Brahma Vihara Foundation

Karuna

"May I be free from suffering and its causes
May all beings be free from suffering and its causes"

Audio: Reflections on Compassion
January 2008 | MP3 | 54mins | 12MB

Guided Meditation on Sharing Lovingkindness
& Introduction of Compassion

January 2008 | MP3 | 55mins | 7MB

Karuna is felt as a quivering commiseration in the heart. The compassionate heart is softer than the petals of a flower. Compassion lives in a wise resonance with the tender and painful aspects of life. As the heart opens with acceptance it becomes large enough to hold our existential suffering with increasing truth and respect. Rumi wrote that suffering is the mirror that holds itself to where we are working. With growing compassion there is less shame associated with the truth of suffering. The belief that we are somehow being punished dissolves away into an oceanic experience of sympathy and forgiveness.

The compassion exemplar is the same mother-child relationship that remains undisturbed by fear and aversion when the child is suffering. The practice of compassion allows for sustained and unobstructed presence of mind as the darker side of life is lifted into the light of awareness.

Pity is the near enemy to compassion, for it has a hidden quality of aversion. The delusion of pity comes, in part, from the belief that if we hold ourselves as separate, we are protecting ourselves in some way. Karuna dissolves the boundaries dividing our hearts in two. With growing compassion we are less apt to look away, to withdraw our attention, to abandon or be abandoned.

Compassion's far enemy is cruelty. Cruelty is devoid of mercy. Compassion practice is a safe way to expose latent cruelty that may exist at an unconscious level. Once, when I was a substitute resident teacher at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, staff members decided to practice one Brahma Vihara per week. I was very moved at the end of the week of compassion. The happiness of clear seeing, vipassana happiness, was evident in the radiant light in the yogis' faces as each disclosed discoveries of hatred in their own hearts.

The Brahma-Vihara Foundation is a non-profit, tax-exempt educational organization dedicated to the cultivation of the divine abidings in accordance with Buddhist teachings.

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