Do you seek happiness and its causes? In our lives, we probably all seek happiness and its causes. Likewise, as we seek happiness, we would also like to be free from the causes of suffering. But how? Most prominently through the golden rule. A proposition found in all major religious and spiritual traditions, which “instructs us to treat others as we want, and would want, others to treat us” (Neusner & Chilton, 2009, p. 2). In practice an ethics of reciprocity or more simply practising compassion. Likewise, in her book Karen Armstrong (2011) argues that the practice of universal compassion, “leads to happiness and freedom from the causes of suffering.”
In addition through my personal experience with health difficulties and the constant presence of pain. I would say that the practice of compassion for self and others did not take away my health difficulties or pain. What I found was that compassion meditation buffered my psychological aversion to pain. Which in turn reduced the psychological suffering.
But what is compassion?
A google search will turn out a multitude of definitions of compassion. However I personally find the following to be most helpful:
Kristin Neff (2003) says that self-compassion is made up of three aspects. “Self-kindness -- extending kindness and understanding to oneself. Rather than harsh judgment and self-criticism. Common humanity -- seeing one’s experiences as part of the larger human experience. Rather than seeing them as separate and isolating. Mindfulness -- holding one’s painful thoughts and feelings in balanced awareness. Rather than over-identifying with them” (p. 89).
Rinpoche and Swanson (2007) say that “compassion is essentially the recognition that everyone and everything is a reflection of everyone and everything else” (p. 174).
Gilbert and Choden (2014) say that compassion is commonly defined as, “being sensitive to the suffering of self and others with a deep commitment to try to prevent and relieve it” (p. 1).
Personally, I keep these definitions with me when doing contemplative compassion practices.
A personal reflection
In conclusion during today’s practice of Tonglen meditation. I was noticing a strong heartfelt feeling that everybody seeks happiness and the sources of happiness and wants to be free from suffering.
On reflection and from a personal standpoint. I would argue that compassion and the preservation of quality of life and the individual’s dignity. Should be at the forefront of our policies beyond any form of political, cultural, economic or nationalist ideology. Why? Because seeking happiness and the sources of happiness and to be free from suffering is something that each and every one of us singularly desires.
Seeking happiness and striving to be free from suffering is a universal human experience. Above all everyone wishes for it even myself. What are your thoughts? Comment below?
Armstrong, K. (2011). Twelve steps to a compassionate life. London: Vintage Publishing.
Gilbert, P., & Choden. (2014). Mindful compassion. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
Neff, K. (2003). Self-compassion: An alternative conceptualization of a healthy attitude toward oneself. Self and Identity, 2(2), 85-101. doi:https://doi.org/10.1080/15298860309032
Neusner, J., & Chilton, B. (Eds.). (2009). The golden rule: The ethics of reciprocity in world religions. London: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC.
Rinpoche, Y. M., & Swanson, E. (2007). The joy of living: Unlocking the secret and science of happiness. New York, NY: Random House Inc.