Imagine the most sublime emotion possible. What would that be?
Here’s the magical recipe. Take one part each:
*generosity of spirit
Blend, shake, mix, rock n’roll.
What do you get?
Nying je? What’s that?
It’s a Tibetan word usually translated as ‘compassion.’ But, it contains far more meaning, as the Dalai Lama explains:
” [Nying je] has a wealth of meaning that is difficult to convey succinctly, though the ideas it conveys are universally understood. It connotes love, affection, kindness, gentleness, generosity of spirit, and warm-heartedness. It is also used as a term of both sympathy and of endearment. On the other hand, it does not imply “pity” as the word compassion may. On the contrary nying je denotes a feeling of connection with others, reflecting its origin in empathy.
“…It is both the source and the result of patience, tolerance, forgiveness, and all good qualities.”
My heart lit up when I discovered this amazing word. It gathers together so many wondrous qualities that we all wish for at our very core. It also expresses the inescapable sense of interconnection that exists among all that is alive.
Empathy + Reason = Compassion
Nying je – we’ll say compassion for short, arises from empathy.
The Dalai Lama believes that empathy is a universal quality within all of us. He describes it as “the inability to bear the sight of another’s suffering.” It is one of our most important characteristics because it allows us to connect with and enter into another’s pain.
This sense of empathy may be deeply submerged in some individuals, but the basic predisposition is never fully erased. Our basic nature is to be empathetic and, from this empathy, compassion arises. We all share a capacity for loving-kindness and we all need loving-kindness to thrive.
Although it’s not our fundamental nature, we also have the capacity for negative emotions and actions. This is why we need to actively cultivate positive qualities – to override our negative emotions and resulting negative actions. Those pesky difficult emotions which have come habitual.
This is the good news. Compassion belongs to the category of emotions that have a more developed cognitive component as opposed to those that are instinctual. Compassion is a combination of empathy and reason. Thus it is far different than emotions like anger and lust, which only bring us trouble.
We can use our natural empathy as a starting point and employ reason to grow our love and compassion. We can win out over negativity through regular practice of all the marvelous qualities that make up compassion.
In fact, the more we give birth to kindness and compassion, the more ethical our behavior becomes. Not only that, we ourselves experience more happiness and inner peace and less suffering too.
Actively practicing compassion breaks down our habitual preoccupation with self, which typically brings us suffering. Compassion also brings a sense of inner peace within our own hearts that radiates peace to everyone around us. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
The Dalai Lama ask us,
“Could anything be more sublime than that which brings happiness and peace to all?”
Compassion – with its full spectrum of life-enhancing qualities – is the supreme emotion. It is the most powerful means to bring about inner and outer harmony throughout the world.
An Appeal from the Dalai Lama to You
This is Part 5 of my series A Simple Guide to Inner and Outer Harmony based on Ethics for a New Millennium by the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama concludes with this appeal:
“Therefore, with my two hands jointed, I appeal to you the reader to ensure that you make the rest of your life as meaningful as possible. Do this by engaging in spiritual practice if you can. As I hope I have made clear, there is nothing mysterious about this. It consists in nothing more than acting our of concern for others. And provided you undertake this practice sincerely and with persistence, little by little, step by step you will gradually be able to reorder your habits and attitudes so that you think less about your own narrow concerns and more of others’. In doing so you will find that your enjoy peace and happiness yourself.
Compassion is the magic that will bring about your own happiness and the happiness of the world! Please share the secret. Please be the secret.
What are your thoughts on the empathy, reason, and compassion? Do you think compassion is the supreme emotion?
A Simple Guide to Inner and Outer Harmony
In this 5-Part Series, we’ve taken a journey through the first five chapters of Ethics for a New Millennium. Here are the key points that we’ve covered:
- The vast majority of the problems in the world today are man-made.
- Only a spiritual revolution can fully change the world. We need to take practical action too, but without a spiritual revolution, there is no hope.
- By “spiritual revolution” the Dalai Lama means the rekindling of basic human values like kindness, compassion, tolerance, and forgiveness among others. These qualities of the human spirit need not be linked to religion. They can be cultivated by one and all.
- We all wish to be happy and we all wish to avoid suffering.
- It’s simply the nature of reality that we are all inextricably interconnected. Due to this interconnectedness, helping others ultimately helps you whereas harming others, harms you.
- True abiding happiness does not come about from possessions or sensory experiences. In fact, the transitory happiness that comes from possessions or sensory experiences only leads to more suffering.
- True happiness arises from inner peace. It is a stable sense of serenity, calm, and contentment that does not depend on external factors or circumstances.
- We can alter our attitude and our actions to cultivate a greater sense of inner peace.
- Altruism is an essential component to those actions which lead to genuine happiness.
- Actions inspired by the wish to help others are the most effective way to bring about lasting happiness.
- Love and compassion – which also encompasses affection, kindness, compassion, gentleness, generosity of spirit, warm-heartedness, sympathy, and endearment – arises from empathy.
- Empathy – the inability to bear the sight of another’s suffering – is a universal emotion.
- Compassion belongs to the category of emotions with a developed cognitive component. Therefore, we can use reason to grown our compassion.
- Compassion brings about happiness for all. For this reason, it is the supreme emotion.
Please consider reading this remarkable book yourself. These are the topics covered in the remaining two sections of the book.
- The Ethic of Restraint
- The Ethic of Virtue
- The Ethic of Compassion
- Ethics and Suffering
- The Need for Discernment
- Universal Responsibility
- Levels of Commitment
- Ethics in Society
- Peace and Disarmament
- The Role of Religion in Modern Society
- An Appeal
Thank you for reading and being a part of this wonderful journey into the heart of compassion. If you haven’t done so already, I hope you will enjoy the other articles in this series – A Simple Guide to Inner and Outer Harmony – based on Ethics for a New Millennium by the Dalai Lama.
- Part 1: The Key to Building a Better world
- Part 2: The Revolution Begins Within
- Part 3: The Heart of Reality
- Part 4: Happiness Is An Inside Job
- Part 5: A Magical Recipe for the Supreme Emotion
Image of the Dalai Lama from his Facebook Page.
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