Compassion (mental element 47, Cm)
Compassion makes it possible to see and feel the suffering in us and others, and to promote the eradication of that suffering. Like loving-kindness, it is a divine phenomenon, although unique.
You can test the power of compassion by arousing it for your worst enemy and noticing how quickly it cools down the fire of hatred and cruelty. While dealing with a hostile person, if we arouse compassion, it makes us look at the hostile person as someone who is suffering from anger, hatred, and ignorance. Because of our compassionate outlook, we feel relaxed and calm (instead of experiencing the burning heat of anger) which results in an intense urge to alleviate the suffering of the other person.
Because compassion makes it possible to see suffering and inclines us to remove the suffering, instead of reacting to someone’s hostility, we act with sympathy, empathy, consideration, and kindness. Compassion not only makes us non-hostile towards other people, it also makes other people non-hostile towards us. Due to compassion, we win the war for both parties!
While established in some degree of loving-kindness, if we see a diseased or destitute person, compassion arises and not disgust. Do not misunderstand compassion as that which generates sorrow, grief, and sadness. In order to avoid such failures of compassion, we have to combine compassion with equanimity.
The divine quality of compassion will become clearer to you when you practice the compassion meditations that we will discuss in later chapters.
If we use loving-kindness and compassion together, we can skillfully handle challenging life situations. Loving-kindness arises when we see others as lovable. So it is very difficult to arouse it when we deal with an unjust, hostile, or evil person. However, compassion arises when we see others as beings in suffering. So when someone is angry with you, arouse compassion for that person first and then let loving-kindness seep in. When you are angry with someone, arouse loving-kindness for yourself first and then let compassion seep in. In this way, let compassion and loving-kindness together engulf you and others in all life situations. Let goodwill, welfare, friendliness, non-hatred, non-meanness, and peace prevail at all times and at any cost.