People are different and have different skills and personalities. My partner is for example very good at visualization, she is very patient and also a fabulous cook! But she’s also a bit lazy (her words!). I am impatient, lousy at visualization and not that good at cooking. But I’m very eager.

Enough of that ---

In general I'm very interested in the wisdom side of Buddhism. This is really joyful for me. Many other people I know is really a lot more into the compassion side. For me, working on wisdom is in itself compassion generating because seeing suffering makes me more compassionate (both towards myself and others). But I also hear people who are already more compassionate types than me say that it's so important to evolve their compassion more. They f.ex. say they do this by watching movies with a lot of tears dropping and sad stories in them (I sometimes feel watching movies with sad stories to produce compassion is evidence that they could work more on their wisdom side -- or their awareness).

Anyway, is the best practice for me to keep on working on the wisdom side and let compassion grow in it's own tempo or is it more recommendable to provoke compassion?


3 Answers 3


I don't remember which teacher or even which tradition I've heard this from, but I definitely remember some Buddhist teacher specifically advising to focus on "that sheep that fell far behind".

This wasn't about skills per se, he didn't mean we should keep picking up skills like skydiving, motocross, crocheting etc - and other such ones that we are "bad at". Rather in context of cultivating the Buddhist path, he advised us to focus on the most glaring neuroses we have that make us less universally capable in various life situations. Like, if someone is a very adequate person but, say, has awful social phobias (among a dozen other less troublesome weaknesses) - one should focus one practice on the worst or the strongest issue.

I guess the idea is that by focusing on biggest issue one at a time we can discover the deepest attachments/hangups and get the most benefit from uprooting them. Also, prioritizing it like this addresses the issue with bypassing or procrastinating work on one's serious obstacles to Enlightenment, while making seeming progress in less problematic areas of one's life.

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    To put it in other words, "that sheep that fell far behind" sounds like the advice is to focus on whatever is the greatest hindrance. FWIW I might have guessed the opposite, i.e. given topics like this one (not to mention yanas) which suggest there are multiple paths, I might have guessed you follow whichever path or wholesome practice you are most able to.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 14:01
  • This answer goes straight to what I intended to ask, and thanks. But in a comment I was told to make the question not opinion based. So I did and that has maybe changed the look of the answer. Seems to be a lot of different opinions about what is and is not opinion based. And maybe that should be the moderators task to consider or appraise? When to and when not to take such comments into account? Any opinions? Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 14:12
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    @ChrisW I remember reading that Ajahn Fuang was asked by a lay person on which defilement to work first? He answered that on whichever one is present.
    – user4878
    Commented Dec 10, 2015 at 14:26

People are different and have different skills. My partner is for example very good at visualization, she is very patient and also a fabulous cook! But she’s also a bit lazy (her words!). I am impatient, lousy at visualization and not that good at cooking. But I’m very eager.

She has developed her skill though familiarising herself with the art and then practicing regularly. (bhavitha bahulikatha - to further find sutta references with this phase see bhāvito bahulīkato).

Other personal characteristics also she has developed through past exercise in one sense. Also being lazy is associated with sloth and torpor.

What do you people think, is the best practice to cultivate what we’re already good at? Or is it better to work on what we’re not really that good at?

There 4 right efforts.

  1. preventing unwholesome states arising
  2. abandoning arisen wholesome states
  3. arising of wholesome states
  4. maintaining the arisen wholesome states

(Cattaro) Padhana Sutta - The Discourse on the (Four) Exertions

In the Abhi Dhamma we discuss 121 mind states which are either promoted or unpromoted. If if is good volition and we are lazy we should prompt or motivate ourselves to follow through and if it is un prompt then we should not obstruct it. Conversely true of bad volitions.

So what on maintaining what you are good at and also develop in things you are not good at when the actions or motivations behind it is good. Do the opposite when it is not the case.


As you have mentioned your personal experience let me share the confusion i once had that left me in the same question you are asking.This is my journey and what i found as the answer. Hope this helps...

There was a time i didn't believed in any religion. I was suffering from a disease and i spent a whole year in a hospital bed. Soon i found myself confused and angry even after regaining my heath and coming back to my home.

This is when i saw the real suffering of the world and understood that what i was in was nothing compared to most of the people. Unfortunately to this day i cant take a look at a beggar and just walk away in the same mindset i walked in with. I hated myself for being alive as i have lost my will to live and i have genuinely done all that i had in my bucket list, the most annoying thing for me was that a bastard like me had a roof over my head and everything i ever wanted while the baby i saw the other day had nothing at all who was living with her mom and little brother on a pavement.

Then i realized that it is not my choice to choose between life and death, i had to accept my fate and just go on with it. I started learning every religion i can get my hands on. And i spent about 5-6 years doing just that. By the time i was a student and had no personal life beside my search for a guidance. To be honest that search is the only thing that kept me from going insane.

After all of those years of searching finally i became a Buddhist because that was the only thing that made any Sense. I had only one measuring tape for all the beliefs that i learned and that was "something that made logical and scientific sense". Buddhism fit right into it and i became a Buddhist from that day on.

Being born to a Buddhist family was enough reason for everyone i knew to question me, They wanted to know why i can't accept what i was born into and just shut up. I had nothing to say as an answer but the feeling that was driving me to some end i did not knew.But i did not have any push from my community or family to go on because sadly back then everyone were "Nominal Buddhists". Looking back i now realize that this driving emotion made me who i am today and kept me from going stray. I now see that if i was born into another religion i would have still ended up as a Buddhist because of my search.

What i see as the solution to your question depending on my experience is people must do what they want to with their lives. Some are born with more compassion,some with more wisdom,some with more shruddha. Each must find their own path, There is no telling what it is. I guess it must be found within.

Personally i think you are more of a wisdom kind of a person so chase that, help others but do not bother walking together on a mutual path. After all of all the couples only "Nakula matha & Nakula pitha" made it through to the end together...

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