Friday, December 10, 2010


Love and compassion are the two key components of the Four Noble States of Mind revealed by the Buddha. In their eagerness to live a moral life, some Buddhists may regard love and compassion as a moral or ethical norm to live up to, or as a lofty ideal to "advocate." Apparently, this normative perception stems from the Chinese Buddhist interpretation of love as "bring happiness to sentient beings" and of compassion as "relieve sentient beings of sufferings." In other words, love and compassion is assigned a prescriptive meaning and an altruist mission.
But the Buddha and historical Buddhist sages were not moralists. Rather, they took an existential approach, pointing out that love and compassion is a quality - and an inner power -- intrinsic to our true nature, i.e., the "Buddha-nature." If we know how to connect with our Buddha-nature, we touch the abundant source of that divine quality. Here we are talking about depth psychology on a spiritual level, not religious ethics. The Buddhist perception of "unconditioned love and compassion" is neither a metaphysical abstraction nor altruist idealism. Indeed, it has an experiential basis, being experienced as the natural unfolding of an enlightened mind that transcends the narrow ego identity along with its dualistic mode of thinking and feeling.
Insofar as true love and compassion is the result of self-transcendence, it inevitably includes the selfless virtues of tolerance, forgiveness and sympathetic understanding (empathy). These virtues, more than anything else, are the acid test for the power of love as they are present in situations in which the ego is being offended or threatened. And what else can be more invaluable for a world fraught with conflicts and differences? Tolerance keeps our minds open to respect different opinions, ideas and religious faiths. Forgiveness involves surrendering feelings of animosity and hatred when others step on our toes. Sympathetic understanding means putting ourselves in others' shoes and considering matters from their positions in addition to our own when a conflict arises. These virtues help close the gap between ourselves and others, making peace possible in the face of conflicts and differences.

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