Compassion and Bodhicitta




Compassion in Perspective
What is Compassion 
Bodhicitta (or Bodhichitta)
Methods to Generate Bodhicitta 
Taking and Giving - Tong Len 
Aspiring Bodhicitta
The Bodhisattva Vows 
Practising the 6 Perfections 
Advice of His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Do-gooding and Burnout

"All the peace and happiness of the whole globe, 
the peace and happiness of societies, 
the peace and happiness of family, 
the peace and happiness in the individual persons' life, 
and the peace and happiness of even the animals and so forth, 
all depends on having loving kindness toward each other." 

Lama Zopa Rinpoche


One can distinguish the three different scopes of motivation to engage in Buddhist practices:


A praise of compassion by Lama Zopa Rinpoche:

"Live with compassion
Work with compassion 
Die with compassion 
Meditate with compassion 
Enjoy with compassion 
When problems come, 
Experience them with compassion."

The definition of compassion is: wanting sentient beings to be free from suffering. So compassion is the definition of the highest scope of motivation.

It is said that to generate genuine compassion, one needs to realise that oneself is suffering, that an end to suffering is possible, and that other beings similarly want to be free from suffering.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama:

"Nirvana [liberation from the cycle of uncontrolled rebirth] may be the final object of attainment, but at the moment it is difficult to reach. Thus the practical and realistic aim is compassion, a warm heart, serving other people, helping others, respecting others, being less selfish. By practising these, you can gain benefit and happiness that remain longer. If you investigate the purpose of life and, with the motivation that results from this inquiry, develop a good heart - compassion and love. Using your whole life this way, each day will become useful and meaningful."

"Every human being has the same potential for compassion; the only question is whether we really take any care of that potential, and develop and implement it in our daily life. My hope is that more and more people will realise the value of compassion, and so follow the path of altruism. As for myself, ever since I became a Buddhist monk, that has been my real destiny - for usually I think of myself as just one simple Buddhist monk, no more and no less."

Another quote from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, from The Compassionate Life"

"Compassion without attachment is possible. Therefore, we need to clarify the distinctions between compassion and attachment. True compassion is not just an emotional response but a firm commitment founded on reason. Because of this firm foundation, a truly compassionate attitude toward others does not change even if they behave negatively. Genuine compassion is based not on our own projections and expectations, but rather on the needs of the other: irrespective of whether another person is a close friend or an enemy, as long as that person wishes for peace and happiness and wishes to overcome suffering, then on that basis we develop genuine concern for their problem. This is genuine compassion. 
For a Buddhist practitioner, the goal is to develop this genuine compassion, this genuine wish for the well-being of another, in fact for every living being throughout the universe."

Find more teachings of H.H. the Dalai Lama in Compassion, the Supreme Emotion.

Sogyal Rinpoche, from Glimpse of the Day:

"The times when you are suffering can be those when you are open, and where you are extremely vulnerable can be where your greatest strength really lies.
Say to yourself: “I am not going to run away from this suffering. I want to use it in the best and richest way I can, so that I can become more compassionate and more helpful to others.” Suffering, after all, can teach us about compassion. If you suffer, you will know how it is when others suffer. And if you are in a position to help others, it is through your suffering that you will find the understanding and compassion to do so."

"Sometimes we think that to develop an open heart, to be truly loving and compassionate, means that we need to be passive, to allow others to abuse us, to smile and let anyone do what they want with us. Yet this is not what is meant by compassion. Quite the contrary. Compassion is not at all weak. It is the strength that arises out of seeing the true nature of suffering in the world. Compassion allows us to bear witness to that suffering, whether it is in ourselves or others, without fear; it allows us to name injustice without hesitation, and to act strongly, with all the skill at our disposal. To develop this mind state of to learn to live, as the Buddha put it, with sympathy for all living beings, without exception." 
Sharon Salzberg

From Lectures on Kamalashila's 'Stages of Meditation in the Middle Way School by Kenchen Thrangu Rinpoche:

"...everbody thinks that compassion is important, and everyone has compassion. True enough, but the Buddha gave uncommon quintessential instructions when he taught the methods for cultivating compassion, and the differences are extraordinarily important.

Generally, everyone feels compassion, but the compassion is flawed. In what way? We measure it out. For instance, some feel compassion for human beings but not for animals and other types of sentient beings. Others feel compassion for animals and some other types of sentient beings but not for humans. Others, who feel compassion for human beings, feel compassion for the human beings of their own country but not for the human beings of other countries. Then, some feel compassion for their friends but not for anyone else. Thus, it seems that we draw a line somewhere. We feel compassion for those on one side of the line but not for those on the other side of the line. We feel compassion for one group but not for another. That is where our compassion is flawed. What did the Buddha say about that? It is not necessary to draw that line. Nor is it suitable. Everyone wants compassion, and we can extend our compassion to everyone."

From Bodhicitta: Cultivating the Compassionate Mind of Enlightenment by Ven. Lobsang Gyatso:

"We ordinary individuals share the characteristic of having our attempts to gain happiness thwarted by our own destructive self-centeredness. It is unsuitable to keep holding onto the self-centered attitude while ignoring others. 
If two friends find themselves floundering in a muddy swamp they should not ridicule each other, but combine their energies to get out. Both ourselves and others are in the same position of wanting happiness and not wanting suffering, but we are entangled in a web of ignorance that prevents us from achieving those goals. Far from regarding it as an "every man for himself" situation, we should meditate upon the equality of self and others and the need to be helpful to other beings."

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'Bodhi' is Sanskrit for Enlightenment and 'Citta' means Mind. It refers to the wish to attain enlightenment (become a Buddha) for the benefit of all sentient beings.

A 'Bodhisattva' is a being (sattva) with the bodhicitta motivation.

A short story:

An enthusiastic student asks his teacher: "Master, what can I do to help all the suffering beings in this world?" The teacher answers: "Indeed, what can you do?"

So, even if I am genuinely concerned about the welfare of others, when  I am hopelessly lost in my own problems, trying to deal with the world, how can I help others? I would be like jumping into a river where someone is drowning, when I cannot swim myself... 
Therefore, I should first learn to swim, learn to deal with my problems, learn how overcome my own problems, or at best, become all-knowing or enlightened. The realisation comes: "If I really want to change the world, I need to start with myself". 
This idea is called Bodhicitta: the wish to become an omniscient Buddha so I can perfectly help others.

But in order to collect enough positive momentum (Karma) to become a Buddha, I also need to help others as much as possible on my path. But I should realise that at this moment my help is limited, simply because I don't know all the results of my actions.

A short real story: one time at Tushita Meditation Center in Dharamsala, India, people in a meditation course decided to collect money for the beggars in town after they heard the benefits of generosity. When looking around town the next day to hand out the money, only one beggar could be found in the streets. The generous people then decided to give this one beggar all the money. A couple of days later, the beggar was found dead in the street: he had drunk himself to death with all the money.....

While helping others, we should not forget the ideal goal of becoming a Buddha to be of much more help; so ideally, it is best if we can be mindful of dedicating any positive energy to this goal.

Some reflections by the Indian saint Shantideva:

"Whatever joy there is in this world 
All comes from desiring others to be happy, 
And whatever suffering there is in this world, 
All comes from desiring myself to be happy. 

But what need is there to say much more? 
The childish work for their own benefit, 
The Buddhas work for the benefit of others. 
Just look at the difference between them!"

Or, as Shantideva reflected the far-reaching thought of Bodhicitta:

"May I become food and drink in the aeons of famine for those poverty-stricken sufferers.
May I be a doctor, medicine and nurse for all sick beings in the world until everyone is cured. 
May I become never-ending wish-fulfilling treasures materialising in front of each of them as all the enjoyments they need. 
May I be a guide for those who do not have a guide, a leader for those who journey, a boat for those who want to cross over, and all sorts of ships, bridges, beautiful parks for those who desire them, and light for those who need light. 
And may I become beds for those who need a rest, and a servant to all who need servants. 
May I also become the basic conditions for all sentient beings, such as earth or even the sky, which is indestructible. 
May I always be the living conditions for all sentient beings until all sentient beings are enlightened."

The realisation of Bodhicitta (that means completely integrating this ideal in our mind and actions) is quite profound, as it is obviously not easy to (automatically) put the welfare of others above our own welfare. Someone who lives with this realisation is called a Bodhisattva: in all respects a genuine saint.

It may be interesting to note that His Holiness the Dalai Lama considered Mother Theresa a Bodhisattva, and Jesus as well; so Bodhisattvas are not necessarily Buddhists!

"Bodhicitta or the altruistic aspiration to attain Enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings is a state of mind which cannot be cultivated or generated within one's mental continuum simply by praying for it to come into being in one's mind. Nor will it come into existence by simply developing the understanding of what that mind is. One must generate that mind within one's mind's continuum.
In order to engage in meditation with sustained effort over a period of time what is crucial is first of all to be convinced of the positive qualities of that mind, and the benefits and merits of generating such a state of mind. It is only when one has seen the qualities, merits and benefits of generating such a state of mind that one will be able to generate within oneself a genuine enthusiasm and perseverance in engaging in a meditation which would enable the individual to generate the mind."
His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Making Space with Bodhicitta
By Lama Thubten Yeshe

"Bodhicitta is the essential, universal truth. 
This most pure thought is the wish and the will to bring all sentient beings to the realisation of their highest potential, enlightenment. 
The Bodhisattva sees the crystal nature that exists in each of us, and by recognising the beauty of our human potential, always has respect. 
For the disrespectful mind, human beings are like grass, something to be used. "Ah, he means nothing to me. Human beings are nothing to me." 
We all try to take advantage of someone else, to profit only for ourselves. The entire world is built on attachment. Big countries overwhelm small countries, big children take candy from small children, husbands take advantage of their wives. I make friends with someone because he can benefit me. It is the same with the rest of the world. Boyfriends, girlfriends. Everybody wants something.
The desire to make friends only for the other person's benefit is extremely rare; however, it is very worthwhile. Buddha explained that even one moment's thought of this mind dedicated to enlightenment for the sake of others can destroy a hundred thousand lifetimes' negative karma. 
We have attachment that makes us tight and uncomfortable. But even a tiny spark of bodhicitta's heat makes the heart warm and relaxed. 
Bodhicitta is the powerful solution, the atomic energy that destroys the kingdom of attachment. 
Bodhicitta is not emotional love. By understanding the relative nature of sentient beings and seeing their highest destination, and by developing the willingness to bring all beings to that state of enlightenment, the mind is filled with love born from wisdom, not emotion. 
Bodhicitta is not partial. Wherever you go with bodhicitta if you meet people, rich people or poor people, black or white, you are comfortable and you can communicate. 
We have a fixed idea; life is this way or that. "This is good. This is bad." We do not understand the different aspects of the human condition. But, having this incredible universal thought, our narrow mind vanishes automatically. It is so simple; you have space and life becomes easier. 
For example, someone looks at us, at our home, at our garden and we freak out. We are so insecure and tight in our hearts. Arrogant. "Don't look at me." But with bodhicitta there is space. When someone looks we can say, "Hmm. She's looking. But that's O.K." Do you understand? Rather than feeling upset you know it is all right. 
Bodhicitta is the intoxicant that numbs us against pain and fills us with bliss. 
Bodhicitta is the alchemy that transforms every action into benefit for others. 
Bodhicitta is the cloud that carries the rain of positive energy to nourish growing things. 
Bodhicitta is not doctrine. It is a state of mind. This inner experience is completely individual. So how can we see who is a Bodhisattva and who is not? can we see the self-cherishing mind? 
If we feel insecure ourselves we will project that negative feeling onto others. We need the pure innermost thought of bodhicitta; wherever we go that will take care of us."

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The 4-Point Mind Training is based on cultivating four realisations:

1. Equanimity: One can cultivate the realisation that all sentient beings are equal in wanting happiness and not wanting suffering. Beings cannot really be divided into friends, enemies or strangers because friends may turn into enemies, enemies may become friends, and strangers may become friends or enemies. 
2. Faults of self-cherishing: a consequence of karma is that self-cherishing is the only cause of my problems. 
3. Good qualities of cherishing others: a consequence of karma is that cherishing others is the cause of all happiness, including my own. 
4. Exchanging self & others: being 'intelligently selfish', we can continually try to put ourselves in the place of others, and then acting.

The 7-Point Mind Training is based on cultivation realisations in 7 steps:

1. Equanimity 
2. Recognizing that all sentient beings have been (or at least could have been) my mother as I have lived innumerable lives. (See Rebirth.)
3. Remember the kindness of your mother in this life, all she did for you, the problems she went through to take care of you. 
4. Wishing to repay the kindness of her and all previous mothers
5. Generate great love: may all mother sentient beings have happiness and the causes for happiness. 
6. Generate great compassion: may all mother sentient beings be free from suffering and the causes for suffering 
7. Generate bodhichitta: should give up all self-cherishing and egoism, and work to bring them  happiness and release them from their suffering: therefore, may I become an omniscient Buddha, as he is the perfect doctor to cure the suffering of all mother sentient beings.

From: All You Ever Wanted to Know from His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Happiness, Life, Living, and Much More:
The Seven-Point Cause-and-Effect Method (for the development of an altruistic mind): 
(1) The first of the seven points is the cultivation of equanimity - that is, a state of mind that tries to equalize the strong attachment to friends, the strong hatred for enemies, and for an indifferent attitude toward neutral people. 
(2) The second stage is remembering our own beginningless rebirths so that we can recognize that all sentient beings have been our mothers, friends, and relatives at one time or another. 
(3) Third, having recognized them as such, we recollect and reflect on the kindnesses they extended to us. This attitude - the special recollection of kindnesses - does not discriminate between friends and enemies; even enemies are regarded as kind. 
(4) The next step is to repay their kindnesses by reflecting how our mother of this lifetime extends her kindness to us and how parents extend their kindness to their children. 
(5) Next comes the stage of loving-kindness. This is a state of mind that cherishes all sentient beings. Having developed this loving-kindness for all sentient beings, we wish that all sentient beings be free from suffering. That is compassion. 
(6) This is followed by an unusual attitude in which we take upon ourselves the responsibility to free all sentient beings from suffering. 
(7) And the final stage is actual Bodhicitta, the altruistic attitude to achieve enlightenment. This is experienced partly by the force of our strong compassion for the suffering of all sentient beings, the feeling of being able to see their suffering, and partly by the understanding that it is possible for the mind of a sentient being to be freed from its delusions. All sentient beings have the potential to achieve the omniscient state. Understanding this, combined with a strong force of compassion, brings about the experience of Bodhicitta.

In the Tibetan tradition, verses like the following are often recited to direct the mind towards generating Bodhicitta:

With a wish to free all beings
I shall always go for refuge
To the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha,
Until I reach full enlightenment.

Enthused by wisdom and compassion,
today in the Buddhas' presence
I generate the Mind for Full Awakening
For the benefit of all sentient beings.

As long as space remains,
As long as sentient beings remain,
Until then, may I too remain
And dispel the miseries of the world.


Someone asked the following question to His Holiness the Dalai Lama:

"How does a person or group of people compassionately and yet straightforwardly confront another person or group of people who have committed crimes of genocide against them?"

His Holiness: "When talking about compassion and compassionately dealing with such situations one must bear in mind what is meant by compassionately dealing with such cases. Being compassionate towards such people or such a person does not mean that you allow the other person to do whatever the other person or group of people wishes to do, inflicting suffering upon you and so on. Rather, compassionately dealing with such a situation has a different meaning. 
When a person or group of people deals with such a situation and tries to prevent such crimes there is generally speaking two ways in which you could do that, or one could say, two motivations. One is out of confrontation, out of hatred that confronts such a situation. There is another case in which, although in action it may be of the same force and strength, but the motivation would not be out of hatred and anger but rather out of compassion towards the perpetrators of these crimes. 
Realising that if you allow the other person, the perpetrator of the crime, to indulge his or her own negative habits then in the long run the other person or group is going to suffer the consequences of that negative action. Therefore, out of the consideration of the potential suffering for the perpetrator of such crimes, then you confront the situation and apply equally forceful and strong measures. 
I think this is quite relevant and important in modern society, especially in a competitive society. When someone genuinely practices compassion, forgiveness and humility then sometimes some people will take advantage of such a situation. Sometimes it is necessary to take a countermeasure, then with that kind of reasoning and compassion, the countermeasure is taken with reasoning and compassion rather than out of negative emotion. That is actually more effective and appropriate. This is important. For example my own case with Tibet in a national struggle against injustice we take action without using negative emotion. It sometimes seems more effective."

From His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Healing Anger: The Power of Patience from a Buddhist Perspective:

"One of the reasons there is a need to adopt a strong countermeasure against someone who harms you is that, if you let it pass, there is a danger of that person becoming habituated to extremely negative actions, which in the long run will cause that person's own downfall and is very destructive for the individual himself or herself. Therefore a strong countermeasure, taken out of compassion or a sense of concern for the other, is necessary. When you are motivated by that realization, then there is a sense of concern as part of your motive for taking that strong measure.

...One of the reasons why there is some ground to feel compassionate toward a perpetrator of crime or an aggressor is that the aggressor, because he or she is perpetrating a crime, is at the causal stage, accumulating the causes and conditions that later lead to undesirable consequences. So, from that point of view, there is enough ground to feel compassionate toward the aggressor."


This practice is possibly the ultimate practice in altruism. It is definitely not easy to get ourselves to genuinely do this, but if done well, it quickly undermines our selfishness. Shantideva expressed the value of this practice as follows:

"If I do not actually exchange my happiness 
For the sufferings of others, 
I shall not attain the state of Buddhahood 
And even in cyclic existence I shall have no joy."

Look here for a detailed description of the meditation of taking and giving.

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There are two levels in the development of bodhicitta; aspiring and engaging bodhicitta.

A person with the aspiring intention wants to attain enlightenment to help others, but he or she is not yet prepared to engage in all of the practices and activities necessary to do so. Such a person may want to take the aspiring bodhicitta vows.

On the other hand, someone who has generated the engaging altruistic intention and is prepared to joyfully undertake the Bodhisattva's practices of the six perfections, can take the bodhisattva vows.

The difference between aspiring and engaging bodhicitta is similar to the difference between wanting to go somewhere, and actually travelling there. These vows are always taken on the basis of having taken refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha) first (including some or all of the five lay precepts). Details on the precepts of engaging in aspiring bodhicitta can be found on the Aspiring Bodhicitta page.


One can take the Bodhisattva vows, if one wants to commit oneself to the path of wanting to help all sentient beings, and therefore striving for Buddhahood. A Bodhisattva (bodhi = enlightenment, sattva = being) is a person with the bodhicitta motivation.

This is not necessarily a practice for small-minded or fearful people, as Lama Anagorika Govinda writes in A Living Buddhism for the West:

"Fearlessness is the most prominent characteristic of all bodhisattvas and all who tread the bodhisattva path. For them, life has lost its terrors and suffering its sting. Instead of scorning earthly existence, or condemning its 'imperfection', they fill it with a new meaning."

Merely going through the ritual of taking the vows does not really 'give' the vows. It is said that you only really receive them if you genuinely experience development of bodhicitta, which is a profound realisation. The ceremony is intended to give imprints on the mind so we can develop this precious altruistic attitude. 
The main vow is to always work for the benefit of all sentient beings. So the Bodhisattva vows go beyond just this life, and are basically being taken until all sentient beings are enlightened!

The Bodhisattva vows consist of the so-called 18 root (or main) vows and the 46 minor vows, which are given in the page on Bodhisattva Vows.

"We will now speak about the benefits of the bodhisattva vow. In the sutrayana teachings, there are 230 benefits talked about by the Buddha. We will condense these and explain them in four points.
The first benefit of having obtained the bodhisattva vow is that through the practice of bodhicitta, we will learn how to remove suffering and obtain happiness. We will come to recognize that the root of all happiness is bodhicitta.
Secondly, having developed bodhicitta, not only do we experience our own happiness that is free from suffering, but with the bodhisattva vow, we are able to benefit others by giving happiness and removing suffering. For example, a long time ago Buddha Shakyamuni turned the wheel of Dharma in India in a place known as Bodh Gaya. Because the Buddha turned the wheel of the Dharma and revealed the teachings, they spread to many other countries where people practiced them and achieved the complete realization of Buddhahood, the experience of ultimate happiness free from suffering. How did all those beings obtain Buddhahood? They did this by following the instruction of Shakyamuni Buddha. How did Shakyamuni Buddha himself obtain the level of the ultimate experience of happiness? In the very beginning he developed what is known as bodhicitta. Through the development and perfection of bodhicitta, the Buddha was able to benefit limitless beings. When we begin to develop the altruistic attitude of bodhicitta, it may seem to be quite limited, as a very small number of such thoughts arise in our mind, and we think this really cannot help anybody. However, in the long run, as bodhicitta develops, we become more familiar with it and realize that this buddha activity is the source of all happiness, and the method to remove suffering and benefit uncountable beings.
The third benefit of obtaining the bodhisattva vow and developing bodhicitta is that since we all have our greatest enemy within ourselves, the conflicting emotions, through which we experience endless suffering, it is bodhicitta that gives us the strength to overcome these conflicting emotions. Bodhicitta is like a sword that cuts through all suffering .
The fourth benefit of developing pure bodhicitta is that it is the root of obtaining ultimate happiness for self and others. If it is not pure, we can not experience happiness, nor can we teach others to experience happiness. Bodhicitta is like a precious, wish-fulfilling jewel."
Venerable Thrangu Rinpoche


On the path of a Bodhisattva, one should practice what are called the six perfections of: giving, ethics, patience, joyous effort, concentration and wisdom. The first five are methods, and the last - wisdom - is necessary for any of them to function.
It is said that mainly the first three are practices for the lay people, joyous effort and concentration mainly refer to meditation practice.


Giving one's possessions, virtues, even one's body if needed. 
Giving of fearlessness, or protection to others. 
Practising mentally giving to others. 
Giving of Dharma, the Buddha's teachings.

'Others are my main concern. When I notice something of mine, I steal it and give it to others.' 

In giving we not only find wealth while in cyclic existence but we achieve the zenith of prosperity in supreme enlightenment. Therefore we all have to practice giving. A Bodhisattva's giving is not just overcoming miserliness and being generous to others; a pure wish to give is cultivated, and through developing more and more intimacy with it, such giving is enhanced infinitely. Therefore it is essential to have the firm mind of enlightenment rooted in great love and compassion and, from the depths of one's heart, to either give one's body, wealth and virtues literally to sentient beings as infinite as space, or to dedicate one's body, wealth and virtues for them while striving in all possible ways to enhance the wish to give infinitely. As mentioned in Engaging in Bodhisattva Activities and in The Precious Garland, we should literally give material help to the poor and needy, give teaching to others, and give protection to them, even the small insects, as much as we can. In the case of things which we are not able to part with, we should cultivate the wish to give them away and develop more and more intimacy with that wish.
From Generous Wisdom: Commentaries by H.H. the Dalai Lama XIV on the Jatakamala


Keeping one's vows. 
Working for sentient beings.
Restraining from negative actions. 
Collecting merit (with the motivation of helping others). 


Having patience in understanding Dharma and gaining faith. 
Being undisturbed by anguish from suffering. 
Practise patience before getting angry.
Having patience in accepting problems.
Being undisturbed by inflicted harm.

Joyous effort / perseverance

Collecting merit and helping others 
Delighting in virtue and every beneficial action. 
Avoiding putting off; craving worldly pleasures and discouragement.

'It is not good to begin many different works, saying 'This looks good; that looks good', touching this, touching that, and not succeeding in any of them. If you do not generate great desires but aim at what is fitting, you can actualise the corresponding potencies and become an expert in that. With success, the power or imprint of that practice is generated.'
His Holiness the Dalai Lama from 'Tantra in Tibet'

"Milarepa turned his back to Gampopa and lifted his cotton cloth, thus revealing his buttocks, which were completely covered with hard calluses from all his extensive sitting on the stony grounds of caves. He said, "There is nothing more profound than meditating on this pith instruction. The qualities in my mind stream have arisen through my having meditated so persistently that my buttocks have become like this. You must also give rise to such heartfelt perseverance and meditate!" This final instruction remained in the depths of Gampopa's mind forever."
From: 'Straight from the heart: Buddhist Pith Instructions'


Developing quiescence; single pointedness, stability & firmness (meditation) 
This brings great progress in any meditation practice and supernatural powers. 
Cultivating inner needs: to have few wants and generating contentment, abandoning demands of the world, and have pure ethics. 
Creating outer needs: conducive place: quiet, easy food & water, blessed place, not too comfortable and a helper.


Generating ultimate wisdom (emptiness) to achieve liberation and Buddhahood. 
Generating relative wisdom in practising the first five perfections and understanding karma. 
Wisdom and compassion are the foundatiuons of Mahayana practice. (See the Wisdom page.)

Below a quote I really like from Shen Shi'an:

"The different degrees of compassionate empathy:

  A : [Simply ignores her]
B : Hey! Look at her!
C : Do you think she needs help?
D : Oh! The poor thing! I hope someone will help her!
E : Maybe she hopes you are that someone!
F : Maybe you yourself can be that someone!
G : Maybe we should just try helping her now!
H : Maybe I should try helping first - while the rest of you discuss!
I : [Does not comment, and just goes forth to offer help]

Who are you? 
A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H or I?
Is it time to upgrade? "

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Recently a group presented to H.H. the Dalai Lama what they believed the five most important questions to be considered moving into the new millennium.

The five questions were:

 1. How do we address the widening gap between rich and poor? 
2. How do we protect the earth? 
3. How do we educate our children? 
4. How do we help Tibet and other oppressed countries and peoples of the world? 
5. How do we bring spirituality (deep caring for one another) through all disciplines of life?

The answer:

The Dalai Lama said all five questions fall under the last one. If we have true compassion in our hearts, our children will be educated wisely, we will care for the earth, those who "have not" will be cared for.
He then shared the following simple practice that will increase loving and compassion in the world. He asked everyone in the group to share it with as many people as they can.

The Practice:

1. Spend 5 minutes at the beginning of each day remembering we all want the same things (to be happy and be loved) and we are all connected to one another.
2. Spend 5 minutes -- breathing in - cherishing yourself; and, breathing out - cherishing others. If you think about people you have difficulty cherishing, extend your cherishing to them anyway.
3. During the day extend that attitude to everyone you meet. Practice cherishing the simplest person (clerks, attendants, etc., as well as the "important" people in your life; cherish the people you love and the people you dislike).
4. Continue this practice no matter what happens or what anyone does to you.

These thoughts are very simple, inspiring and helpful. The practice of cherishing can be taken very deep if done wordlessly; allowing yourself to feel the love and appreciation that already exists in your heart.

Some additional thoughts of the Dalai Lama, from "The Meaning of Life" (slightly edited):

"One technique for developing altruism is called equalising and switching self and other. Here, one should investigate which side is important, oneself or others. Choose. There is no other choice - only these two. Who is more important, you or others? Others are greater in number than you, who is just one; others are infinite. It is clear that neither wants suffering and both want happiness, and that both have every right to achieve happiness and to overcome suffering because both are sentient beings.

Let me describe how this is practised in meditation. This is my own practice, and I frequently speak about it to others. Imagine that in front of you on one side is your old, selfish I and that on the other side is a group of poor, needy people. And you yourself are in the middle as a neutral person, a third party. Then, judge which is more important: should you join this one selfish, self-centred, stupid person or these poor, needy, helpless people. If you have a human heart, naturally you will be drawn to the side of the needy beings.

This type of reflective contemplation will help in developing an altruistic attitude; you gradually will realise how bad selfish behaviour is. You yourself, up to now, have been behaving this way, but now you realise how bad you were. Nobody wants to be a bad person; if someone says, "You are a bad person," we feel very angry. Why? The main reason is simply that we do not want to be bad. If we really do not want to be a bad person, then the means to avoid it is in our own hands. If we train in the behaviour of a good person, we will become good. Nobody else has the right to put a person in the categories of good or bad; no one has that kind of power."

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By Chagdud Tulku, from: 'Change of Heart: The Bodhisattva Peace Training'"

"Question (Helen): For months at a time, I can be tremendously active and capable of helping others. Inevitably, a difficult situation arises, and I despair of ever making any difference in the world whatsoever. I realize that good heart is the way to go, but how can I deal with these periods of burnout?
Answer (Rinpoche): Ideally, we serve others with pure heart, not expecting gratitude, payment or recognition. We accept complaints with equanimity and patiently continue, knowing that people don't always see the purpose of what we're doing. Though our actions may seem insignificant or unproductive, if our motivation is pure and we dedicate the merit expansively, we generate great virtue. Though we may not accomplish what we set out to do, auspicious conditions and our ability to benefit others in the future will only increase. No effort is wasted; when someone witnesses our loving kindness, he sees a new way of responding to anger or aggression. This becomes a reference point in his mind that, like a seed, will eventually flower when conditions ripen. Then when we dedicate the virtue, our loving kindness will extend to all beings.
We mustn't become discouraged if someone we are trying to help continues to experience the results of her negative karma and, in the process, creates the causes of future suffering. Instead, because she doesn't have enough merit for her suffering to end, we must redouble our efforts to accumulate merit and dedicate it to her and others. We're not out to accomplish selfish aims. We are trying to establish the causes of lasting happiness for all beings. By purifying our self-interest and mental poisons, we develop a heroic mind. The process of going beyond suffering and helping others do the same is the way of the Bodhisattva.
Question (Alexandra): I hate to harp on this, but how do we ensure our own benefit while we're helping others?
Answer: If we do whatever we can to reach out, help, and serve others, our own merit will naturally increase and infalliably produce benefit for ourselves as well - infalliably.""