain. Breathe in for all of the people who are holding similar pain and breathe out relief for their suffering, and in turn your own. You can practice tonglen as part of your formal meditation practice or informally if you see someone in pain. When you see someone in need, simply breathe in their pain and breathe out whatever healing you feel they need.
Normally we wish to breathe in that which feels good to us, but by practicing tonglen, we are able to awaken our compassion and dissolve our own fears of suffering.