Hail to the Teachings
COMPASSION - THE SUPREME EMOTION
By H H The Dalai Lama
"...our capacity for empathy is the source of that most precious of all qualities, which in Tibetan we call nying-je. Now whilst generally translated simply as compassion, the term nying-je has a wealth of meaning that is difficult to convey succinctly, though the ideas it contains are universally understood. It connotes love, affection, kindness, gentleness, generosity of spirit and warm-heartednes. It is also used as a term of both sympathy and of endearment. But most importantly, nying-je denotes a feeling of connection with others, reflecting its origins in empathy...
...Although it is clear from this description that nying-je, or love and compassion, is understood as an emotion, it belongs to that category of emotions which have a more developed cognitive component. Some emotions, such as the revulsion we feel at the sight of blood are basically instinctual. Others, such as fear of poverty, have this more developed cognitive component.
We can understand nying-je in terms of a combination of empathy and reason. Empathy we can think of as a very honest person; reason as someone who is very practical. When the two are put together, the combination is highly effective. As such, nying-je is quite different from those random feelings like anger and lust which, far from bringing us happiness, only trouble us and destroy our peace of mind. This fact that we can enhance our feelings of concern for others is of supreme importance because the more we develop compassion, the more genuinely ethical our conduct will be. As we have seen, when we act out of concern for others, our behaviour towards them is automatically positive. This is because we have no room for suspicion when our hearts are filled with love. It is as if an inner door is opened, allowing us to reach out. Having concern for others breaks down the impediment which inhibits healthy interaction with others...
...Thus if I may give an example from my own experience, I find that whenever I meet new people and have this positive disposition, there is no barrier between us. No matter who or what they are, whether they have blonde hair or black hair, or hair that is dyed green, I feel that I am simply encountering a fellow human being with the same desire to be happy and to avoid suffering as myself. And I find that I can speak to them as if they were old friends, even at our first meeting. By keeping in mind that ultimately, we are all brother and sisters, that there is no substantial difference between us, that all others share my desire to be happy and to avoid suffering, I can express my feelings as readily as to someone I have known intimately for years. And not just with a few nice words or gestures, but really heart to heart, no matter what the language barrier."
From "Ancient Wisdom, Modern World" [Little, Brown and Company (UK) 1999]
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New on March 10, 2001