Thursday, March 31, 2022

You Decide....


India: Doubts emerge over spiritual Yogi's environmental mission

Vasudev's ride is part of his Save Soil movement

Jaggi Vasudev, the Indian spiritual Yogi also known as "Sadhguru," is riding a motorbike thousands of kilometers to raise awareness about soil degradation. But questions are being asked over the campaign's effectiveness.

Riding 30,000 kilometers (18,640 miles) on a Ducati Multistrada 1260 across 26 countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, Indian spiritual leader Jaggi Vasudev is on a mission.

Known as "Sadhguru" to his followers, Vasudev's ride on this special edition bike is part of his Save Soil movement, spreading awareness about soil degradation.

New age ecological influencer

In the past two decades, Vasudev's activities have receivedglobal attentionand given him the status of a new age ecological influencer.  

Vasudev's flagship platform Isha Foundation receives support from the Dalai Lama, Leonardo Di Caprio, Deepak Chopra andWill Smith, all of whom help spread the word about his campaigns. 

According to the Isha Foundation, Vasudev's awareness-raising approach is "ecology married with economy." But how traveling across continents, as an approach, marries economy withecologyremains a mystery.  

Vasudev's model of activism mainly focuses on spreading the word which, according to Isha, will "urge governments to set up policies."

Like previous efforts,the Save Soil campaign also plans to do this, and aims to make "at least 3.5 billion people" or "60% of the global electorate" aware of the cause. This approach seems to shift the focus away from institutions such as the state and markets. Instead, it puts the onus on the people to pressure governments into action. 

'Nothing at all'

Prakash Kashwan is a professor who specializes in environmental governance. For him, "the campaigns that Sadhguru and celebrities run can contribute positively only if they are tied to institutional arrangements that hold public and private institutions accountable." 

Environmentalist Leo Saldanha said: "A review of the public records of the financials of Isha Outreach reveals that the foundation has spent nothing at all on planting trees from the millions they have raised abroad."

In India, there were at least two instances when the state acknowledged Vasudev's campaign and announced policy measures. However, these measures seldom get materialized and thus end up weakeningIndia's environmental regulatory framework, says Kashwan. 

What is the impact on the environment?

Isha Foundation's successes are adequately portrayed through statistics and numbers. While many may recognize Fridays for Future as the world's largest ecological movement today, it isVasudev's Rally for Rivers campaign that lays claim to this title. 

But the tangible impact of these awareness campaigns on the environment is challenged by some. According to Saldanha, "to build soil health we need to build biomass. Which can only happen if we were to return to agroecological practices suited to particular agroecological zones." This cannot happen as the Indian soil is "acutely carbon deficit," says Saldanha.

Doubts persist about whether motorbiking thousands of kilometers is the most climate-friendly way to raise awareness about soil degradation.

Vasudev's followers remain loyal

Australian neuroscientist Sumaiya Shaikh's interest in Vasudev was piqued when videos of him solidifyingmercurywent viral. She asked herself, "if he can do this with his hands and has that power, why use it for mercury? Use it for bigger things!"  

Shaikh then fact-checked this claim and published an article on Alt News, an Indian nonprofit fact-checking website. Her arguments on mercury poisoning, as opposed to Vasudev's claims on mercury's benefits, point to the debate between modern medicine and South Asian traditional medicinal practices such as Ayurveda and Siddha.

But criticism of Vasudev, no matter how densely packed with scientific explanation, doesn't seem to diminish the faith among his followers. "It really doesn't affect [me]," said Durba, a follower of Vasudev's. "Absolutely nothing."

Volunteer Kaninika is "overwhelmed and humbled to hear the success stories, achievements and fulfillment of the ecological projects undertaken by Isha Foundation" and doesn't have time for the critical stances of others.

Continue reading BELOW the FOLD.


Be the Change You Wish to See In the World...


Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Introduction To Tibetan Buddhism...


While looking for introductory information on Tibetan Buddhism I came across the following in Basic Concepts of Tibetan Buddhism that should be helpful to those recently becoming acquainted with Tibetan Buddhism.

The first page is printed in full here with a link at the bottom which will take you to the full text of the introduction. Enjoy the introduction and may your journey into Tibetan Buddhism be as fruitful for you a it has been for me.

The triumph of Buddhism was its ability to adapt the ancient, ingrained beliefs and customs without compromising its own fundamental insight and precepts, while teaching the new theology to the people of Tibet and firmly establishing their acceptance and understanding of its ethical code.


There are books, too numerous to mention, that relate the story of the historic Buddha, Prince Gautama Shakyamuni, and explain his teachings and the basic concepts of the spiritual insight that he attained. Buddhism comprises three major branches or schools, which, despite differences in emphasis and focus, are based on the Buddha's fundamental precepts and teachings.


Theravada Buddhism, also known as Hinayana, predominates in southeastern
Asia, in such countries as Thailand, Burma, and Sri Lanka. Because of the dismissive connotation of the term Hinayana, which means "lesser vehicle," its followers prefer the name Theravada, or Way of the Elders (meaning the early disciples of the Buddha); it is also called the "Old Wisdom" school. Its followers claim with justification that it remains closest to the original teachings of the Buddha.


Mahayana Buddhism developed in northern India, and although Buddhism was driven from India after the Moghul invasions and conquest of India between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, Mahayana took root in the Himalayan countries -- Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim -- as well as in China, Japan and Korea. (Reference herein to "Tibetan Buddhism" refers broadly to the Buddhism of the countries and regions of the broader Tibetan cultural world: not only Tibet but also Bhutan, Sikkim, northern Nepal, northwestern India, and Mongolia.) Although the Theravadins claim seniority, the Mahayana movement was a fairly early development, and has been traced back to the first century B.C.E., or even earlier. Mahayana, meaning "greater vehicle," is a broader, more inclusive school, with a more ambitious approach and more visionary concepts. It is in light of Mahayana's grander aims that the term "lesser vehicle" came into use. Yet Mahayana and Theravada are branches of the same tree, and should not be considered as radically different or distinct.

These two schools, Theravada and Mahayana, can be broadly differentiated by their separate focus, as well as by more subtle differences of interpretation. Theravada emphasizes individual, personal pursuit of salvation or liberation -- "nirvana." In Theravada, supreme attainment is represented by the arhat, a spiritual master who has achieved enlightenment by his own efforts. The arhats, even the legendary ones, were ostensibly human beings. The ideal of Mahayana, on the other hand, is the Bodhisattva -- a spiritual hero. A Bodhisattva is a being, divine or human, who, upon reaching the threshold of enlightenment, chooses instead to remain behind, enduring the endless cycles of life, death, and rebirth (samsara) in order to help all other beings achieve enlightenment. In an act of self-sacrifice, delaying personal liberation, the Bodhisattva takes a mighty vow of dedication to this truly superhuman goal. The celestial Bodhisattvas are among the stars of the pantheon of Mahayana Buddhism, the best known of them the objects of profound devotion. But the path of the Bodhisattva is open to human beings as well, who may also take the great vow and dedicate themselves to the benefit and liberation of all beings.

The concept and cult of the Bodhisattva is a distinctive, quintessential feature of Mahayana. Yet it would be incorrect to assume that Theravadins do not also uphold the ideal of compassion and they believe that one gains merit from acts of mercy, kindness and generosity.

go to Buddhism page 2

Understanding Buddhism...


Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Dalai Lama On How You Can Take Control of the Mind...


Lessons Worth Learning to Create a Happier Life...




mano buddhi ahankara chittani naaham
na cha shrotravjihve na cha ghraana netre
na cha vyoma bhumir na tejo na vaayuhu
chidananda rupah shivo'ham shivo'ham

I am not the mind, the intellect, the ego or the memory,
I am not the ears, the skin, the nose or the eyes,
I am not space, not earth, not fire, water or wind,
I am the form of consciousness and bliss,
I am the eternal Shiva...

na cha prana sangyo na vai pancha vayuhu
na va sapta dhatur na va pancha koshah
na vak pani-padam na chopastha payu
chidananda rupah shivo'ham shivo'ham

I am not the breath, nor the five elements,
I am not matter, nor the 5 sheaths of consciousness
Nor am I the speech, the hands, or the feet,
I am the form of consciousness and bliss,
I am the eternal Shiva...

na me dvesha ragau na me lobha mohau
na me vai mado naiva matsarya bhavaha
na dharmo na chartho na kamo na mokshaha
chidananda rupah shivo'ham shivo'ham

There is no like or dislike in me, no greed or delusion,
I know not pride or jealousy,
I have no duty, no desire for wealth, lust or liberation,
I am the form of consciousness and bliss,
I am the eternal Shiva...

na punyam na papam na saukhyam na duhkham
na mantro na tirtham na veda na yajnah
aham bhojanam naiva bhojyam na bhokta
chidananda rupah shivo'ham shivo'ham

No virtue or vice, no pleasure or pain,
I need no mantras, no pilgrimage, no scriptures or rituals,
I am not the experienced, nor the experience itself,
I am the form of consciousness and bliss,
I am the eternal Shiva...

na me mrtyu shanka na mejati bhedaha
pita naiva me naiva mataa na janmaha
na bandhur na mitram gurur naiva shishyaha
chidananda rupah shivo'ham shivo'ham

I have no fear of death, no caste or creed,
I have no father, no mother, for I was never born,
I am not a relative, nor a friend, nor a teacher nor a student,
I am the form of consciousness and bliss,
I am the eternal Shiva...

aham nirvikalpo nirakara rupo
vibhut vatcha sarvatra sarvendriyanam
na cha sangatham naiva muktir na meyaha
chidananda rupah shivo'ham shivo'ham

I am devoid of duality, my form is formlessness,
I exist everywhere, pervading all senses,
I am neither attached, neither free nor captive,
I am the form of consciousness and bliss,
I am the eternal Shiva...


Our (the) Desire to Exist...


When people have an existential crisis or when they do deep reflection, they begin to ask questions that normal people don’t ask, such as, “Why am I here? Why is there a universe in the first place? Why does everything exist?”

Most of the time, we don’t understand why we are here or why we came into being in the first place or why all of the events that have occurred in our lives since we were born have happened. There is always this unknown and great mystery that seems to be the foundation of our existence.

Of course, sometimes we can use our thinking mind to analyze and try to figure out why something happened, why we are here, and what is going to happen tomorrow. We can understand the causes and conditions to a certain extent, yet there is always the great mystery. We can call this unknown, this great mystery, karma.

So far there isn’t any exit strategy. So we might as well enjoy this world to the best of our ability.

We can say everything is our own karma. Yet we can never understand karma. That’s why many of the ancient Eastern philosophers said, “Don’t analyze karma because we can never fully understand it.”

The idea of karma is that we will never completely understand the mystery of our existence. Sometimes we hope there is a clear explanation for everything and there will be a remedy, a solution for all our problems, especially the big problem, which is our mortality. Of course, our desire is to live a long life or maybe even live forever. Living forever is completely impossible, and still many people have this desire now and then. The point is that we are here, and there is nothing we can do about it. It is too late to change our minds. Welcome to this planet. We are completely here, and so far there isn’t any exit strategy. So we might as well enjoy this world to the best of our ability.....


Continue reading Below the Fold.

Save the Soil, or, Face the Consequences... The Choice Is Ours...


Tuesday, March 22, 2022



Few people believe their
Inherent mind is Buddha.
Most will not take this seriously,
And therefore are cramped.
They are wrapped up in illusions, cravings,
Resentments, and other afflictions,
All because they love the cave of ignorance.


However deep your
Knowledge of the scriptures,
It is no more than a strand of hair
In the vastness of space;
However important appears
Your worldly experience,
It is but a drop of water in a deep ravine.


Monday, March 21, 2022

Finding Your Buddhanature Through Mindfulness Training...


Humanity is currently facing some of the greatest challenges in its history, including climate change and a global pandemic. Many of us face difficult challenges and uncertainty in our own lives, from illness to job loss to traumatic relationships.

People are desperate for methods to ease their suffering in uncertain times. While many Buddhist meditation practices are helpful, none surpasses recognizing and resting in awareness itself. The reason for this is that the true nature of awareness is a source of lasting strength and resilience. Awareness is beyond conditions like pain and pleasure, suffering and ease. It is that which allows any and all experiences to arise, and yet is unchanged by them.

The important part of this practice is the recognition of awareness itself.

I spent a number of years in a wandering retreat—moving from place to place, following in the footsteps of the great masters of our Buddhist tradition. This experience brought into focus many core aspects of the teachings, particularly impermanence and the transience of life.

As I wandered through the Himalayas, everything changed. I went from having whatever I needed to being without food, shelter, family, friends, students, and teachers. Amidst this constant change, there was something that remained, always: awareness. It provided me with an internal stability regardless of circumstances. Trusting in this awareness, the fundamental nature of our mind, was what allowed me to overcome the challenges I faced.

Let me tell you a story that illustrates this. A few weeks after I began my retreat, I fell terribly ill. I had unrelenting diarrhea and I vomited over and over, probably due to food poisoning. My illness got so bad I was brought to the precipice of death. I lost my ability to see and hear, and I felt as if my life force was like a lamp going out.

Yet, even when my body was collapsing, my senses lost, and the conceptual mind dissolved, awareness remained with me, unchanging. I saw that awareness was beyond the pain and suffering I was experiencing—beyond life or death. Trusting in awareness is what got me through and allowed me to keep going.

This experience echoed what I had always heard from my father, the great Dzogchen master Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. “Whatever arises—concepts, feelings, your body, subject and object, everything—is like clouds in the sky,” he said. “They come and they go. Your true nature, awareness imbued with love, compassion, and wisdom, is like the sky itself.”

We can train ourselves to experience this through awareness meditation. The important part of this practice is the recognition of awareness itself. No matter what object we choose as a support for our meditation, whether we focus on the breath, sensations, or a visualization, the important part is recognizing and resting in the aware and knowing quality of the mind.

Continue Reading BELOW the FOLD.


The Bodhisattva and Mindfullness...


The Mindfulness Sutra delineates four foundations, or four practices, to develop mindfulness: mindfulness of the body, mindfulness of sensations/feelings, mindfulness of mind/consciousness, and mindfulness of what are called “mind objects.” If we assume these four practices are cumulative, each one leading to the next, then mindfulness of mind objects brings us close to the goal—awakening.

The sutra provides several lists of mind objects—traditional lists like the five hindrances (five typical disadvantageous states of mind, like doubt or obsession), and various other common lists of problematic mental and emotional states. It also provides lists of positive objects, including the mental and emotional states that lead to awakening (called the seven factors of awakening), and the four noble truths, the basic Buddhist map of existence.

All this tells us that to be mindful of mind objects is to know how to distinguish between states of mind that tend toward suffering and trouble, and states of mind that lead in the direction of purification and peace.

In other words, if you develop mindfulness fully, you will eventually see the basic shapes of consciousness—both positive and negative—that we all share. In effect, you will feel your way through and beyond your individual conditioning, and you’ll see more or less what it is to be alive, including all the joys and sorrows of our condition.

The actual effect of this, if you feel it deeply enough, is a sense of solidarity with everyone who shares—despite the differences they may have from you—a human mind and heart.

This is what I believe the Buddha means by purification of mind, the end of suffering, the path, and nirvana. Just this: to know what we are, and that we all share this human experience together.


Saturday, March 19, 2022

Are Other People's Opinions Important to You...




If human beings are released from the disease of wanting to be better than someone else, life will come to ease.
sadhguru signature

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Thich Nhat Hahn's 14 Precepts...

 "Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. All systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth.

Do not think that the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice non-attachment from views in order to be open to receive others' viewpoints. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout our entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times.

Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education. However, through compassionate dialogue, help others renounce fanaticism and narrowness.

Do not avoid contact with suffering or close your eyes before suffering. Do not lose awareness of the existence of suffering in the life of the world. find ways to be with those who are suffering by all means, including personal contact and visits, images, sound. By such means, awaken yourself and others to the reality of suffering in the world.

Do not accumulate wealth while millions are hungry. Do not take as the aim of you life fame, profit, wealth, or sensual pleasure. Live simply and share time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need.

Do not maintain anger or hatred. As soon as anger and hatred arise, practice the meditation on compassion in order to deeply understand the persons who have caused anger and hatred. Learn to look at other beings with the eyes of compassion.

Do not lose yourself in dispersion and in your surroundings. Learn to practice breathing in order to regain composure of body and mind, to practice mindfulness, and to develop concentration and understanding.

Do not utter words that can create discord and cause the community to break. Make every effort to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.

Do not say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest of to impress people. Do not utter words that cause diversion and hatred. Do not spread news that you do not know to be certain. Do not criticize or condemn things you are not sure of. Always speak truthfully and constructively. Have the courage to speak out about situations of injustice, even when doing so may threaten your own safety.

Do not use the Buddhist community for personal gain or profit, or transform your community into a political party. A religious community should, however, take a clear stand against oppression and injustice, and should strive to change the situation without engaging in partisan conflicts.

Do not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature. Do not invest in companies that deprive others of their chance to life. Select a vocation which helps realize your ideal compassion.

Do not kill. Do not let others kill. Find whatever means possible to protect life and to prevent war.

Possess nothing that should belong to others. Respect the property of others but prevent others from enriching themselves from human suffering or the suffering of other beings.

Do not mistreat your body. Learn to handle it with respect. Do not look on your body as only and instrument. Preserve vital energies (sexual, breath, spirit) for the realization of the Way. Sexual expression should not happen without love and commitment. In sexual relationships be aware of future suffering that may be caused. To preserve the happiness of others, respect the rights and commitments of others. Be fully aware of the responsibility of bringing new lives into the world. Meditate on the world into which you are bringing new beings.

Do not believe that I feel that I follow each and every of these precepts perfectly. I know I fail in many ways. None of us can fully fulfill any of these. However, I must work toward a goal. These are my goal. No words can replace practice, only practice can make the words.

Thich Nhat Hahn  1926-2022

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Buddhism and War... The World Needs More Buddhism... Not More War


Buddhism and war

Non-violence is at the heart of Buddhist thinking and behaviour. The first of the five precepts that all Buddhists should follow is "Avoid killing, or harming any living thing."

Buddhism is essentially a peaceful tradition. Nothing in Buddhist scripture gives any support to the use of violence as a way to resolve conflict.

In times of war
Give rise in yourself to the mind of compassion,
Helping living beings
Abandon the will to fight.

One of Buddha's sermons puts this very clearly with a powerful example that stresses the need to love your enemy no matter how cruelly he treats you:

Even if thieves carve you limb from limb with a double-handed saw, if you make your mind hostile you are not following my teaching.

Kamcupamasutta, Majjhima-Nikkaya I ~ 28-29

Figures like the Dalai Lama (who won the Nobel Peace Prize) demonstrate in word and deed Buddhism's commitment to peace.

"Hatred will not cease by hatred, but by love alone.
This is the ancient law."

Many Buddhists have refused to take up arms under any circumstances, even knowing that they would be killed as a result. The Buddhist code that governs the life of monks permits them to defend themselves, but it forbids them to kill, even in self-defence.

For Buddhist countries this poses the difficult dilemma of how to protect the rights and lives of their citizens without breaking the principle of nonviolence.

The pure Buddhist attitude is shown in this story:

A Vietnam veteran was overheard rebuking the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, about his unswerving dedication to non-violence.

"You're a fool," said the veteran - "what if someone had wiped out all the Buddhists in the world and you were the last one left. Would you not try to kill the person who was trying to kill you, and in doing so save Buddhism?!"

Thich Nhat Hanh answered patiently "It would be better to let him kill me. If there is any truth to Buddhism and the Dharma it will not disappear from the face of the earth, but will reappear when seekers of truth are ready to rediscover it.

"In killing I would be betraying and abandoning the very teachings I would be seeking to preserve. So it would be better to let him kill me and remain true to the spirit of the Dharma."

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Buddhism and martial arts

Buddhist monks have been leaders in developing various forms of martial arts. The Shaolin Order is perhaps the best known of these, famed for their fighting prowess.

Martial arts would seem to be about as far from non-violence as you can get, but Buddhist forms of martial arts have very strict rules about how violence can be used.

The Shaolin teaching forbids the monk from ever being the aggressor, and instructs him to use only the minimum necessary defensive force. By becoming skilled in physical conflict the monk has a better understanding of violence and is able to use sophisticated techniques to avoid harm, ranging from simple parrying of clumsy blows to paralysing grips and knockout blows in the face of extreme violence - but always using only the amount of force needed to refuse the violence that is being offered to them.

Most martial arts traditions have strong spiritual and philosophical elements, and insist on a responsible and minimalist attitude to violence.

But.. Even Buddhism has failed to always live by the values it preaches. Self Interest and the ego has a powerful negative influence it seems. 

We CAN and MUST do better.

Buddhism and violence

But Buddhism, like the other great faiths, has not always lived up to its principles - there are numerous examples of Buddhists engaging in violence and even war.

  • in the 14th century Buddhist fighters led the uprising that evicted the Mongols from China
  • in Japan, Buddhist monks trained Samurai warriors in meditation that made them better fighters

In the twentieth century Japanese Zen masters wrote in support of Japan's wars of aggression. For example, Sawaki Kodo (1880–1965) wrote this in 1942:

It is just to punish those who disturb the public order. Whether one kills or does not kill, the precept forbidding killing [is preserved]. It is the precept forbidding killing that wields the sword. It is the precept that throws the bomb.

Sawaki Kodo

In Sri Lanka the 20th century civil war between the mostly Buddhist Sinhalese majority and the Hindu Tamil minority has cost 50,000 lives.

Sadhguru Addresses Ukraine - Russia (putin's) Conflict...


Sorely Needed in the West, Especially the USA...


The Buddha taught that to realize enlightenment, a person must develop two qualities: wisdom and compassion. Wisdom and compassion are sometimes compared to two wings that work together to enable flying or two eyes that work together to see deeply.

In the West, we're taught to think of "wisdom" as something that is primarily intellectual and "compassion" as something that is primarily emotional, and that these two things are separate and even incompatible. We're led to believe that fuzzy, sappy emotion gets in the way of clear, logical wisdom. But this is not the Buddhist understanding.

The Sanskrit word usually translated as "wisdom" is prajna (in Pali, panna), which can also be translated as "consciousness," "discernment," or "insight." Each of the many schools of Buddhism understands prajna somewhat differently, but generally, we can say that prajna is understanding or discernment of the Buddha's teaching, especially the teaching of anatta, the principle of no self.

The word usually translated as "compassion" is karuna, which is understood to mean active sympathy or a willingness to bear the pain of others. In practice, prajna gives rise to karuna, and karuna gives rise to prajna. Truly, you can't have one without the other. They are a means to realizing enlightenment, and in themselves, they are also enlightenment itself manifested.

Compassion as Training

In Buddhism, the ideal of practice is to selflessly act to alleviate suffering wherever it appears. You may argue it is impossible to eliminate suffering, yet the practice calls for us to make the effort. 

What does being nice to others have to do with enlightenment? For one thing, it helps us realize that "individual me" and "individual you" are mistaken ideas. And as long as we're stuck in the idea of "what's in it for me?" we are not yet wise.

In Being Upright: Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva PreceptsSoto Zen teacher Reb Anderson wrote, "Reaching the limits of practice as a separate personal activity, we are ready to receive help from the compassionate realms beyond our discriminating awareness." Reb Anderson continues:

"We realize the intimate connection between the conventional truth and the ultimate truth through the practice of compassion. It is through compassion that we become thorougly grounded in the conventional truth and thus prepared to receive the ultimate truth. Compassion brings great warmth and kindness to both perspectives. It helps us to be flexible in our interpretation of the truth, and teaches us to give and receive help in practicing the precepts."​

In The Essence of the Heart Sutra, His Holiness the Dalai Lama wrote,

"According to Buddhism, compassion is an aspiration, a state of mind, wanting others to be free from suffering. It's not passive — it's not empathy alone — but rather an empathetic altruism that actively strives to free others from suffering. Genuine compassion must have both wisdom and lovingkindness. That is to say, one must understand the nature of the suffering from which we wish to free others (this is wisdom), and one must experience deep intimacy and empathy with other sentient beings (this is lovingkindness)."

No Thanks

Have you ever seen someone do something courteous and then get angry for not being properly thanked? True compassion has no expectation of reward or even a simple "thank you" attached to it. To expect a reward is to maintain the idea of a separate self and a separate other, which is contrary to the Buddhist goal. 

The ideal of dana paramita — the perfection of giving — is "no giver, no receiver." For this reason, by tradition, begging monks receive alms silently and do not express thanks. Of course, in the conventional world, there are givers and receivers, but it's important to remember that the act of giving is not possible without receiving. Thus, givers and receivers create each other, and one is not superior to the other.

That said, feeling and expressing gratitude can be a tool for chipping away at our selfishness, so unless you are a begging monk, it's certainly appropriate to say "thank you" to acts of courtesy or help.

Developing Compassion

To draw on an old joke, you get to be more compassionate the same way you get to Carnegie Hall — practice, practice, practice.

It's already been noted that compassion arises from wisdom, just as wisdom arises from compassion. If you're feeling neither especially wise nor compassionate, you may feel the whole project is hopeless. But the nun and teacher Pema Chodron says, "start where you are." Whatever mess your life is right now is the soil from which enlightenment may grow.

In truth, although you may take one step at a time, Buddhism is not a "one step at a time" process. Each of the eight parts of the Eightfold Path supports all the other parts and should be pursued simultaneously. Every step integrates all the steps.

That said, most people begin by better understanding their own suffering, which takes us back to prajna — wisdom. Usually, meditation or other mindfulness practices are the means by which people begin to develop this understanding. As our self-delusions dissolve, we become more sensitive to the suffering of others. As we are more sensitive to the suffering of others, our self-delusions dissolve further.

Compassion for Yourself

After all this talk of selflessness, it may seem odd to end with by discussion compassion for oneself. But it's important not to run away from our own suffering.

Pema Chodron said, "In order to have compassion for others, we have to have compassion for ourselves." She writes that in Tibetan Buddhism there is a practice called tonglen which is a kind of meditation practice for helping us connect to our own suffering and the suffering of others.

"Tonglen reverses the usual logic of avoiding suffering and seeking pleasure and, in the process, we become liberated from a very ancient prison of selfishness. We begin to feel love both for ourselves and others and also we being to take care of ourselves and others. It awakens our compassion and it also introduces us to a far larger view of reality. It introduces us to the unlimited spaciousness that Buddhists call shunyata. By doing the practice, we begin to connect with the open dimension of our being."

 The suggested method for tonglen meditation varies from teacher to teacher, but it usually is a breath-based meditation in which the meditator visualizes taking in the pain and suffering of all other beings on each inhalation, and giving away our love, compassion, and joy to all suffering beings with each exhalation. When practiced with complete sincerity, it quickly becomes a profound experience, as the sensation is not one of symbolic visualization at all, but of literally transforming pain and suffering. A practitioner becomes aware of tapping into an endless well of love and compassion that is available not only to others but to ourselves. It is, therefore, a very good meditation to practice during times when you are most vulnerable yourself. Healing others also heals self, and the boundaries between self and other are seen for what they are—non-existent.