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The Ethic of Compassion - Essay Example

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The Ethic of Compassion

Nying Je can be paraphrased as love and respect--compassion in its purest form is 'unconditional and universal in scope'.
The Dalai Lama's compassion is described differently and in a much wider context, encompassing a notion that some of us might describe as unconditional love: "At the heart of Buddhist philosophy is the notion of compassion for others[it] is not the usual love one has for friends or family. The love[]is the kind one can have even for another who has done one harm. Developing a kind heart does not always involve any sentimental religiosity [] It is not just for people who believe in religions; it is for everyone who considers himself or herself to be a member of the human family, and thus sees things in accordingly large terms." In essence, this love is for all sentient beings as an extension of oneself. The writer continues, noting that "the rationale for universal compassion is based on the same principle of spiritual democracy[]the true acceptance of the principle of democracy requires that we think and act in terms of the common good."
Compassion, in this essay, takes on a significance slightly different than that commonly accepted by western civilization. We feel compassion as a type of absent sympathy, as something that touches us, sometimes profoundly, on the part of another; however, compassion in our society is largely a secondary emotion. According to His Holiness, however, true compassion is a selflessness that lends itself everywhere and to everything; in the moment that a compassionate human being witnesses the suffering of another, that human being is immediately moved and internally obligated to do whatever possible to alleviate said suffering. Within compassion is mentioned the concept of universal responsibility, as both an offshoot and a critical component of this emotion: "[] universal responsibility is the feeling for other people's suffering just as we feel our own. It is the realization that even our own enemy is motivated by the quest for happiness. We must recognize that all beings want the same thing we want."
There tends to exist a dichotomy in the western mind between 'compassion' for others and the sacrifice of one's own priorities and lifestyles. This essay attempts to deconstruct this polarization, to enable us to understand that we as humans do not have to choose between our own wellbeing and the wellbeing of others. Furthermore, in the act of compassion, this sort of giving of oneself, we reach another level of self-fulfillment; we are, in effect, receiving more than we give. In turn, the Dalai Lama's teachings tell us that if we continue to act exclusively according to our own perceived interests, our way of life will only breed more suffering.
His Holiness writes, "When compassion is lacking, our activities are in danger of becoming destructive", and the implication in such a comment is that lack of compassion can effectively lead to the self-destruction of our society. Regardless of the fact that compassion is the seed of peace and therefore provides an important element of human happiness, it could indeed be the key to human survival. His Holiness writes, "When we reach beyond the confines of narrow self interest, out hearts become filled with strength. Peace and joy become our ...Show more


Buddhism, recently popularized in the west and still revered for both its teaching and its historical presence in other regions, is a system of beliefs and practices which claims millions of adherents worldwide. Throughout a set of teachings and practices, Buddhism endeavors to identify the causes of human suffering and to offer various mechanisms, actions, and ideologies that ease suffering…
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